The new pod sees three millennials discussing esports. They were:
Jack Stewart, the first specialist esports reporter for a UK national newspaper (Daily Mail and Mailonline)
Leo Matlock, Head of Commercial for RFRSH Entertainment.
1. Can Google fight on all four fronts? There are four pillars of the gaming business - the hardware makers like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo; the streaming platforms such as Twitch; games distributors like Steam; and finally, the publishers, such as EA and Activision Blizzard. If the promise of Stadia is real - and the buzz around E3 was substantial - then Google is taking them all on.
As Time magazine put it, "even if it fails, Stadia will most likely change the video game industry forever”.
And it could fail, for a really boring reason: bandwidth.
As a trend, Newzoo is hot on cloud gaming. The tech behind it is better established than when the likes of OnLive began making waves a decade ago. But those waves crashed because of the cost of broadband and infrastructure. With offerings like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Cloud Services, and Google Cloud, servers aren’t the problem. It’s the cost and accessibility of broadband that’s the biggest hurdle for the likes of Google Stadia and Project xCloud. The rollout of 5G will help, but especially in the U.S, providers such as Comcast are a problem thanks to their data caps and high prices. It’s a concern. Google also runs Fiber, its broadband service, but that’s in few areas, and it doesn’t look like it’s expanding it any time soon.
2. And you thought Real Madrid had a Galacticos problem
The big issue for investors is where the unit of association lies among most esports fans: Do people follow games, leagues, teams or players? For a decade or more, the received wisdom in European football research is that fans outside the domestic market are promiscuous in their team loyalties, and often seem to follow star players rather than teams.
The case study de jour is Brazilian show pony Neymar, whose transfer from FC Barcelona to PSG led large numbers of fans to change allegiance. Real Madrid’s Galacticos model of player acquisition is in part at least, a response to this trend: building a team of marketing assets to maximise fan numbers, particularly across social media.
The same dynamic is very much a feature of the esports fan dynamic, with the added dimension that the teams themselves can appear a bit 'here today, gone tomorrow' (a Robin Day/John Nott reference there, for all those Gen Y'ers reading this).
3. ‘It’s esports, not eSports. And definitely not E-Sports'
Jack Stewart recalled an argument with the sub editors when he wrote his first piece for the Daily Mail. The topic was what to call this strange new world. As someone previously in the eSports club, I’ve been told. More importantly, the generic esports term is outdated. As Leo Matlock says: "Stop calling it esports, it’s like bracketing football, cricket and wheelchair basketball together. These are different games, each with their own different worlds.”
4. The future is free, and PPV
For all the talk of Google Stadia democratising esports, there’s a countervailing race to build a pay per view option. What that would look like and why anyone would pay to watch it are questions for another pod.
5. Funny or die (death defined as getting a proper job)
The conversation was how gaming culture has influenced mainstream sports marketing. When a football club's social team puts out a funny film, they get showered with awards and air kissed all the way to Cannes. But for most gamers, that’s just what they do most days. If they’re not funny, they fade from view pretty quickly.
6. A bubble or not a bubble? That is the question Kotaku ran an outstanding deep dive in to the media numbers surrounding esports.The central point being much of the data is somewhat, how do we put it, optimistic.
“I feel like esports is almost running a Ponzi scheme at this point,” Frank Fields, Corsair’s sponsorship manager, told an audience at San Francisco’s Game Developers Conference last March. He smirked. The crowd laughed uncomfortably. The smile dropped from Fields’ face as he continued. “Everyone I talk to in this industry kind of acknowledges the fact that there is value in esports, but it is not nearly the value that is getting hyped these days.” Later, Fields would clarify that this value, and future value, “as of now, is optimistic at best and fraudulent at worst.”
We’re running several esports pods, so if you’re an expert (or know one), get in touch via the site.