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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Drake — along with media and tech heavyweights Marissa Mayer, Strauss Zelnick and others — is investing $3 million into the seed funding round for Players’ Lounge, an esports platform where gamers can play their favorite video games against others for prizes straight from their living room.

Why it matters: It's the latest example of a celebrity investing in esports. NBA superstar Chris Bosh joined esports franchise Gen.G as a player management advisor last year. Other big names, from Michael Jordan to Steph Curry, are investing in professional esports teams.

Other investors include Comcast, Macro Ventures, Canaan, RRE, and Courtside VC.

The details: Players' Lounge allows gamers to compete in skill-based esports competitions for cash prizes. Its mission is to create a social platform for casual gamers to connect, get matched, and compete without having to be a pro.

  • This is different from platforms like Twitch or YouTube gaming that focus on streaming tournaments.
  • Like Instagram, Players' Lounge is hoping to give average people a platform to compete and win money on esports games, in hopes of eventually popularizing winners and leveraging their influencer status to grow the brand.
  • Players can compete on PS4, Xbox One or PC devices. Anyone can make an account and deposit funds into their Players’ Lounge account via credit card, PayPal or cryptocurrency.
  • Once the scores are verified, the winner receives the prize money from the pool players invested in upfront. These are usually small sums that players can compete for incrementally, although the company does also host bigger tournaments.
  • Players' Lounge says it gives out millions of dollars worth of cash prizes each month.

The big picture: Players' Lounge is making it easy for casual gamers to earn cash from esports. Otherwise, the only way to make money in esports is to go pro, which takes a lot of time and resources, or to become a streamer via Twitch or Youtube, which focuses more on personality than gaming skills.

"It's kind of like the intramural network for esports. There's a huge community potential."
— Austin Woolridge, cofounder and CEO of Players' Lounge

Bottom line: Esports is still a fledgling industry compared to professional sports, but big names are investing in it because it's growing so fast, and the upside looks promising. Celebrities, and especially celebrity athletes, see this as a way to connect with hyper-engaged sports fans, who may not have the appetite to participate in real sports but still want to compete with peers and develop a community around game play.

Go deeper

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.

2 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Children "very likely" to get COVID vaccine at start of 2022

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Children under age 12 will "very likely" be able to get vaccinated for coronavirus at the "earliest the end of the year, and very likely the first quarter of 2022," NIAID Director Anthony Fauci told "Meet the Press" Sunday.

Why it matters: Children generally aren't at risk of serious coronavirus infections, but vaccinating them will be key to protecting the adults around them and, eventually, reaching herd immunity, writes Axios' Caitlin Owens.