Josh Walker 

Hi, everybody. Good morning. You just missed a fantastic panel on eSports. So you can leave now we've got a, we've got a bunch of Esports content and gaming content all day long. You're here now for another really important session where we take a look at how fans are engaging with the sports content. And the panel that you're about to listen to, is going to take a look at EA Sports engagement through the lens of how eSports compares to traditional sports through the lens of the fan. And when you think about the fan and what the fan is choosing between every single time they sit down and choose the content that they're going to use their valuable time to engage with. It's really important to think about the features, the experience and the brands that are involved in creating that experience. So there's nobody better to have this conversation and to lead this panel. Then Ben Howard, who is the SVP of CBS interactive. And the brands on this panel, the titles of the people that are going to share their experiences with you are a real treat for us to have here on the sports stage at CES. So without further ado, please welcome Ben Howard and the panel.

 
Ben Howard 

Morning everyone. My team sit down with me. So thanks. Thanks for joining us this morning. One thing we wanted to dig into in this in this session was really thinking about how marketers can keep up with the the behavior of the sports fan base. I think understanding sports can be challenging, it can be intimidating, but really the best way to to understand it and understand its development is to think about the fan base itself. So we can look at the rise of Esports specifically through through the development of fans and how those fan bases are developed and how they differentiate from traditional Sports. So I want to introduce my panel first. From from my left all the way down. Paul bro, who's the SVP of brand partnerships at ESL, North America. Kristin Connolly, who's the head of global marketing for the Overwatch league. Sam poza Hancock, who's a commentator and host, with over 15 years experience in the competitive game space. And down there in the end, Simon templi, who's the chief revenue and Marketing Officer at allied eSports International. And before before we dive in, I just thought we'd run down the panel and give everyone an opportunity to introduce themselves and specifically sort of how they got to where they are now and what and their sort of brief history and eSports support. Sure.

 
Paul Brewer 

In 2004, I was working for ESPN and they asked all the young people if they want to work on something called a mad and challenge, early onset eSports made for TV programming. And I obviously raised my hand and through that I worked with Samsung and Samsung said, Hey, we're launching gaming and competitive gaming initiatives in North America, we'd love for, for you to be a part of that. So for about five years, I spent a lot of time playing video games and traveling the world and my girlfriend at the time said, you got to go get a real job. This is not a real job. And so I did, I went to Turner sports and work there for about five years on the digital media side and sponsorships. And then eSports blew up with the acquisition of Twitch and I was able to marry that woman. And she told her that a eSports is a real job now. So the last five years I've been writing brand partnerships for for ESL.

 
Kristin Connelly 

Awesome. Hi, I'm Kristin. I oversee our marketing for the Overwatch league and I've been there since 2017. At the start of our season, we're now almost three years and and previous to that I had come the traditional sports route. So prior to that I was with the New York Jets for about seven years. And during that time, we had started researching a bit about eSports. Madden obviously, you know, is coming a bit more competitive. And and at the same time, it's when Blizzard Entertainment announced the start of the Overwatch league and jumped at the chance to take my skill set from traditional sports and eSports and have been there for last two and a half years.

 
Persia Hancock 

I'm Persia but my real name is Sam. I've been pretty much competing since I was 14. And I've kind of been able to see just the growth of gaming turn into something so small and do something so big. And it's also kind of inspired me to do the same and to grow along with my passion. So through competing, I found more avenues to get involved in my community and the tournament. So I started commentating at my locals and my regionals and, you know, through the community, really home My craft and started commentating on some of the biggest events in the fighting game community. And then, you know, it led me to my dream job here at GameSpot. So I'm super excited just to see how much eSports has grown and gaming has become like so big and I'm really excited to be a part of it and to find my career through something I love so much. And yeah.

 
Simon Temperley 

I'm Simon with allied eSports allied is a global eSports entertainment company. We have a network of facilities, both gaming and production around the world. I have a traditional background in advertising and marketing agencies. So we're to Omnicom and hoto Edelman, and when I was running Edelman in LA, our largest client was actually Activision and we ran all the social media for Call of Duty. And so this is the first time that I've really seen the power of the community. Within a game and a title. through there, we started having lots of different brand conversations for any of those in the audience who work on the agency side, having brands want to talk to you is always a thrilling moment, particularly when they don't want to talk about rates or, or things like that. So lots of people started asking us about eSports. And so it just, you know, I took a deeper dive into that I had started a consultancy at Edelman to help navigate eSports for brands. And I just started looking more into it and found a startup called allied and the Taliban had a midlife crisis and jumped into eSports.

 

Ben Howard 

Right. Thank you. So, great panel joining us today. So I thought we'd start really by exploring what what makes a great sports fan experience. Whether it's the broadcast, the venue, the live experience, but we'll dig into all of this stuff. So really just a very general question for for everyone on the panel, starting with you, Paul. Like, what what? How are you guys approaching ESL developing a fan base for your events? And do you think of it holistically? Or do you think of it based on the events themselves and the games and the tournament's around those games.

 
Paul Brewer 

So I think the important part about the way ESL approaches the ecosystem is that it's not about a specific game necessarily. It's not about a specific fan. It's kind of about creating the best environment for all fans for anybody to play. So for us, it's an open ecosystem approach that really kind of allows anybody to be a part of it. It doesn't matter what game it is, because as we've seen in gaming and eSports titles come and go, there's some staples, but a lot of times we see you know, Overwatch is relatively new game for example. Starcraft is relatively old game that we might see starting to sunset a little bit. So for us, it's not about a specific game. It's about creating an ecosystem where it doesn't matter what the game is, anybody can come and be a part of that.

 
Kristin Connelly 

Yes, I probably have a different approach because I work on a specific game and that is Overwatch. The Overwatch league is based on the game Overwatch for those that are perhaps less familiar with EA Sports. The difference from the Overwatch league to League of Legends to Dota to call of duty league is like comparing the NFL to MLS to MLB. They're all completely different sports. So the fan bases are comprised differently and particularly with the Overwatch league. And what's so fascinating about our fan base is it's incredibly young. So over 90% of our fans are between the ages of 18 to 34. They consume media and consume entertainment completely digitally and socially and they're looking for incredible in real life experiences, as we all love but they do so much more digitally and on their phone and it's an incredibly global fan base. Half of our fans are in Asia, you know, we have a high population North America and EU as well. And but as I think about, you know, our fans It is very particular to to our fans, and it differs between each sport. And each fan base is a little bit different, but you'll probably hear all of us talk about the authenticity and how important it is that whatever you're doing for whatever that fan is, it feels authentic to them and their community.

 
Persia Hancock  

I feel like as someone who was a competitor for us, and still a fan, when I watch, you know, eSports and kind of seeing events and, and, you know, collaborations between either a tournament and a sponsor or something like that, it's so important to just really get in tune with the community that you're trying to reach, and not being afraid to really dive deep into that community and get to know them. Each community in and of itself is filled with so much talent, and sometimes all they need are the resources and that's really what's going to help not only propel eSports but propelled Collaboration so that everyone involved can walk away feeling whole and happy and, you know, ready to do it again. So I think the biggest thing coming from my point of view as like a not only a fan, but former competitor and commentator and hosts, you know, I see it from both ends. But you know, it's really important just to respect and get to know the community that you want to get involved with.

 
Simon Temperley 

So we're a community based business. So all of our facilities and all of our events that we do, the fully dedicated to eSports and gaming. So in our facility, it's not a bowling alley on a Tuesday or a movie theater on a Wednesday night there for gamers. And so everything is designed and built for the gamer. Everything that they want, from the equipment to the lighting to everything that goes in food and beverage, everything is about that specific community of gamers. And I think if we take that throughout everything we do, whether that's a produced event, and think about it from the gaming standpoint, our experience has been lots of fantastic events for gamers to go watch and participate in. But they be annual or semiannual, or come around every once in a while. Our facilities are open 365 days a year. So if you're going to do that, you're going to have to reach a very broad base of gamers, not one particular genre, not one particular title. And so we really want to be agnostic to publishers, developers, tournament organizers, but really make everything from a gamer first mentality.

 
Ben Howard 

And this is this is really a question for those of you who have worked in and around traditional sports but what what differences have you seen between the way traditional fans gather around traditional sports teams and the way a sports fans gather around their chosen the sport or the sports that they follow?

 
Simon Temperley 

Oh, I'm sorry.

 
Kristin Connelly 

I just said there's that Let us similarities the ideas of rituals and traditions and the community and watching together and, and talking about the sport together are all the same, I think where it really starts to differ, and particularly for the the fan base of Overwatch is just the level of passion and positivity and how much they embrace and partners in different elements. So we just quickly mentioned the importance of authenticity. And that is really where it starts to differ is when when our fans are talking about their favorite sport or being able to touch it. It's important that whatever they're doing and engaging with or whatever brands are engaging with them that it feels specifically tailored to the sport that they're interested in and not generic. And and when we think about passion, I mean our fans, Don their favorite jerseys, just as you know, Green Bay Packers fan What if you will, but the difference is just I think that level of positivity and excitement of the community because it's so new you know, we have fans that had never put on a sports jersey prior in their life so the fact that they now feel like they have a community that speaks to them and as a part of them they're so embracing and excited and and have this level of positivity that I didn't see as much in the traditional sports space.

 
Simon Temperley 

So so I think for when talking about bout fans and difference with sports and eSports you know, it's the terminology is really, really broad. Right? So when talk about sports, we talk about sports fans within there. There are NBA fans and PGA fans and are they the same, right? So yes, there is some crossover the two distinctive demographics right? So it's the same in eSports is where if you are in if you're playing a sports game, like Madden, you are a different demographic typically than you are if you're playing Hearthstone or something else. So, being able to you know that the fan base is really interesting and And eSports in gaming and competitive gaming is somewhat new ish, right? Is the starting off at. Really you like the particular genre? So you like fighting games, right? Then you start based I'd like in a particular title within there. Now you can like a particular team, a particular tournament, you can be a fan of, you'd be a particular than a particular player. And it's the same in sports, right? So some are very community based. They like that team, whoever plays for it, some like a particular player, and it's a player dominated league. So they're all different. And each one of these sports is different. There isn't one set for a particular genre or title, and you've got to go and work against all of those things.

 
Paul Brewer 

The other thing I would add, I think, is that in traditional sports, you see a lot of geo based fans. If you grew up in New York, you're a fan of the New York Jets or the Yankees, and that hasn't happened in eSports yet. I think it probably will as we start to see you geo bass French systems. But I think currently, you might be an American, and you're a fan of an American team. But there isn't a la based team that you're a fan of yet. There's not a Houston based team that you're a fan of yet. So I think that's the difference. One of the big differences between traditional sports and an Esports is that we don't see that. But again, I think it will probably eventually happen as we start to see more geo based eSports activity.

 
Kristin Connelly 

That's the entire premise of the Overwatch league. So we are very much hoping that really take shape and as I mentioned, we're heading into the third season. We have 20 teams around the world that represent a city. So San Francisco shock Shanghai dragons Paris eternal and for the first time ever, this coming season, which kicks off in a month, and the matches will be played in those home cities. So from from China to Europe to all across North America and to Canada. Fans will be able to experience and see their Teams live perform on stage in their in their cities, which is really the first time it's ever truly been done in that format in a regular season. So we're very much excited for the fans to touch kind of their, their brands and favorite teams. And in real life, which I think it's going to really shift the paradigm because being able, as we all know, from traditional sports to experience something like that in person, and it's just such a memorable experience and the passionate excitement and energy is just unrivaled. So we're hoping to shift that paradigm with the Overwatch league.

 
Paul Brewer 

You're welcome for the setup. Yeah.

 
Ben Howard 

pleasure in as in as a sort of representative bit of inside the community like how have you seen the way fans attach themselves? Because, you know, certainly, when I started following it was very much focused on the players and the teams and the game the sport itself. How is that changing a Seeing kind of, you know, like what Kristen said around the Overwatch league and how they're looking at locality. And obviously, we've talked a bit about collegiate eSports as well with, you know, as another good way of finding kind of locality and the wage people support these types of things. How have you seen that evolve?

 
Persia Hancock 

I feel like the fandom for eSports is in a different league almost in terms of these fans have access to possibly, you know, grind and practice and put forth that dedication and maybe play against their favorite player one day and maybe even beat them. They have access you do things like that. And a lot of the times, especially with the growth Wii Sports, more events per year in more locations that are more accessible to people who might not have been able to travel to a bigger event elsewhere, are getting opportunities to showcase them. selves and, you know, create upsets and make this magic happen. And sometimes it's people that you've never even heard of, you know we have are pretty much general pros and and you know the players look out for the teams to look out for. But there's always someone at home who's really really good who hasn't had that moment yet. And it starts with them being a fan of these teams and being a fan of these players and having access to watching live streams and then watching that footage and then being able to break it down and then applying it within minutes to their own gameplay, you know, all in the comfort of their own home without ever having to leave and then they get the opportunity out there one day making a massive upset and now it's not only a Cinderella story, but it's also opened up an amazing door for them for people who you know want to see more of them now since they hadn't before like Arsalan Ash is a great example from Tekken. And he made waves last year and he's going to continue to do so but no one had heard of him. Then he came out and won Evo Japan and Evo in the same year. I know one's ever done that before. And it's amazing that EA Sports can provide that in a shorter amount of time, I would say because there are sports players who, you know, grow and they go through their time, and then they make it into the league. And then they play against their heroes who are still, you know, competing and in the league, which is great. And I feel like eSports does that same thing, but in a shorter amount of time. And you know, sometimes it's just more shocking.

 
Ben Howard 

Well, I feel like that connection between player and fan, it's something that traditional sports organizations would love to have that level of connection between the player and the fan. So staying on that theme of accessibility. How can eSports become more accessible and one of the things I hear a lot out in the in the market, whether it's, you know, from agencies and stuff is, you know, it feels very impenetrable to unless you're a player of the game, how does eSports become more accessible so we can open itself up to a much broader audience or

 
Paul Brewer 

think probably the best answer to that what we're seeing right now is with mobile eSports. For the longest time, EA Sports has been dominated by PC, it was free to play it was global. Next, we saw a lot of console with Xbox and PlayStation competitive gaming on platform. What we're seeing now is with mobile eSports, it becomes so much more accessible, the barrier of entry is so much lower. Everybody has a phone in their pocket. And so everybody can play these games and with publishers, kind of creating more of a focus towards mobile games, it becomes something that anybody can get into. You don't have to necessarily spend 12 or 14 hours a day competing on a very expensive PC. You have a phone in your pocket that is a lot less expensive, and a lot easier to compete on. And nobody has necessarily a competitive advantage of spending a lot of time on a hiring system. And

 
Kristin Connelly 

we think a lot about how The Overwatch league can become more mainstream. Overwatch in particular is a it's a really complicated game. It's a 66 very strategic comms oriented game. But what we've done a lot of is key partners and platforms that can really reach a broader mainstream audience, I think is going to be huge for growth opportunities. And so when you look at our first season, our grand finals, broadcasted live on ESPN, which is the first time ESPN flagship had ever carried a major esport final. And then this past year, we broadcasted on Sunday going up against NFL and live on ABC, and which was huge. And then of course, mobile, and just the accessibility of being able to watch it anywhere you are and any time is huge. But I think the importance of sponsors and partners and I know there's another talk that will go into a bit more of that, but I think that is going to be huge to make it more accessible to make it more mainstream mainstream, to make it more part of just popular culture. So you'll see a lot of the synergies happening, you've already been seeing them in some key sports of partnering with kind of the the normal pop culture world. So hopefully that continues a lot. And I think that will do a ton to broaden it to the mainstream. And then also, I think what we were just touching upon a little bit, too, it's just the accessibility to be able to play and have a key path to pro if you should choose to go that way. Which I think we can all agree is what makes our fans so incredible is, is I think what her show was just touching on is that they can be an everyday player and all of a sudden, they can go pro, that is possible. And you don't see that in a lot of traditional sports at all. If I wanted to be a basketball player, I don't think that would have been possible, you know, with my genetic makeup, but if I wanted to become a pro heartstone player, it's possible if I put in the hours and dedication to becoming better, I

 
Persia Hancock 

think a lot of the accessibility into eSports kind of relies on you know, information. And resources. And and I'm kind of speaking from a player point of view right here because I started a little program called echo Academy, which helps female you know, gamers who want to play and get better I paired them up with a professional, you know, player, as a coach, they train for four weeks together also, you know, mash them up with people who are also going to make them better as a whole in eSports, media training, physical training, marketing and branding. And then I send them to a big major event for them to compete. But it's also about setting them up for success to be there and not just putting them on a plane and sending them over saying good luck, but to give them everything they need to feel confident and feel well prepared to be in that situation, I think is really important in terms of accessibility, because I feel like a lot of people get deterred from eSports because they don't know enough and they'd rather not like feel embarrassed or, you know, feel rejected or anything like that. But it really I think comes down to information and Yes, you know, research.

 
Simon Temperley 

Look if brands want to get into eSports, the esports and gaming doesn't need to change the brands and the marketers need to change that the audience is already there. Right so so if you look either be going on a traditional standpoint more people watch the live League of Legends finals than they did the World Cup that I'm sorry, not the World Cup, the Super Bowl, right so the audience is there and that's just in one particular game and some other stuff throughout the ecosystem. There are multiple multiple touch points, but you know, brand brands and agencies want to go to one place and do right and buy a sponsorship or buy media package or do some of these things. You just got to get a little bit more right creative in it in the audience is there there are multiple touch points to it. There are multiple ways to engage the the main points in the way that we always look at it is is brands need to be of assistance to the ecosystem. Right? So again I am that I'm the first one to say so I lose the bat. But the authenticity of it is that you got to be real with like, add some value to it and whatever that is maybe a help with registration, maybe you're helping with price or maybe you're helping with the practicalities of it in some way, shape or form. But the audience is there, you don't need to go grow anymore. You may want to grow, would love to grow Overwatch league? Right? Right? We'd love to, we'd love to grow ESL events. So certainly those but from an ecosystem of people playing the audience is there and they are right. They are this very traditionally difficult and valuable audience of young people still primarily male, but young people between the ages of 18 and 34. So the audience is that

 
Ben Howard 

sort of reverse of asking what eSports can learn from traditional sports i think is a more interesting one more Really, which is how can traditional sports learn from EA Sports? And I think maybe we've touched on some of it. But what are your thoughts there in terms of like, what, what we're seeing inside EA Sports and how I mean, we're seeing a lot of traditional sports organizations invest in a sports, my NBA team, the the Golden State Warriors, as elite league legends team golden guardians, like what what do you What's your thoughts there in terms of how traditional sports can play in this space effectively?

 
Paul Brewer 

Yeah, I think probably the most obvious one is just digital consumption of content. You know, I think traditional sports leagues have done a really good job of linear broadcast and linear distribution. I don't think that appointment viewing is the same many sports all the time. I think the way that eSports is distributed on Twitch and YouTube and mixer and Facebook and all these different platforms, I think is a way that is somewhere that the traditional sports leagues can can look at what we do in eSports Learn how to reach the audience that Simon just discussed and described. Because to his point, we've got, you know, 400 million people consuming some, some form of Esports content. And 99% of that probably I don't know, the exact number is happening digitally. And so I think, you know, traditional sports could probably pick up a thing or two from that.

 
Kristin Connelly 

Yeah, I completely agree with that. And just the accessibility to mobile is is huge. I think the other key part is just the flexibility and agility that eSports has, not only from how we're engaging fans, but also rules and tournament's and changing things up and challenging the norm of doing things differently. And in fact, you know, the NBA, which is probably one of the most progressive, traditional professional league is starting to adapt things that eSports has been doing for years. And that's the first sign that I would say that clearly the esports model has a lot of success in industry. To change, particularly with the Overwatch League, we've been really upfront with that of you know, we're not always going to get it right, we're going to do rules where, you know, we're only two and a half years in, and we're going to make roles and have to change them. And because we really believe that we are an esport, based on our community and for the community, and I think a lot of Esports are that way because they're, they're all formed from games that people love to play. And if it wasn't for the community, we wouldn't have these eSports so if we actively listen to the community and adapt and change where we can and say, Hey, we made a mistake, you know, we're going to do this differently. That's what this generation wants to see not just Oh, these rules have been in place for 100 years, and that's just how it is. They want to know that they can make an impact and, and shift things and I think that's a key opportunity there as well.

 
Persia Hancock 

I feel like obviously eSports has learned so much from sports, you know myself alone, I reference Doris Burke all the time whenever I get on commentary and hosting just because I love her, and she's such an inspiration and it also helps me add things to my craft that I felt like I wasn't paying attention to until I looked at, you know, traditional sports and those professionals. So in return, I feel like I would love to see and, and this is from, you know, my experience even last year alone where all the tournament's were amazing, but the things that really caught my eye and really resonated with me were like the special exhibitions that weren't necessarily a tournament, but it was something interesting and a little bit different from the norm, but we still got to see these players you know, in matchups we would never normally see them face off against each other as or even the content and the player pieces and you know, following these players from each and every stop on you know, throughout their year and you know that content and that you know those exhibitions, shaking things up just a little bit, but adding some personality and adding like little bit of culture into it. That's what really resonated with me. And that's Something I would love to see every piece I see on any like even sports players backstory, I'm immediately hooked, I'm immediately interested and I want to see more. And I feel like I don't see enough of it. So that would be something else their

 
Simon Temperley 

sports leagues and sports teams are super smart, right? They got huge businesses typically monopolies. So there's a there's a couple of plays. So the first is from a league and a team standpoint is the growth the future growth of the sport which is in viewership, so that you know that the TV numbers which still hold high for like NFL and the other ones, but they realize that their their fan is coming now not through the traditional game of playing it is now through playing it through a video game. So you know, I may not watch the NFL on the weekend, but I know all the players through playing Madden, I may not play NBA is the same way. You know, anecdotally My son will play FIFA but he doesn't watching those Premier League, but he knows all the players. Right now he knows that through a video game now, when he progress on that the league's and the teams certainly don't want to give that up. So that's certainly one. The second is, is that teams, you know, owned by billionaires, right? I've got the time, I've got time and certainly resources to look at this thing in a longer with a longer tail. And part of that is what you can do in eSports. What eSports has shown particularly from the professional team organization is that you don't just have one team. You have multiple teams. So it's like the Dallas Cowboys having an NBA team and having a hockey team and having to have some of the ownership stuff is getting a little weird in there, right where they do own multiple, but they're not right, so it's a bit weird. So I think they look at things in eSports where they're moving into these places where they can have a and you see it in the Dallas Cowboys, you see it with the crafts, you see it right, with crunky, etc, of building up these other organizations because it's maybe the future model of where they're going with the professionals. was so thin the symbiotic nature of both of them is, is quite interesting growth not only for their, their teams and particularly genre, but their business as a whole.

 
Ben Howard 

Just briefly on because quite often when I talk about eSports to someone from outside of gaming, they immediately go to Madden NBA like the digital versions of traditional sports what is happening in the sports space around the the competition around those types of traditional sports translated as video games? Is it a separate audience? Where does it cross over with with the rest of the sports world? I mean, for those of you who are in that space

 
Paul Brewer 

Simon feel like you go last every time she gets to go first.

 
Simon Temperley 

So yeah, it's so so the you know, to the the sports eSports sports titles are the easiest ones. For the Non player or viewer to follow right because you very familiar with it, if you watch NBA to k, you sometimes when I watch it you can get you forget that you're actually there are people playing it on a on a console or on PC. Right as opposed to you just watching it. It's so realistic and so close to the real the real game. That, you know, when we when we have events at our facility, and we have the sports, it's a different audience, right? So it's typically it's very much it's much more male than an already male dominated ecosystem. It's much more male. It's much old, older compared to some of the other titles in particular and talk about eSports fortnite comes comes to phrase, it's much older than that. They drink a lot more beer. Right? So we sell a lot more beer than we do at other events when we do it. So they're just typical things in there. That the the makeup of that player though is right. Is it different than a somebody playing basketball? I think the answer's no There is an answer to that. I think it's if you like playing that, that game and you're into it. Typically when you're playing in one of those sports pieces, you have an affinity for the sport that you're that you're in. But it's a different it's a completely different games than an overwatch or fortnight or some something else.

 
Kristin Connelly 

Yeah. And I think that also depends on where in the world you're asking that question. So here in the US, you know the answer. I remember when I first told my parents I was leaving, working in the NFL to go into gaming and was trying to explain Overwatch and my mom said, Oh, it's Oh, it's like, they're playing Madden, you know, like she could comprehend that. Oh, that it's like they're playing digitally football. I'm like, no, it's Overwatch. And I think that's hard to understand. But you know, if we were sitting in, in South Korea right now, this wouldn't be a question because EA Sports is the norm that is just what everyone watches. So there is definitely some connection between playing and watching. I think the biggest question and where the industry is going to go, is how how we go beyond playing, which is if you look at the NFL has done a really great job of that how you tap into other niche audiences, women, you know, other minorities that may have never played football but really enjoy the social and communal aspect of it. And that's what we're striving to do right now. You know, we have 50 million people around the world that play Overwatch so that's a pretty good community to pull from to watch the Overwatch league but what we're thinking about is how do people that haven't want to play the game because maybe it's too complicated or too time consuming, but really just enjoy that communal aspect and, and that's why we set up that geo location aspect because that is that is pulling from what sports does really well. You may not be a huge fan of a sport but you feel that tie and connection to your hometown. And you have that city pride and you want to celebrate I'm from you know I'm from Boston. We all know Boston sports fans are dedicated. I'm not extra Boston, but if you are and you know that kind of level of dedication, and that's what that's the connection we're going on for the Overwatch league and called duty league as well. So I think that's the biggest thing to crack, though is how eSports really evolves beyond just those playing. And those that are just really interested in that level of entertainment. And that's our challenge of as marketers is, how do we we make it entertaining, even if you don't have the closest connection to that actual game.

 
Persia Hancock 

I almost feel like, you know, the sports games have a bigger responsibility than some of the other genres because it is, you know, obviously, if you are a sports fan, you're going to understand this game right away. But if you're a gamer, you know what you're seeing on the screen is not always what's happening. It's not always, you know, it's not everything's what's meets the eye. Most gamers like, they'll know that, but I think the responsibility comes with someone who doesn't play games can catch the drift of this game because it's relatable to sports, but then they're going to need that extra boost for them to know. All right. If you thought this was cool, because you're familiar with it. Wait till I tell you what these players actually have to accomplish and do to make that happen on the screen. Then from there, it makes the learning curve feel a little less daunting when learning other games because now they're already expecting All right. I know this happening on the screen. But I know there's something more in depth and something more interesting actually happening. So kind of has a heavier responsibility for you guys. But I think it's cool because I feel like a lot of people do go into sports games for their affinity for sports. I'm a huge fan and Chiquita on the Warriors team for a to K league. She's the first female in the two k league and she also played sports but had an injury. And so she started playing to kick because she still loves sports, so wanting to be involved. And now she's the first woman in league and I think that's a beautiful story in and of itself, but also shows. That's what's really separating eSports right now because we wouldn't ever see that in the NBA.

 
Ben Howard 

So where are we in the Where are we in the development of Esports specifically in North America, like it This kind of grand timeline towards mainstream mainstream success, like where are we right now? Or

 
Paul Brewer 

so early? so early? I think, you know, you think about some of the legacy titles Liga legends 2007 2008 counterstrikes been around roughly 20 years. 20 years is not that long. You think about the NFL that just finished their hundredth season. I think we're very, very much in the early stages of for eSports. I think there's a lot to figure out from a commercialization and the business operations perspective. I think there's a lot to figure out from a fan base perspective. And I think there's a lot of consolidation that's going to need to happen right now. eSports is such a broad thing. Simon and Kristen both touched on it. It's such a broad thing. I think there's a lot of things that need to happen in order to get it to the stage, the traditional sports is, but at the same time, again, we're so young and so early into it, that we get to sort of extend With that, and we get to get to kind of test that. And that's the exciting thing about it.

 

Kristin Connelly 

Yeah, feeling very early for sure. As I mentioned, with the overachiever, two and a half years in, we're three weeks away from launching Call of Duty league for the first time ever. We compare it to the youngest traditional sports league, which is soccer, which is over 25 years old at this point. And even dating back to the first esport was really Starcraft two, and that was 20 years ago. And when you look at all these leagues, it we feel brand new. And I think you touched on a really solid point of we're in that experimentation phase. And so this is what is so exciting about this time is you can do a lot and you could change and it's not too late, and we can innovate and we can test and we can say Nope, that didn't work. We got to go this direction. So I think the biggest thing for for where we are is that there's still a lot to tap into, especially for brands and partners and agencies and other sports have games that we don't even know exist that may come up tomorrow and will change the entire world. And so it is very much at the forefront. But I think we've reached a point where eSports are becoming even more professional, even more advanced, there's more partners, and particularly in North America, kind of the broader mainstream finally paying attention to sports for the first time. And for our communities, it is also becoming a more excessive, kind of acceptable thing to talk about and do. To your point earlier of, you can actually have a career in the sports you can be a professional esport player, that is now something that, you know, kids growing up teenagers, when they say they want to play professionally, even a couple of years ago that was kind of looked at strangely, it's now becoming more accepted. And I think that's that's going to be make the world of difference for where we go from even in the next two to three years.

 
Persia Hancock 

Yeah, we're still very early but I think the good thing about that is that now At the fees were people who were really young when they watched eSports just sprout up out of the ground are now at an age where they're seasoned and experience and have witnessed it from the ground up and are now probably probably the most valuable people for you to get in contact with if you really want to add some value or something to whatever you're trying to work on, because they have this experience, and they just need a chance because, you know, and I'm speaking like, from personal experience to you, like, so much passion, so much drive and 10 times a day, every day, I would tell myself, I just need someone to give me a chance, I just need this chance. And I know I can, you know, bring everything to the table and make people enjoy this as much as I do. And you know, try to get more people involved and and it's just a ripple effect after that. But I think that's the cool thing about it being kind of new is now we finally have like kind of our first generation of people who are ready to take the bull by the horns and you know, they're ready to take it to the top with you. So I think that's really exciting.

 
Simon Temperley 

The numbers are already there. The video gaming numbers video gaming businesses bigger than music and movies combined. The eSports which is simply competitive video gaming is about a 10th the size of that market. So there's a long way to go in the competitive nature of it. There are lots of things we were talking about competitive video game, so eSports we talk about Overwatch league League of Legends fortnight World Cup, but the real numbers are in the grassroots effort, where we want to really play as in the providing them with a live experience, most of it which is totally different than most most other sports where you grow up live and then go right digitally or online. Here it's grown up online, and now it's got to go to the live so community venues. Easy access, safe places. very open, for anybody to come play. No matter what your level. These will be the things that will grow. We'll get these great stories of being able to play against right top players and win and compete. But the numbers are there. We've just got to get them out and playing an open and then treat them as a group that's already there, not center that we need to go cultivate. Fantastic. That's a great

 
Ben Howard 

place to leave it and drive us into the next conversation about brand engagement in the space I love join me in thanking the panel today is this great conversation. Thanks very much.

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