Column: How to Turn the Esports Moment into a Movement

Matt Gunnin

Matt Gunnin is the CEO and co-founder of Esports One and a serial esportspreneur.

Column: How to Turn the Esports Moment into a Movement

The headlines seem to come every day now. From VC investment to audience growth, all metrics point to an explosion in the popularity of esports, even before the COVID-19 pandemic sent many people indoors. Now, as leagues, developers, publishers, players and the media all sit poised to ride this wave, it's important for all of us, especially the industry veterans, to pause and take a look at the bigger picture.

How do we ensure that this new influx of users and players become a true part of the community – not just for the short term, but for years to come?

Esports has a reputation – some would say rightly deserved – for being insular. While the community has become more open and accepting in recent years, that sentiment still rings true, as with any subculture that sees "outsiders" come into the fold. There can be a bristling or resentment towards the newcomers. And on the business side of things, it's not uncommon to see teams or leagues take a short-term approach to the industry's new money.

The lifeblood of any sport is the fans. Without them, the games, leagues and media would simply disappear. It's paramount that new fans become part of the community and stick around for the industry to continue its growth trajectory. Here are three things industry leaders and executives can do to ensure this happens.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

Longtime gamers may have forgotten the first time they booted up their system and tried to play League of Legends, CS:GO or Rocket League. For the novice, everything about the experience is unfamiliar. The gameplay, the mechanics, even the terminology can seem like a foreign language. How we onboard new players is a critical step. Creating "light versions" or mini-games can help newbies get acclimated without leaving them feeling intimidated.

Ensure Equitability, Not Just Equality

If you give two players the exact same weapons, but one player is a 10-year veteran and the other has never played before, does each have an equal chance? It's not enough for new players to simply have the same opportunity. Yes, some people enjoy the challenge and are willing to put in long hours getting destroyed in order to build up their experience. But how many people get frustrated after being repeatedly killed, before they can get their bearings?

This even holds true for fantasy sports, where 90% of games are won by less than 5% of participants. By allowing users and/or players of comparable skill level to match up, everyone can participate at a competitive level, keeping more people engaged with the sport. At Esports One we're looking at instituting ELO-style rankings for our users. With such a ranking system, we could minimize situations where the highly skilled (or deeply experienced) rack up wins against less experienced players.

Continue to Build A Broader Ecosystem

From a consumer perspective, some of the greatest advancements in sports have had nothing to do with rule changes. Think how the viewing experience for the NFL changed with the introduction of the yellow first-down line on television. Or how fantasy sports went from a niche hobby to a full-blown industry. These technologies and creative enhancements improved the experience for fans by adding layers to the core experience. This will be just as critical for the esports industry as it was for traditional sports. A good example here is the plethora of data generated by esports. Harnessing all the information and making it available in ways that enhance the viewing experience has nearly limitless opportunities.

The future of esports has never been brighter, and 2020 looks to be a pivotal year in its development. Now is the time for the industry to invest in creativity, technology and innovation to ensure that complacency and stagnation are avoided and the future reality lives up to the hype.

Matt Gunnin is the CEO and co-founder of Esports One and a serial esportspreneur.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.