In a stadium built for a nearly 100-year-old sports league, Brandon Beck and Rick Fox talked about eSports and what the future of competition looks like as they kicked off the 2nd GeekWire Sports Tech Summit Thursday at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
Riot Games co-founder Beck helped launch “League of Legends” 11 years ago and has turned it into one of the most popular gaming franchises of all time. It now attracts more than 100 million gamers each month.
Rick Fox, who won three NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and is now becoming a figure in the growing eSports industry. Fox bought the professional eSports franchise Echo Fox in 2015.
After watching an introduction video showing highlights from the “League of Legends” world championship at Staples Center in Los Angeles — which drew 40 million live viewers — Fox said he had goosebumps. He told Beck it was the same feeling he got from playing as a professional basketball player.
But in a male-dominated industry, the two men addressed whether there is a place for women in eSports.
“Clearly we haven’t seen a lot of female athletes in the pro scene,” Beck said. “It’s something we’d like to see more of. One interesting thing about our game and probably many other games is that the audience that plays the game is probably 95 percent male. We’d love to see more female athletes and more female competitors.”
Fox said he thinks more women will be attracted to the scene and he welcomes it, especially as a team owner.
“That’s the beauty of eSports — it is genderless, it is ageless,” Fox said. “The blend of teamwork is right there to be had. We have out eyes open at all times. We’re constantly looking for the best person to play for EchoFox. It doesn’t matter how old they are, what their sex is.”
Beck said it can be tough for women to find a place in such a stacked arena. There are social pressures that manifest themselves, especially in when mixed-gender team settings. But he thinks the industry is just scratching the surface and “it would be great to see that evolve.”
Despite the undeniable popularity of eSports in a relatively short amount of time, Beck said the journey to much larger success will be a long one.
“Despite eSports tremendous growth trajectory today … it’s going to be a long journey,” Beck said. “We’re not going to eclipse other sports overnight or anytime soon really. I want to make sure folks are focused on being there in an organic way.”
Fox definitely fits that mold. His enthusiasm was infectious on Thursday as he described attending a championship at Madison Square Garden in New York that reminded him of his pro experience.
As a team owner he also shared his experience is going after top players, dealing with contracts and personalities and everything else that makes it all sound rather traditional.
Getting into the game, whether as a franchise owner, a developer, a player or a fan, does have parallels to traditional sports. But Beck said eSports, which largely attracts millennial players and fans, differs from the multi-generational reach of pro sports such as basketball, football, baseball and so on.
“Our entire audience is young people,” Beck said. He said eSports can be a window for traditional sports in how to better engage with a new generation in the modern age.