One of the fastest-growing areas in the sports market, multiplayer video game competitions are changing the landscape of our traditional ideas of what constitutes ‘sports.’ Although early in its infancy beyond global tournaments, college and school eSports leagues are making their presence felt. We hosted a webinar where Natalie Clayton, head of Partnerships at the AVGL and Boom.TV, gave us a 101 rundown of the top games, players, and opportunities around eSports in the high school space.
Romy Glazer: Hi everyone. So we’re going to get started, but before we do I wanted to do a few things. The first was introduce myself. I’m Romy, I run the marketing here at VNN sports, and I’ve got two panelists here with me today. Rick Ehrman, CEO of VNN and Natalie Clayton, head of partnerships at the AVGL/Boom.TV. It’s a really exciting topic, but second I also wanted to say thanks so much for being here. We promote this out to people, where our customers, people who aren’t our customers, and so if you’re not a VNN school I wanted to say thanks, you know, for coming out because it’s really, I think it’s really cool that you’re here looking for new information on tech. So we’re thankful you’re here.
So this webinar series started about a month or two ago, where we’ve been using it as a way to introduce athletic directors to new tech. But today’s webinar is slightly different in that we don’t necessarily have something we’re pitching, but more we want to learn from you. So at the end of the webinar, there’s going to be a survey. We would love to get your feedback on eSports so that we can learn to see how important it is to you and where you want to go with it. So the format, pretty simple, it’s going to be 30 minutes, there’s going to be a Q&A at the end, and I’m going to act as the moderator. We’ve got approximately a hundred people on this webinar, so we’ve got it in person only mode, so there’s a questions tab on the side that if you have any questions feel free to put them in there and I will answer them. But with that, I wanted to introduce Rick Ehrman, CEO of VNN to get it started. Rick, take it away.
Rick Ehrman: Thanks Romy, and thanks everyone for participating. I know many of you have been on other webinars we’ve had, and as Romy mentioned this one will be a little bit different, but, you know, during kind of these unprecedented times we’ve all had a chance to, I think as a company VNN, we’ve been doing a couple things a little bit better than we have in the past. One of those is listening to our customers. And as, when I talk about customers or stakeholders, it’s everyone from athletic directors to coaches, to parents, to athletes, and we’ve used the last several weeks you know, not only to kind of redefine what we want to be in the market, but also start to look at things that may be up-and-coming and exciting and interesting. And eSports has been one, as we scenario plan, we know we need to be cared for. So we’ve done our diligence in the market, chosen a partner that we feel is way ahead of the game when it comes to how best serve this vertical.
And you know, through partnership identification and diligence, and I actually did some research that kind of stood out to me, where I hadn’t ever thought of it this way before, where when a, when gamers were pulled, they actually self-indentify as athletes, and they rank the sports that they like. They might say football, baseball, Call of Duty, or something like that, and I had never really though about it that way. So, VNN, I think we’re kind of going into this thinking about eSports as just another sport. But lots to learn, a lot to learn from our partners at Boom, and, you know, I feel that these webinars are most productive normally when we get the Q&A. So I want to hand it over to Natalie as quickly as possible, but certainly available for questions about our perspective, collective perspective, as well as our perspective as a company, and hopefully you all not only ask questions at the end, but also provide some comments and statements that we can use, as we need to find our roadmap going forward.
I’ve known Natalie Clayton a long time, we used to work together, it usually just means we’re old, but I have respect for her and her company and it’s been great to kind of reconnect and have them lead us into this new world, so Natalie.
Natalie Clayton: Yeah thanks so much Rick for that introduction, it’s been kind of the irony of us coming together again for eSports. I think we know that both the markets to be working with have been kind of driving towards this, and so I really appreciate the opportunity to speak to you, you know, VNN’s audience and share more insight about eSports.
So a bit about the organization that I come from. It’s called the American Video Game League, AVGL, and it’s one of the top youth and collegiate eSports organizations in the nation. We’re about five years old, which is quite old in terms of eSports time, but we’ve had over a thousand academic institutions participate in our events and community initiatives. And, you know, our primary value that we provide to high schools and athletic directors like yours is the ability to help support and grow your own gaming community. So we have different tools, different very simple automated ways to develop your own events to harness the kids who are already playing video games on your campus, and to really help them, you know, create an eSports experience that provides the value of traditional sports. And we’ll get more into what that looks like.
And we also provide tens of thousands of dollars, and soon hundreds of thousands of dollars, in college scholarships to high school eSports players as well. At the end of last year, AVGL was actually acquired by Boom TV, which is one of the leading eSports tournament platforms. So that’s given us the ideal infrastructure to be able to, you know, serve our communities with the best technology. And like I said, the simplest tools to be able to provide, you know, high school sports with what they need to get into eSports. Boom TV, if you google us and look around, you’ll also find out that we’re quite infamous for our code read influencer events, which are connections to kind of celebrity athletes of eSports, and I’ll talk more about that late as well.
So starting with the basics, I’m going to assume really nobody knows much about eSports, and I’m going to give you a very abbreviated overview of the industry, and want to reiterate that I have a lot more materials that go much more in-depth, and I’m happy to talk to anybody else more about eSports because this is going to be quite the high-level quick overview. But, you know, thinking about how to define eSports, it’s really the competitive video game play. So it’s really taking video games and making it a sport by enabling players and teams to compete against each other in online and multiplayer.
They’re called multi players video games, so just like traditional athletes, they’re able to, you know, they practice, they play, in massive events. And the picture you see here is one of the largest events in eSports that actually, you know, fill stadiums with fans. So this is very much, you know, a sport in many ways. But I thought the best way to really give you an introduction to it would be to watch this video. So let me jump onto YouTube and I will show you a quick snapshot of what eSports actually looks like.
[Video]: Video games have surpassed the film and music industry in market share since 2015. This multi-billion dollar industry has attracted eyes and players across the world that community has fostered. The subculture, a competitive environment in which we call eSports. What is eSports you may ask? Well eSports is a computer facilitated competition. In other words, it’s organized video gaming. This all started out with a handful of passionate spectators, and now we’re filling out stadiums, events like the International Intel Extreme Masters, and even the League of Legends World Championship, draw huge crowds. The famous venues across the world.
The viewership for these tournaments rival the majority of traditional sports. The excitement around eSports has even attracted the attention of major media outlets and celebrity investments from major brands, pour into this young ecosystem which has already stimulated exponential growth in this industry. Most players and team have intense practice regimens with million-dollar contracts. I think their play is defined by their careful planning, precise timing, and practice execution, a player’s dedication and passion is there to see for every spectator. Just like any competition, there’s a gremlin, glory, and even heartbreak.
NC: I’m assuming everyone could hear that, okay.
RG: That sounded great Natalie.
NC: Okay good. Okay let me just get back to my normal screening. Okay, so as you can see, you know, this really mimics a lot of traditional sports in terms of audience and in terms of what it takes to compete in eSports. So going back to, how did this all evolve? You know, you’ve probably started hearing a lot about eSports because it’s slowly making its way, I should say quickly, into high school and college scholastic athletics. But what really changed the marketplace in North America was twitch.
So, you know, while eSports has been very popular in Asia for many years, what happened, is about, in 2014 Amazon acquire Twitch. And Twitch is like the YouTube of gaming, except it’s focused on livestream video. So not videos on demand like YouTube. And so what Twitch allows you to do, is if you’re a video game player you can actually stream yourself playing games or extreme different competitions. So Twitch was the broadcast mechanism that suddenly opened up the market to enable, you know, viewership and fans to find people playing the games they loved, and to play themselves and get watched. So it’s like, you know, a massive TV network.
Something exploded with all of this video game content, so you know Twitch right now is really still a major leader. And being able to stream video games and view video games, and, you know, today you’re looking at numbers like 200 million broadcasters monthly. 50 million daily active users, 27,000 channels, and also the average eSports viewer watches nine hours of eSports content per week. So this is really a significant phenomenon. And again, you can go on Twitch.com and kind of dig around, and just watch people play games, and again this is something that, you know, millions of people do on a daily basis outside of Twitch.
There really isn’t a major broadcast network or online, you know, broadcast channel that achieves a scale that Twitch does. You’ve got YouTube gaming that’s owned by Google, and then actually just a few days ago Mixer, Microsoft’s Mixer, which was kind of a Twitch rival, got merged with Facebook gaming. So, outside of Twitch, there really isn’t a hue of behemoth, at least right now. So Twitch really enabled the fan base and the audience to come to eSports. And now we’re talking about all the different elements of the eSports experience, so if you think about a tradition sports experience, a lot of these pieces are very much in parallel. So you see here all the elements.
You’ve got the viewing platforms, like, you know, like whether that’s in traditional sports it’s ESPN, maybe now it’s more like a Netflix that has sports rights, but you’ve got Twitch that really broadcasts globally. And then you’ve got tournament platforms like our company BoomTV, that enables people to go and launch and run their own. Then you’ve got traditional leagues like the AVGL, which is collegiate and high school, and then overwatch, which is an example of a professional league.
You’ve go sponsors and advertisers on, putting, you know, millions of dollars. And even now, you know, the industry’s a billion dollar industry globally in eSports, so, you know, huge sponsorships obviously. You’ve got the viewers and the fans, and you’ve got the competitors. So Cloud 9 is an example of a pro team. There’s, you know, dozens of pro teams now across the world that compete in all different game titles in eSports. And then there’s, you know, this example is Michigan State. You have the collegiate space and collegiate varsity teams, which I’ll talk about more later, in the deck.
Now the primary different that’s really important to understand in eSports, which makes it very different than any kind of traditional sport, is the role of the game publisher. So the difference is the game publisher’s own the rights, or the IP, to their own games. So there are many popular eSports games. Each game is like a different sport, so, you know, Riot produces League of Legends, which is one of the longest-running eSPorts games. And that game is very different than one of Valve’s games on the right, which produces a very popular first-person shooter game called counter-strike. Well the difference is, because these companies have the IP rights to their games, they essentially control all the major events and initiatives that happen within their games. So in the real world, you could go and create a high school tournament and you wouldn’t need permission from any major Football Association, or owner of football. Nobody owns football or those rights, but if you were to go and create a major event around a specific eSports game, it would be critical to have the publishers permission or partnership. So the publisher partnership is really a critical piece in terms of the eSports ecosystem in getting down in to the major publishers here in terms of high school eSports.
The most popular sports in eSports tend to be League of Legends, which is called a strategy game. There’s a few different genres, strategy is one of them. There’s first-person shooters like I mentioned, counter-strike, without, you know, for obvious reasons isn’t popular in high school. You have Overwatch and you have Rocket League. Rocket League is more of a sport type of game, where you have actual cars playing soccer for example. So these, what’s listed here is Riot, which actually publishes League of Legends, then you’ve got Activision Blizzard, who’s responsible for top eSports titles, including Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Hearthstone. Then you’ve go EA, which publishes the biggest, kind of, sports related games in eSports, like FIFA and Madden NFL, and a recent on PC hit called APEX Legends, Epic developed Fortnite.
I’m sure many of you know and can attest your children playing Fortnite, but that was huge, launched in 2017, and acquired about, you know, 125 million players in eight months. Still a very popular game, and then they have also recently acquired Psyonix, which develops Rocket League, another popular high school title. And lastly, Valve develops Counter-Strike and Dota. So these are some of the top ones. There’s a lot of other, you know, publishers and games that fall into different genre categories as well. But these are definitely some of the big ones in high school too.
And this slide I always like to put into presentations, just to get a sense of, you know, why does eSports matter. And the thing is that eSports is the sport, you know, it’s Rick’s point about, you know, high school or saying, you know, what are your favorite sports to play right. How are you an athlete. eSports is up there in terms of this age group of 18 to 34 year olds, and I would guess to say that these percentages for eSports are even higher amongst teens in terms of fandom amongst traditional versus eSports, so you’ll see that, you know, traditional sports just tend to skew an older fanbase, and so as that video started a lot of traditional, you know, professional teams, NFL, NBA, Shaquille O’Neal, the Patriots, have actually invested in professional eSports teams specifically to make sure that they’re getting into the market of younger fans, because this is really how the sports industry is evolved in terms of getting into this younger fanbase.
And we can attest the fact that the pandemic, and having to keep people at home and not being able to participate in traditional group sports has also really driven popularity. And in digital games like digital competition like eSports as well, I wanted to touch base. And I mentioned the word influencers, and something that BoomTV is specifically known for. So influencers, or essentially the celebrities of gaming, so these are the Michael Jordan’s and Serena William’s of the video game world. And it’s really the, all these celebrities or influencers, are both really skilled video game players, as well as very skilled entertainers. So these are personalities that stream on Twitch in front of millions of viewers and followers, and they combine again, a sense of personality while they’re playing games, so you can always go and check out any of these personalities.
But I mean, their reach is extensive, so you know, many of you might know Ninja, the leading video game influencer. He has over 14 million followers and is thought to be worth around 15 million dollars. And then you’ve got Dr. Disrespect, with nearly 8 million followers. Nigae, a Fortnite streamer with 9 million, and then Dr. Lupo. So these are examples really what the eSports world’s examples of celebrity athletes represents.
And what we’re here to talk about is really, how does this all apply to high schools and academics. And there’s a lot of connections. And what’s really important to understand is the connection to high schools and colleges is the fact that, you know, 75% of the high school population of students plays and is passionate about video games. That’s a massive amount of kids who are playing. Anyways, so if you have this market, why not create structure around it, why not create the benefits of team and community by enabling your students to participate, whether it’s in actually any sports team at your school or whether it’s even an after-school club.
You know, I love this quote, it’s from a Vice Assistant Principal from my high school, and he said, “If a kid is playing basketball ten hours a week in the park, why not give them a structure environment to play it to connect with the school and to learn from it”. So this is really the value of eSports, is most of your students are doing it anyways, and what’s really interesting too is it attracts a diversity of your student population. So, you know, eSports is a co-ed sport, the majority is mostly males, but there’s a lot more female players who are starting to participate. And that participation is growing really fast. We also see a lot of females getting involved and say, managing the eSports teams, or being a captain of an eSports team at the college, or helping with the live broadcasts or other elements of eSports.
So it’s a really inclusive sport. What’s also interesting, it’s a very diverse sport. So 83% of black teens play video games. So again, an opportunity to offer an activity to a very diverse student base. It’s also really interesting to understand that, again, you know, most of these video game players actually haven’t participated in extracurricular activities, 75%. And so this is an opportunity to get kids involved in your school who generally would not get involved in any kind of activity or sports related to the school. So again, it’s a great way to engage your community of students.
Another big boost to high-school eSports is the fact that over the last several years, eSports in college has absolutely taking off in scholarships particularly. So you know, just over 200 colleges now have official varsity programs. So on the same level as say, some of their Division One sports, Ohio State actually is a school that offers some of the biggest eSport scholarships. So we’re talking major universities are getting into eSports and recognizing eSports. Over the past couple years, over 15 million dollars in scholarships for eSports players have been provided by colleges and universities. And what’s really important here is, like we said, we know that eSports captures a really diverse population in a huge population of high-school students, and the ability to then get a scholarship to college to eSports really makes it, makes high education more accessible to a lot of students who may not, you know, consider or be able to attend college.
So again, the fact that colleges are getting so much into eSports and investing so much in scholarships, this is a huge opportunity for students to have that reach into college. And then the graphic I’ve shown you on this slide is actually the top teams. And League of Legends as I mentioned is one of the most popular eSports games. And this is a college championship from last year, so this is just some examples of some of the top college eSports programs. We’ve got NC State, Michigan State, UC, Irvine, Illinois, so again, these are massive schools investing in these sports.
And the other key value points to understand about eSports in your high schools, is, very much like traditional sports, you know, it helps build kid’s soft skills. So it cultivates teamwork and communication, it requires critical thinking, it requires you to be on your toes, and in communicating with your team, and the dedication of hours of practice put in every week, so it builds that character that traditional sports would also build.
It also supports STEM curriculum. So students who participate in eSports are constantly analyzing data and statistics and using all different types of technology, and really the amount of technology involved enables students to practice and develop these STEM skills, and that also attracts students who would be interested in STEM to both high schools, and students it also drives learning outcomes, so a lot of schools who have eSports programs, you know, create certain benchmarks for GPAs and academic performance, and we have seen a correlation between improved academic progress and attendance, and higher GPAs among eSports players because they participated in their club or team. And also as I mentioned before, you’ve got the college pipeline.
So if you’re a really good high school player, you can get a scholarship to play in college, and in the same way, there’s a massive industry out there in terms of career opportunity. So this is a billion-dollar industry worldwide, and it’s not just about video game specific skills like video game development. It’s about, you know learning everything from management in marketing and multimedia production, graphic design, statistical analysis, engineering, so all of these skills that go into participating in these sports tie. And to really in-demand careers. So you’re also developing not only the eSports player, but somebody who can learn critical skills for the workplace.
So what’s the situation with eSports in high school. So this map here kind of represents the different situation with states and high school eSports. So if you look here, you’ll see that all the schools that are colored represents schools that offer some kind of, you know, state sanctioned eSport, or have started a pilot with championships, or local schools. So the colored states are all ones that have launched some kind of formal eSports program within the state, but then you have the yellow one specifically, they’re more homegrown eSport sanctioning bodies. And the gray ones haven’t gotten involved in official programs yet, but it’s important to recognize that even, that really even all these states in some capacity are currently or have considered eSports.
So it really is on all the radar of state sports associations in schools in some way. And in total, you’ve got 26 schools who have actually launched some kind of state championship event. So again, this is spreading fast. And what’s incredible is in only two years, you’ve gone to 26 states that have actually launched some kind of either state sanction or pilot eSports program.
So I’ve gone through very quickly the eSports industry and what’s happening in the academic space in terms of eSports, so now when it comes down to it, what specifically are opportunities for you as a high school athletic director or high school administrator to get involved in eSports. Or maybe even just further, think about eSports at your school. So, you know the great thing about the VNN partnership is there are a lot of ways that we can provide just the fundamental tools to help you start exploring eSports. So AVGL.org, which is our homepage, has created these different tools called hubs. And the hubs on our website enable school administrators and players to create a space where they can actually help grow and manage their gaming community. So these hubs on our website have everything from different chats you can have with gamers at your school to very simple automated functionality to launch your own events in these sports, which generally can be quite complicated. But we provide very basic tools. We have basic ways to capture content when you’re streaming, such as top plays.
So these are really community hubs that, again, enable you to just start gathering the players from your high school into one spot and start thinking about what’s the best approach to start building our own eSports program. Whether that’s a team or whether it’s as informal as a club or group who’s starting to scrimmage, and then what we’ve done with VNN is actually launched a specific VNN hub. So if you’re an athletic director and you’re like, you know I’m not ready yet to actually launch a hub to start growing players, you can join the VNN hub which will enable you to then start communicating with other athletic directors, and to really have access to the different resources that AVGL and VNN will be providing over the next several months, as well as some major events that we’re going to be launching. So this is definitely the way for you to stay up-to-date and start understanding how eSports operates, and start getting familiar with these hubs as you think about eSports at your school.
RG: I just put the link to the chat.
NC: Great. In terms of events, there’s a few that we wanted to bring on your radar, regardless again, where you are with your thinking about eSports. These are two, really great opportunities for your schools and especially for your players to participate in. And we’re going to be talking much more about this in your hubs, and you can be getting more information about these events, but the first one is called Intel Inspires, and AVGL is partnering with Intel and some of the leading publishers to develop what’s, you know, the first real talent pipeline in eSports, so very similar to a traditional sports combine. This is the first formal initiative where high school players will be able to get to be able to showcase their skills in front of top college recruiters, so this even is launching starting in September with a series of online tournaments, and the kind of the top performing players get invited to the final showcase in the fall, and the opportunity to win, you know, we’re giving out $250,000 in college scholarships.
So this is actually interesting because in eSports, there was actually no formal talent pipeline. Like I talked about, there’s high school, there’s college, and then there’s professional teams. But there’s no process for getting amateurs to the point of either college or professional recruitment, so this is the industry’s effort to do that. So again, this is something that we’re going to be promoting, but what’s really unique about VNN and our partnership, and your potential participation, is what we’re calling the summer bash.
So we’re launching an exclusive event in partnership with VNN to enable any of VNN’s customers or prospects with the opportunity for their students to participate in a summer bash. And we’re going to launch this in August, and the summer bash is going to be a pre-qualifier to the Intel Inspires, so your student are being able to go and play in a series of games, either Fortnite, League of Legends, or Rocket League tournaments, and start creating their profile in Data Capture to build a profile for their Intel Inspires. And again, this is completely exclusive to VNN’s customers and prospects. Put your high school players at a huge potential advantage, and so to learn more about this again, join the hub. We’re going to be talking about this more, and really these initiatives underscore the fact that VNN is really committed to bringing our athletic directors the best technology, the best opportunities for kids to grow and participate and succeed. And again, maybe you haven’t even started in any sports program, maybe you’re not sure what you want to do, but independent of that, you can start thinking about getting your kids participating in summer bash, And we are going to have prizes for the athletic director in the school that is able to recruit the most participants for the event, and we can work hand-in-hand with you to help figure out how to promote and get participation for this event. It’s going to be great.
Like I said, a very quick overview of a lot of information about eSports. And you know, anything that, different opportunities to work with us in VNN to get, to start getting started, or maybe continue to build your own program. So Romy, do you want to talk about about kind of what you’re going to be offering us, next steps?
RG: Definitely, thanks Natalie. So last slide before we get into the Q&A, but a few next steps for everyone here on the call. So the first thing is, we’re trying to learn along with you, where eSports fits in your level of priorities. And when you look at building programs out, and what exactly you’re interested in doing, so we can learn together. So the first thing is, there’s going to be an eSports survey, and that’s going to launch after I end the webinar today. So it will pop up on your screen, you can take it. It’s also going to be included in the thank you email that goes out tomorrow, so if you miss it today, feel free tomorrow. And it’s going to be sent to the people who didn’t make it as well, so if you had a colleague or someone else who you know wasn’t able to find the time, they’ll receive it as well. But that’s going to be essential for us to understand what you’re thinking on where eSports fits in your school. So would love for you to do that.
The second thing is, Natalie mentioned we’ve set up with VNN hub on AVGL.org. There’s a link here, I also put it in the chat, so you can click it and it’s going to be in the email threats a lot tomorrow, so we’d love for you to join if you have a passing interest in staying up to date with the new events we’re going to do. And we’re also working with Natalie and the team to post different events that are just uniquely suited for high school athletes. So at least at minimum there’s going to be some things that you could then pass along to any aspiring athletes or clubs, or whoever at your school beyond that. Feel free to contact either myself or Natalie if you have any questions. Her email is Natalie@Boom.TV or me Romy@VNNSports.net, we’re happy to help, we’re happy to send over the deck if you need it. The video is going to be on YouTube, so you know that link will be sent around, but we’re here to help you and learn with you, so we’re really excited about eSports in general, and thanks so much.
Natalie, so now maybe we swing into the Q&A.
RE: Hey Romy, I have a question for Natalie and a comment real quick before we go to Q&A. So what on this slide that resonates with me, you know, when you’re talking about teamwork and where that work ethic and some of the STEM stuff, you know, that as a father of five kids that, some of them play, you know, that’s an important point too, to make sure we highlight. But I did have a question for Natalie, and I don’t know if you’ll have an answer to this, but I was shocked to see the evolution in your map slide kind of growing themselves, and I expected them, the other sports to start on the coasts and kind of move towards the Midwest, but do you have any kind of hypothesis or explanation why that would look that way with the red?
NC: Yeah, I mean that’s a good question. I wonder, I mean, it could have a few things to do with, you know, different state associations getting into it, and kind of, they’re, depending on the structure of those associations within those states. The other thing is, when we look at the collegiate landscape, those are states that tend to also have very big state schools, and so they’re the ones who have had really robust varsity programs for a while, and have a lot of scholarship money on the line. You know, when I think of the big states in eSports, you know, that are already in these sports in the industry, Texas, California, Colorado come to mind, Floria, Georgia, so maybe has something to do with even the collegiate infrastructure in place. That would be my head father guess.
RE: Yeah thanks.
RG: Thanks so I have a question that came in around violence and gaming, and generally like what game’s popular for high school. So I know you touched a little bit about that, but you know, can you speak maybe a little bit on that topic for people who were curious? I think that’s a primary concern we hear a lot, is the concern over the assumption that a lot of these video games could be violent.
NC: I think it comes down to, first of all, the school completely decides when we help the school understand the games, to offer their students. So, like I said, the most popular ones are the strategy games. We’re not having schools bring in first-person shooter games to the communities, so we work closely with the administrators to understand the best game titles. And so that’s number one.
And number two is, we also work closely with communications to parents and administrators about exactly what we’re going to launch eSports. What those games are so they completely understand and aren’t concerned about it, and also the fact that, you know, we tell a lot of parents that these are students who are playing video games anywhere anyways, they’re probably playing violent video games, and this gives them the opportunity to have coaches and administrators and adults in the room, having them playing strategy games instead. So it’s taking them and really focusing their video game time on non-violent video games. So that’s typically how we approach the video game and violence concern.
RG: Great. Another question came in, is there usually a specific season for high school eSports?
NC: Yeah. So I mean we tend to see them follow kind of the traditional, you know, high school seasons. Sometimes there’s both a fall and the spring, that’s pretty typical. It’s the same in college, like the fall and the spring, and we follow the college schedule as well, so it tends to mimic the traditional sports seasons at that school.
RG: Great. Another question, let’s see. Would love for you to speak maybe a little bit more on the influence relationships, like with Boom and just kind of how that all works.
NC: Oh sure. So in terms of the influencers, what’s really unique about Boom is the fact that we have relationships with Ninja and Dr. Disrespect and Dr. Lupo and others. So if you think about traditional sports and how cool it would be to have some of the top pro players from the NFL or the NBA come visit your teams or participate in large state championship event with these celebrities, that’s kind of how we tend to operate. We run a lot of amateur collegiate and high school events that enable student to qualify to play with these idols. So it’s just something unique and another way to get student really excited about participating, and a way to bring amateurs and pros together in a really entertaining way. But also, allow students to be able to access some of their idols in a lot of ways. So that’s kind of how we tie that celebrity influencer piece to what we do with our academic eSports initiatives.
RG: This is a question that just came in, what kind of infrastructure is needed at a school to run an eSports program?
NC: Yeah. There’s a lot of different elements to that. So infrastructure wise, you want to have, say a coach or some kind of administrator who raises their hand and says I can help manage and build the team, or the club. It doesn’t have to be anyone in athletics, sometimes it’s student activities, or sometimes it’s a teacher who gets involved and decides to start a club. But you just need an adult supervisor and someone who’s willing to own it. So that’s one piece of it.
There’s certain technology, a lot of schools already have the basics of what you need in terms of PCs and peripherals, like keyboards and mics and headsets to run, for kids to be able to play sports. And there’s basic steps you can take to get more hardware partnerships that we have that can help with that. So you’ve got the technology, you have to have space, but a lot of times honestly that space is used during the day, say the library or some other activity space, and then after school it becomes the eSports space. You don’t necessarily need a dedicated space for that, so once you have kind of the coach again, or the person willing to lead the team or the club, the basic tech which I said isn’t usually much more investment than what you have. At least a start, and some kind of dedicated space, I mean those are really the basics. You don’t need any more infrastructure than that, and then it’s just about promoting that cover team program just like you would any other club or sport at your school.
RG: Perfect. So I saw a few com in. Natalie, I know we talked about this on the, like the pre call. There are a lot of questions just kind of AVGL versus Play versus the high school eSports League, and then there are a few others named. Would love to maybe hear a little bit from you on how you guys are different, and how kind of states are tackling these, and where this all sort of fits in.
NC: Yeah. So it’s important to understand that right now, high school eSports, it’s really fragmented in terms of the different, you know the different leagues the different third parties like AVGL, and Play VS, and HOCL who all launch different activities. We see this in college as well, and this has a lot to do with the fact that one, you know, there isn’t say an NCAA or one high school association that really owns the marketplace or owns the one governing body. There’s multiple governing bodies, and there’s also multiple publishers. And like I said. all the publishers decide to approach this in different ways.
So if you’re EPIC, and you have Fortnite, you may start with one partner or multiple players to help roll out Fortnite in the US and high schools, and every publisher has a different approach. And so because of this, you’ve got a lot of fragmentation. You have a lot of players, and frankly all these players bring value and differences to the community. And if you have a high school team, you know your goal is to make sure your team gets to play in as many different events as they can, for all different reasons. So Play VS has a partnership with NFHS, so they run a lot of the state championships, but likewise, we have Intel Inspires. We have now the summer bash we’re going to do. We run traditional leagues throughout the high school year, and we’re going to have kind of different types of championships as well. So if you think of traditional sports and that you’ve got football, and that has the bowls, but it has the Super Bowl. You have soccer that has the Champions League, you know outside of the official league. There’s different types of leagues and different types of value for all those different opportunities, so I think similarly that’s a way high school is going to get involved. So whether your state has an official championship lead yet or not, there’s going to be a lot of other opportunities to get involved in different types of events with different types of players in terms of third parties.
So I don’t think it’s, it’s not sure much comparing competitors or those opportunities, it’s about just, what are the different opportunities for my players and what do we want to do with one, say Play VS and those opportunities, versus, alongside that we can play in HOCL or AVGL events as well. Because that’s the nature of this eSports landscape, it’s going to be fragmented because, like I said, you don’t have only one official governing body of the whole US, and that’s not how it’s going to be, either for high school or college.
RG: Super cool I love that example. I think I said something like, if you are a soccer fan and you like Chelsea, they can win the English, they can win the English Premier League. They could also win the FA cup, and if they do well enough, they get invited to the Champions League, and they can win that. And they’re kind of, and the reputation of that is just as great to the fanbase example. So let’s see, there’s a few more that came in. Someone was asking if we have, if there’s a curriculum for teachers if any of that has been discussed or if we’ve kind of moved into that, I know on the VNN side we haven’t, but I don’t know if there’s anything on Boom or AVGL where we thought that through.
NC: Yeah so there’s different ways that schools are approaching that. So there are some STEM related organizations that can help you develop a curriculum, a STEM curriculum that kind of aligns with the eSports as well, but in terms of developing a curriculum, there’s different organizations and different partners we can connect you with to help build those curriculum, curricula I should say. There’s also, for example, in college there’s a lot of colleges that are now going into eSports majors at their school, that have very robust curriculum that you can tie into your high schools as well. So there’s different approaches, but there are a lot of different tools and resources, and we can certainly connect you to some of those if you want to start thinking about how do we provide classes that are complementary to, you know, the different careers and different opportunities in these sports that we talked about and relate it to STEM.
RG: I saw this question, I love it, I want to say man that’s a whole other topic, someone asks how are you helping to promote these sports coaches getting equal pay to coaches for basketball at the high school level. Love it. I don’t know, Natalie, if you have any information you want to put on to it, I think that’s a really interesting question.
NC: Yeah. I mean I don’t think I have the knowledge to comment on it at this point, and so I’m not deep into these coaches, the details of the coaching to that capacity. We actually have somebody we work with that helps an organization that brings coaches to schools and helps provide coaching services to those schools that would know the answer to that, but that’s a really interest question.
RG: Yeah, Chris let’s talk after. That’s so interesting, I think we’d love to dig more on it. Someone else, Michael, was asking, can my school organize a tournament for our sports league schools. So I’m guessing like invitational type style, like how difficult is that to arrange?
NC: Yeah I mean that is totally doable in terms of working with us, if you create a hub like I said we have automated tools where you can get different teams and players, whether that’s, you know, in your local area of the region to compete in an invitational. That’s very easy to do. And again, we can work with you and actually help you do that for you in a lot of ways. So if you’re interested in doing something like that, you know, like I said we can certainly help.
RG: Okay so we’ll grab two more and then we’ll close it down for the survey. This is a question sort of on cost, so it was the school hasn’t started, Mike’s asking, we haven’t started any sports yet, how many kids can share devices, what’s the typical cost for a full set of equipment, you know, so people can start ball parking in their head what they might need.
NC: Yeah it really depends on what you already have at your school in terms of hardware. Starting from scratch, like I said, it’s going to take, if say you didn’t have any PCs, that you could play games on, you’re going to want at least 10 to 12 PCs, monitors, keyboards, mics, headsets, I mean I’m not sure the range of that kind of cost, but the good news is there’s a lot of partners that we have that are hardware providers, a lot of sponsors who provide a lot of that hardware to schools, or that we can help find partners to provide that to your school. So I think, it’s working through what do you have, doing that assessment, and then where can we help fill the gaps in terms of getting hardware partners involved to help. So don’t have a specific number, it depends on a lot of factors, but it doesn’t have to be a major investment by any means.
RE: Natalie that’s something I was going to bring up too, you know many of the ADs or many people in this call or customers of ours, they know that we share sponsorship dollars and advertising dollars back with them annually, and if we have a lot of interested regional and national sponsors that are looking to help subsidize or promote the growth of this new sport. So we’re in discussions with some of our existing VNN sponsors locally, regionally, and nationally, and it’s going to be exciting to kind of watch the growth as a result of that.
NC: Yeah definitely. I mean we see, you know, huge growth in just sponsors and brands who want to get into the space, especially when it comes to students playing sports and getting in front of those students. I think, like I said, the numbers that you look at, the amount of students who are playing eSports, and these are teens, Gen Z, who you really can’t access if you’re a brand in other ways, right, it’s really difficult as you know, to deliver traditional TV ads or other ads to them. So I mean this is a way to engage kids is through eSports. So yes, to your point Rick, this is a massive sponsorship opportunity too, especially as schools launch events of their own.
RG: Sweet great. So I’ll grab on the last one. This one is just, I’d be remiss if I didn’t answer this one, how does VNN fit into the whole ecosystem? And I’ll take it, but generally our mission statement is connecting communities through sport. And so, our communications platform where you can get information out about any of your sports to your community, and get people to become a bigger part of their school, and so the way we kind of fit in is we’ll plant to make this just like any other sport, so I imagine as things go on further, and once we find out from you kind of what your plans are, I can see this being no different than football, basketball, or soccer at your school. With different levels and top plays and articles and photos, and whatever it is from the games. So anything that we can do to make your job easier is a win for us, so I imagine at some point we’ll work together to have some links for that. When you do one thing in one place, it goes to the other place, and online like we’ll do with scheduling or tickets or registration, or any of the other partnerships we have. So that’s how VNN fits in.
Great. So I think what we’ll do right now is we’ll end the webinar. I wanted to say thanks Natalie and Rick for the time, thanks everyone for being here. The survey is going to launch after I end the webinar here, so please take it. If you miss it or you got to run to something else, it’ll come to you tomorrow as well, so we’d love to hear your feedback. We’re really excited, and if we don’t talk to you, have a great summer break, I know it’s the fourth coming up next week, so a lot of you are probably taking off, maybe some of you even on it, and we’ll be back in touch a little bit after in July when everyone starts getting back to work. Feel free to email us, and thanks again.
RE: Thanks everyone.