There’s a Culture Around Esports. It’s not Just Big Business.

When it comes to the esports industry, experts agree it’s still early in the game. First inning early. As the connective tissue continues to form across the esports ecosystem, top executives and thought leaders sat down to discuss the emerging trends and challenges shaping the industry in a dynamic panel discussion featured at the Esports Business Summit in Las Vegas.

“It’s a wide-open ecosystem and the landscape is still evolving,” said Yvette Martinez-Rea, CEO and Managing Director of ESL North America. “What’s right for one game is not right for all games. If we’ve learned anything it’s that there isn’t one model that will be the single model for esports going forward.”

Martinez-Rea joined Craig Berry, Executive Vice President/Chief Content Officer, Turner Sports; Todd Harris, co-founder & COO, Hi-Rez Studios; Brent Koning, Commissioner, Electronic Arts; and Pete Vlastelica, CEO of Esports Leagues, Activision Blizzard on the panel moderated by esports host/producer Michele Morrow.

With the average ages of football fans in their fifties, baseball fans in their sixties, and the growing esports fan base in their twenties, broadcasters are investing in digital native content to reach younger audiences.

“We need to inspire fandom,” said Vlastelica. “Creating esports fans so excited to play and watch is important—and the challenge is engaging core audiences of gamers with new ones.”

With its position at the top of the gaming pyramid, esports offers unprecedented aspirational opportunities. The panelists agreed sharing human interest stories, much like traditional sports, is vital.

“There’s a culture around esports. It’s not just big business,” said Harris. “There are great stories about the players because they can go from ‘zero to hero’—anyone can be a player and end up a champion.”

Martinez-Rea reiterated the importance of sharing stories about female gamers. “We also need more content about women who play,” she said, “then an 11-year-old girl sees it’s okay to play games like her brother.”

What came across loud and clear is that collaboration is key to continue building momentum in esports. Berry said, “We need to put the community close to the action with dynamic, authentic experiences. The more we find our way through esports, the more we need to continue to work together.”

By: Cathy DeRonne