An Esports Primer: The Eyeballs Are There and the Money is Following

The Switch’s Charles Conroy speaks about esports trendsThe Switch’s Charles Conroy speaks about esports trends

Esports is well out of its infancy, with the modern era of esports dating back a full 20 years or so. Notably, global revenues are projected to be well north of $1 billion next year. Like most markets with a heavy tech component, esports continues to evolve at a pace similar to the technologies that enable it. Not surprisingly, more opportunities are cropping up across media and entertainment. For those wanting to enter the arena, it can be challenging to get up to speed on a moving target.

It’s with that thought in mind that NAB Show offered a brief primer Tuesday called “Introduction of the Day: Esports Today, an Evolution.”

Here, esports pioneer Charles Conroy discussed esports’ rise, from events held in hotel ballrooms to competitions staged in major stadiums with massive live and online audiences. Conroy is a 15-year esports veteran, so he’s been along for most of the ride. He’s certainly been on hand for the meteoric growth that accompanied more recent developments like advances in streaming capability, faster broadband speeds, the growth of online platforms like Twitch, league play and more.

Conroy, now vice president of gaming at video solutions service provider The Switch, has extensive experience in professional gaming and was recently chief development officer for NextGen Tech, the parent company of Complexity Gaming. Complexity is one of America’s premier and longest-standing esports organizations. It has won more than 140 championships in nearly 30 games over the last 15 years, all while being featured on dozens of major media outlets.

In 2017, founder Jason Lake made history by welcoming Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and investor John Goff to the team’s roster of owners. The interest in esports by athletes and traditional sports organizations like the Cowboys is significant, said Conroy. He talked about how the organization built a proper esports training facility and groomed competitors to treat mind and body properly to maximize performance. Betting is another industry trend, and technologies like AR and VR are certainly going to be implemented as they develop, Conroy said.

What advice would he give “traditional” media types looking to dip a toe into an esports production? “You have to be genuine coming in,” said Conroy. “People can tell if you’re not. Also, be ready for something that is evolving at a crazy pace.”

He said esports has always had far more interaction between fans and players than traditional sports, and this strength must be maintained. With audiences skyrocketing, capital has started to flow in to fund the competition productions, so real productions with high production values have become the norm. Expect that to continue. He did caution that traditional TV rules don’t always apply. Trying to fit a competition into a fixed time slot is an example: Like a baseball game, some events run short, some go into extra innings. A lot of this development has occurred within the last few years. The eyeballs are there, and the money has followed, Conroy said.