BE: What does your brand stand for?
BM: Founded nearly 20 years ago, ESL has been developed into the world’s largest esports company leading the industry across the most popular video games with numerous online and in-venue competitions. It operates high profile, branded international leagues and tournaments such as ESL One, Intel® Extreme Masters, ESL Pro League and other top tier stadium-size events, as well as the ESL National Championships, grassroots amateur cups and matchmaking platforms, defining the path from zero to hero for every player and fan.
BE: What is particularly innovative in your company?
BM: ESL has shaped the history of esports and over the last 20 years, set itself on a journey, to build the best matchmaking platforms, esports stages and competitions for gamers, creating more opportunities for participation and progression than any other sport. ESL has innovated the industry in terms of broadcast, production and event experience across the world’s most prestigious esports brands and products, stadium events and consistently breaking industry records with our game agnostic zero to hero approach.
BE: Which new markets trends play the biggest role for you in esports? Why?
BM: We strongly believe in the rise of mobile esports, especially in combination with the launch of 5G across all relevant tier 1 markets in 2020+. Mobile esports are providing access for the next generation of esports players and fans. Together with AT&T for North America and Vodafone for Europe, we launched the ESL Mobile Open last year by bringing some of the top mobile games to a truly competitive esport format and creating a clear path for amateurs to reach professional play.
BE: How do you see the effects of the coronavirus on esports?
BM: As one of the few sport and entertainment industries, we are in the privileged position to continue. Since this sport in its original form took place purely online, we are now returning to our roots a bit. We are seeing record viewership across all our main leagues and tournaments. Now it is our job going forward to capitalize on the mainstream attention across all demographics that we are receiving and continue to develop a sustainable and trusted environment.
BE: On a global level, esports is still a niche. What needs to change to make esports mainstream?
BM: I would disagree here, it always depends on what demographics you are looking for. For generation Y to Z, esports is already considered mainstream and is responsible for a relevant amount of the overall media consumption. Also, the latest viewership records across various games in terms of live concurrent viewers and major blue chip brands like Mercedes-Benz, Nike and PepsiCo joining the scene suggests that esports has already outgrown its niche a while ago.
BE: Why is data so important in esports?
BM: Data serves as the backbone for our community-driven content and innovative storytelling, while ensuring the competitive integrity and strengthening the overall ecosystem by creating additional revenue streams that will contribute to long-term sustainability.
BE: It is said that the provision of reliable in-game data in real time, exclusive contracts and manual data make the broad distribution and development of industry standards difficult. Do you share this opinion?
BM: The whole data ecosystem in esports is still in the beginning of its life cycle. Therefore, it is important that all relevant stakeholders do a better job at establishing consistent industry standards. Especially when it comes to data quality and transparency. ESL will continue to be on the forefront with its initiatives to ensure integrity and fight fraudulent activities related to illegal data.
BE: What infrastructure is needed for tournament organizers and data rights holders to derive value from their data?
BM: The ever-changing nature of games requires high adaptability of data frameworks. Therefore, within ESL, we already launched ESL ProDB more than five years ago. It is a central and game agnostic data platform which ensures reliable and consistent data quality via a standardized API. With ESL ProDB, we can assure broad and structured access to live data in the fastest, most secure and accurate way possible.
BE: Apart from monetization, what is most important to tournament organizers and data rights holders?
BM: We have three main cases of how to leverage our game, tournament and player data related to our owned and operated products. Across our leagues and tournaments, we have the most engaged audience, and based on data we continue to drive broadcast innovation and create more engaging experiences for the fans. Furthermore, we continue to protect the integrity of esports competitions through fraud detection and real-time monitoring. When it comes to monetization, we want to create additional value that will contribute to the commercial sustainability of the entire ecosystem.
BE: How does ESL choose its brand partners, what are the most important criteria?
BM: Our goal is always to work with the best brands in each category. Many brands have realized that younger target groups are hard to reach with their established marketing plans. Esports is one of the few catalysts to establish a connection to Gen Y, Gen Z and Co. It is especially important for us here that the partners enter into an authentic and long-term commitment and subsequently create added value for the player and fans.
BE: You cooperate with Bayes, which launched BEDEX, the first independent esports data marketplace for in-game data. Why? What are you looking for?
BM: Bayes, as the global leader in esports data, was the logical fit as a partner for us as they are not only the most experienced, but also the most committed data company in the industry. Especially in regards to the ever-increasing volume of betting on esports competitions, it is the next logical step in our efforts to preserve and promote integrity across all competitions. An independent data marketplace, such as BEDEX, can set industry standards and solve the problem of a very fragmented esports data landscape.