New York City, N.Y. — Executives and journalists braved a second nor’easter to gather at Esports Activate in the Big Apple and talk about the gaming and esports industries.
The Daily Walkthrough spoke with endemic brands about what to expect in 2018 and a non-endemic brand taking the year to see if the rapidly expanding market of esports is right for them.
Hi-Rez Studio’s chief operating officer, Todd Harris, told TheDW their plans revolve around solidifying and maturing the communities for their two games: SMITE and Paladins.
He acknowledged their intent isn’t for SMITE to surpass League of Legends or Dota 2 or for Paladins to beat Overwatch.
“SMITE has managed to maintain a solid #3 moba position in a super competitive landscape,” Harris told TheDW. “We don’t see us toppling #1 and #2, but the community is very very loyal … Going into this year, the team has worked really hard on Season 5 changes, which include a brand new map.”
As for Paladins, Hi-Rez thinks “there’s a lot of growth in that [team shooter] genre” despite Overwatch’s dominance. They stumbled when players became upset over what they perceived to be pay-to-win aspects of Paladins, and Harris said he’s happy the company decided to remove those features because it “allows it to be more esports focused.”
“We just need to continue to get that [customization] message out” to differentiate Paladins, he explained.
The company moved beyond its roots as a publisher five years ago to help mature the grassroots esports scene. That meant “adding structure” and making “it self-sustaining for the parties involved.” Hi-Rez’s tournament organizing helped take an unprofessional scene dealing with payment and rule chaos and turn it into a less-risky environment for players.
“With Paladins … we took the step of working closer with a set of 10 organizations,” Harris said. “Going into this year with SMITE, we’re adopting a similar model. It’s 12 organizations. We’re going to have a stronger relationship with them. They’re required to pay their players a minimum salary. It reduces the amount of entities where money has to flow.”
L’Oreal was the heavyweight non-endemic brand at Esports Active.
Sarah Davanzo, L’Oreal’s vice president of innovation, moderated a panel on “Women in Esports and Video Games” that received warm reception.
She told TheDW after the panel that, while L’Oreal hasn’t decided if it wants to dip into esports or not, they’re “completely curious” about the space.
It’s all about the data for her. She holds three patents in cultural intelligence and future sciences methodologies and is absolutely fascinated by esports’ potential.
“I’m here purely because my role is to explore culture and identify opportunities for the corporation,” she said. “It’s really important for me to understand anything that has an impact on beauty.”
There’s a wealth of data in esports, but Davanzo believes its not being properly utilized or understood.
“I am hoping the call to action for better data collection will be heard,” Davanzo said. “All decisions need to be predicated on data.” Those decisions include things like figuring out what L’Oreal can produce that addresses a need in the esports space.
“In this space, when you start to look at the agents, the lawyers, the tournament organizers, the players … Women are in all of those spaces. It’s so ripe of a territory.”
L’Oreal isn’t just looking at esports, either. Davanzo uses cosplay as an indicator for upcoming “fashion and makeup trends.”
At its most basic level, Davanzo said esports “exemplifies the complexity of the world.” From the tournaments to the “dormitory-style lifestyle” that’s divorced from family, marriage or intimate relationships, there’s plenty for marketers to watch.
“I love the pounding of the sound” at an esports tournament, she said. “It’s like going to a rock concert. The colors are blinding, seeing guys on the stage and the lights, the stuff on the screen, the screaming, the fans and the costumes. It’s hyperbolic. It’s normal sports fandom on steroids.”
Another big name at Esports Activate was HyperX. TheDW talked with Wendy Lecot, HyperX’s head of strategic alliances and digital marketing innovation about their goals for 2018.
They’re focusing heavily on the NBA and casual gamers, Lecot said. “We have a playbook in 2018 that’s focused on the casual gamer … We think that traditional sports and fans are primed and ready for a more interesting, relevant experience that brings that younger fan in.”
HyperX partners with the Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks and has three brand ambassadors: Sacramento Kings’ De’Aaron Fox, 76ers’ Joel Embiid and Boston Celtics’ Gordon Hayward.
“They are inspirational to that casual gamer,” Lecot told TheDW. “Our goal by the end of the year is to pick some non-endemics that maybe want to partner and figure out what makes sense in terms of cooperative marketing.”
Some of the non-endemic brands they’re looking to bring in include bands with lead singers “that are gamers.”
Additionally, HyperX is going to use 2018 to reflect on charity events they’ve done and see where those can be expanded.
“Positivity is an important factor in gaming … Kids seem to be a pretty important theme to other gamers, they like helping kid gamers,” Lecot said. “It’s a year of checking out and inspection and looking and seeing what can be.”
While it won’t be finished anytime soon, Lecot said HyperX is participating in a study with the University of San Francisco and neuroscientists. They’re providing equipment for the study, which is trying to determine if video games can be used as “digi-cuticals,” or electronic pharmaceuticals.
The University of San Francisco is “trying to identify if, only within the context of when you were gaming did you get cognitive change, or did it stick with you after? If it did, that’s when it becomes a therapy.”
Despite HyperX’s aggressive moves into the NBA, Lecot told TheDW “cultural barriers” will always persist at some level.
Katie Frates is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Walkthrough. Follow Katie on Twitter and Facebook, and signup for The Daily Walkthrough for the latest on gaming and esports.