With 2017 already underway and the industry seemingly waking up from the holidays, we thought it would be a great time to talk to some of the most influential names in esports.
They seem to be in agreement - more esports on television and increased regulation in epsorts are coming down the pipe in 2017.
What do you think the biggest accomplishment has been in esports in 2016?
Kristian Segerstrale, Super Evil Megacorp: 2016 was a breakout year for esports in many ways -- from the first major tournaments on cable channels in the USA, to the first big name sports teams acquiring esports teams around the globe, to mobile staking out its claim as a rapidly growing part of the market. In addition, Facebook and Youtube both made big inroads into the broadcaster market. A lot of new ground was broken this year which is awesome for the industry.
Michele Attisani, Faceit: There have been many significant accomplishments this year, from the FACEIT and ECS perspective, our largest has been the creation of the ECS, the first professional league structure in CS:GO following along the lines of traditional sports and provide revenue share and co-ownership to teams. This has been picked up as an idea by other organizations and we are expecting it to develop further.
There’s been a greater increase in mainstream broadcasting of esports events: alongside Blizzard, Capcom, and Eleague, we have broadcast events such as the Overwatch Open on TBS and the ECS to over 35 countries and we are seeing TV distributors looking at even more lucrative deals such as MLB’s $300M BAMtech streaming deal with Riot Games. All of this, as well as greater press coverage from sources such as Forbes, The NY Times, ESPN, Yahoo etc. is leading to a point of far greater mainstream media acceptance. Alongside these leaps and bounds is a greater investment from professional sports teams and from an ever increasing number of non-endemic brands which also help the growth of the industry.
Dennis 'Thresh' Fong, Plays.tv: I think the biggest accomplishment in esports this year is its continuing ability to gain mainstream recognition. TV networks like TBS and ESPN have paved the way for more mainstream acceptance. With showcases like ELEAGUE on TBS and ESPN's expanding coverage of competitions across titles like Street Fighter V, Heroes of the Storm and Dota 2, we're really beginning to see a true shift in the way mainstream media and television cover esports. Apart from networks, another trend that will continue into 2017 and beyond is the widespread investments in esports by high-profile athletes and celebrities: Rick Fox (Echo Fox), Shaq (NRG), Philadelphia Sixers (Team Dignitas) are just a few examples.
What is the biggest challenge that will need to be solved in esports looking ahead to 2017?
Kristian Segerstrale, Super Evil Megacorp: The single biggest challenge for esports in 2017 will be keeping up with the hype built up in 2016. A lot of new money, new excitement, new games, new leagues and tournaments have entered the scene in 2016. In 2017, we need to make sure the continued growth in excitement translates into improved overall health of the ecosystem of players, teams and tournament organizers, as well as growing revenues through repeat spend by sponsors who see value for their spend.
There are a lot of opportunities and, to capitalize on them, esports needs to continue to level up management and its overall level of professionalism as an industry. This won't necessarily mean assuming that esports becomes like traditional sports - it rather needs to find its own path to grow up. It will be interesting to see the different paths that different games, teams, tournament organizers and broadcast platforms will take as a result.
Michele Attisani, Faceit: The esports world is still growing and evolving, and we’re seeing more and more events vying for the attention of gamers and participating teams. While having a diverse selection of events is helpful to grow the larger audience, it will take a coordinated effort on the part of competition organizers and teams to ensure that exciting competitions can be sustained at a healthy pace throughout the year without a glut of events that risk burning out the teams or growing the scene too fast, leading to instability.
On top of this we, as leading companies in esports, should make sure we are developing a sustainable growth model with a focus on helping new talent rise through the ranks. This means projects like the FACEIT Pro-League providing greater support for groups such as colleges, smaller teams and the semi-professional or amateur leagues.
Dennis 'Thresh' Fong, Plays.tv: Esports regulations will be a huge topic of discussion in 2017, from how teams manage player salaries and contracts to how various promotions franchise the sport. The industry will also need to tackle the ongoing problem of Visa issues for foreign players. In a more general sense, we'll all collectively need to fight the stigma of esports -- how it's viewed from the outside looking in is still very much a sticking point for non-fans who don't view it as a real sport. Along the same lines, we need to figure out how to get non-esports fans to engage more. If you don't play any of these games it's understandably really hard to comprehend what's happening.
What do you think the legacy of your company in 2016 will be?
Kristian Segerstrale, Super Evil Megacorp: I think Vainglory put mobile esports on the map once and for all in 2016. With 25k concurrent viewers of our World Championships on Twitch alone, and with a rapidly growing fan base, a developer API, and a franchise program, I think we've shown conclusively that mobile esports is a thing. We are clearly very early still - like where PC esports was in 2001 - but it's encouraging to have planted a flag in an entirely new territory for competitive gaming. With over three billion touch screens out there, the sky is the limit as to where this industry will evolve in the coming 5-10 years.
Dennis 'Thresh' Fong, Plays.tv: Plays.tv became the focus of the company in 2016, as we expanded to integrate Smart Highlights for a number of top games like League of Legends, CS:GO, Dota 2 and others, and we'll continue that trend in 2017. We're also very proud of our ongoing partnership with TSM, and becoming the leading place to share gaming highlights with friends and the community.
Michele Attisani, Faceit: Along with my points mentioned earlier, we are very proud to continue to be the world's leading esports platform with over 12 million game sessions played every month, and we continue to build esports from the grassroots with competitions for every skill level and a focus on providing the community with access to some of the most important esports. Alongside this, we have been able to provide infrastructure and advice to some of the biggest events in esports, like the DOTA Majors, ECS, and ELEAGUE.
Our company is still growing and evolving, and with that, our legacy is changing. Our competitive gaming platform has grown and evolved to encompass more titles like Team Fortress, World of Tanks and others, while our events side of the company has helped coordinate some truly spectacular competitions online, at SSE Arena at Wembley, and at the Anaheim Convention Center and Arena. While I can’t choose one particular aspect as our “Legacy” per se, I hope that the community sees us as a company that is expanding the world of esports to encompass more players, more fans and more rewarding and exciting events.