Tampa Bay and national experts alike came together under the University of South Florida Muma College of Business roof to discuss the culture, business and future of the esports gaming world, which has turned into a billion-dollar industry.
The leagues, professional players and business opportunities that now make up the still-growing industry were broken down by experts at the USF’s first esports conference. Here are some of the top takeaways from the experts.
Education needs to be done to show this goes beyond gaming.
“This isn’t Mario from the ’80s,” Troy Carnrite, partner at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, said. “I get it all the time — ‘Why would you watch people play games?’ Well, have you played a game recently? You’re problem-solving, using analytics skills, hand-eye coordination. And these teams have a training regimen on the physical end and to stay mentally sharp. Part of the education process is showing it’s not just people sitting around on the couch with Cheetos and Mountain Dew. This takes a lot of practice, focus and mental ability. If you don’t get it, I challenge your intelligence because it’s not that you may not get it. You don’t see the value of it.”
While it’s still young, the opportunities for the industry are rapidly ramping up.
• “Even though there are billions of dollars invested, it’s still an emerging industry,” Carnite said during the Business of Esports panel. “This is still in its infancy, even with all the money. From 2014-17, there were nine private equity deals. In 2018 alone, there were 14. So this is really starting to pick up but it’s not even close to mature. It’s incredibly fun to be involved with challenging industries, to see where it goes next. But this is not a mature industry, so brands and companies can still shape the way it goes.”
• “There are different ways I want to bring people to esports, whether it’s education in college or schools, because it’s a grassroots effort,” William Le Voir-Barry, chief technology officer of esports and video games at IBM, said. “It is, by nature, community driven and big companies like myself respond to community much more than other industries.”
• “I’m excited to continue to see the youth build the sport,” Jordan Bellar, global partnerships at Harris-Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, said. “There are so many out there with different passions and all you need is an internet connection. On the business side, it shows how many opportunities there are to work in the industry — there’s marketing, social media, analytics. There are all these needs and we need more people as it continues to grow.”
Esports is easily accessible.
“Esports is blind to gender, race, nationality and access is extreme,” Todd Harris, co-founder of Atlanta-based Hi Rez Studios and president of Skillshot Media, said. “You’re lucky you’re here with a great hockey team with arenas. A lot of kids will never be a hockey player because they don’t have that access. But if you have a computer and internet connection, there is nothing standing between you being the best player in the world except your time and dedication.”