"Hearthstone and video games are the biggest threat to online poker," read the title of an op-ed written by the CEO of theGlobal Poker Index / Mediarex Sports & Entertainment Alex Dreyfus in the Huffington Post during October 2015. Dreyfus was quick to point out that Blizzard's Hearthstone launched in March 2014 and had more than 30 million registered players only 18-months later.
One month after Dreyfus' article entered the public domain, Full Tilt gained access to the Steam gaming platform, and as 2015 drew to a close, the Isle of Man-based poker company announced it was sponsoring a Hearthstone Esports team, who are also renowned for playing League of Legends, Counter Strike, and Vainglory.
Valve, owners of the Steam, approved Full Tilt's .NET play-money software for launch on its gaming network, making it visible to Steam's 125 million gaming fanatics. After the approval, the Marketing Director of Full Tilt, Mark Ody, said: "We now have a great opportunity to share the game we love with a new audience. We are indebted to our player base, who voted in droves to help get us to this point. The process has given us some great insights into the crossover of the gaming and poker communities and we hope to capitalize on this and other initiatives in this area in the coming months."
It's a move that could turn out to be genius on Full Tilt's part. Should only 1% of Steam's customer base convert to real money players that would be 1,250,000 new customers. Even if only 0.1% of Steam's gaming nuts convert to real money Full Tilt players it would still amount to 125,000 new faces at the virtual felt.
In late December 2015, one month after receiving the green light to launch on Steam, and a month after Team PokerStars Pro Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier revealed he was now also a professional Hearthstone player for Team Liquid, Full Tilt became a major sponsor of the G2 Esports Hearthstone Team.
The founder and CEO of G2's Esports, Carlos Rodriguez Santiago, spoke highly of the sponsorship, saying: "Gaming and poker have a long intertwined history with successful gamers effectively transferring skills such as mental strength, determination, concentration and endurance for long hours of play; to the game of poker. Therefore partnering up with an innovative site like Full Tilt was a natural step. We are confident that the sponsorship will help introduce Full Tilt to our fans in a complementary way, giving the site and the game of poker in general, greater exposure in the esports world."
During Amaya's Q3 2015 earning conference call, executives of Amaya, owners of PokerStars and Full Tilt, revealed that Full Tilt only has 3% market share in the online poker world compared to 68% enjoyed by PokerStars. While these gaming deals are unlikely to bridge that cavernous gap, they have the potential to attract thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of players to the world of online poker, and that can't be a bad thing, can it?