Tyler Suiters                      

Hey everybody. I'm Tyler Suiters, with Consumer Technology Association. We are the owners and the producers of CES, the world's largest, most influential, tech event. And we are here to help you get CES Ready. This year's show is January 7th through the 10th in Las Vegas.

Tyler Suiters

And today we are tackling the topic of esports, and granted this can be a bit hard to get your arms around, 1) because the topic's a bit amorphous, and 2) because it's growing so exponentially quickly. CES is a place where you can get insight regarding the experience of live esports tournaments, the tech that's powering these kinds of experiences.

Tyler Suiters                      

Also how industry experts, the people who are involved with this day in and day out, see the esports category evolving. And of course how this technology is engaging fans across the globe. Today, a conversation with two companies. First of all, Logitech. This is a Swiss company that has been around for decades, and bills itself as beginning in the category of innovative computer peripherals, but now a very firm emphasis on gaming and the larger gaming community. Also we're talking with an experiential advertising agency and the factors that are driving this remarkable growth in esports all around the world. That's this edition of CES Tech Talk.

Tyler Suiters                      

Joining us now is Tatiana Tacca with Momentum Worldwide. She is the director of esports there, and I should point out, a gamer herself. Tatiana, great to have you with us.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Thank you for having me. Good to be here.

Tyler Suiters                      

You have quite a varied background in the gaming sector and quite a lot of experience as well. Can you give a current state of play, where are things right now for gamers and Gaming with a capital G?

Tatiana Tacca                    

Gaming has grown significantly. It's been getting the attention of brands, of investors. And really at the heart of that is esports, the competitive segment of gaming where there are professional leagues, teams, pro players, broadcast.

Tyler Suiters                      

Huge audience. Right? Viewership.

Tatiana Tacca

Yes, exactly. And a lot of people like to refer to it as the Wild West, but I would definitely say it's not the Wild West anymore. A lot of the leagues and the way the teams are being run are much more closer to traditional sports. Traditional sports teams and investors have really put a lot of money into this space. And the way that leagues are being run, there are a lot, many of which are being formed like franchises with significant live events. So what's pretty exciting there is, yes it's growing, but also the quality of the opportunity for brands to get in and partner in this space is becoming a lot more tangible and really exciting.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah, well said. The quality of the companies that are involved but also some of the owners. Right? And the associations when I say professional leagues, I mean the big three or four sports leagues. That there are strong brand association with existing sports franchises.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Absolutely.

Tyler Suiters                      

Where have you navigated through this industry? I mean there's a long list of the companies you've worked for, but if you would, Tatiana, take us through your path a bit, in the gaming sector. Because I'm sure as you've evolved as a professional, as an expert on esports, the sector's evolved around you pretty quickly.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Yeah, absolutely. So I got into gaming. I've been in the space for about nine or 10 years or so. And really got in when mobile gaming really started to explode. So shortly after the first Angry Birds launch but before-

Tyler Suiters                      

I was about to ask what the gateway drug is, but yeah, Angry Birds.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Yeah. But before the iPhone 4. I actually started in mobile gaming. One of the first companies I worked for was a location based augmented reality game. That might sound familiar because that's Pokémon Go, but years before the market and the technology was quite ready for it. And yeah, I've worked with multiple licenses, from the NBA to Marvel, to Disney and Pixar, Fox, Lucasfilm, and more. And really, I transitioned into esports over a number of years, because mobile gaming started to become less of a story about marketing strategies and really strong brand game releases, and a little bit more about user acquisition, which just, candidly, isn't as fun.

Tyler Suiters                      

That's a professional assessment. Okay.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Yeah. But as esports started to kind of solidify as a tangible opportunity, what's particularly exciting about it is it really tends to solve for all of the problems that mobile gaming was having. It's a much smaller but more active, passionate audience. It's a more valuable audience. High spending, younger millennial, your core 18 to 35.

Tyler Suiters                      

Right.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Whereas with mobile gaming there's a lot of like, "Hey, let's, what kind of psychological influences can we help to encourage spending?" There is no issues getting esports fans to spend dollars to wait in line and kind of pursue those passion points.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah, the level of engagement I think is just so much deeper, right? If you're talking about mobile gaming, I'm just pulling an anecdote out of thin air, but it could be someone on the subway, coming home from work, dealing with Candy Crush, right, or whatever.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Yeah.

Tyler Suiters                      

Whereas with esports, you're in it. I mean you're devoting time in it and it's your focus.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Absolutely. Mobile gaming, by nature, has a lot of, and the, and Fortnite kind of defied this general rule. But in mobile gaming, for instance, we would generally see that games that had kind of an average time spent of two to three minutes tended to do really well, because it was a little bit more of a lower commitment that could be easily repeated. Whereas esports, you're looking at average esports fans spending 15 plus hours, on average per week, either watching streams or playing. It's a completely different type of market. So also when I help brands with their strategy, how to approach gaming, it's really important to understand those nuances of, yes, gaming as a whole is 3 to 80, male female. It's literally totally global. It's literally like everyone.

Tatiana Tacca                    

But as you start to kind of dive into those nuances, that's really key to understand. And as you're getting into esports, understanding nuances between titles and communities even further is incredibly important. You see a lot of stats, like here's the typical esports fan profile. And while there are similarities, let's say between a League of Legends fan and a CS GO fan, there are a lot of differences. And it's male female splits, and preferences, and the communication, and tactics, and all of those things you will really want to consider. There definitely are nuances that brands should take in mind when they're thinking about these more customized approaches.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah. So a great point with that. What is the biggest impact on the growth? And I think you hinted at it earlier in that there's strong brand association. There's a lot of, for lack of a better term, credible money going into it. There's also the marketer's dream of knowing your audience especially well and knowing really well how to reach them. What has been the driver? The biggest, I don't know if you can say a moment in time or an innovation, but what has really driven the growth?

Tatiana Tacca                    

Overall, I've been pretty excited to see how quickly properties can move and follow trends in esports. So when we're looking at publishers and tournament organizers, for instance, they very strong built strategies towards esports. And every, the thing that I'm always looking for is what are properties doing to continue to evolve the conversation. So I think Riot Games with League of Legends, in particular, has been a total pioneer with how they run regular season as well as live events, how they're doing regional approaches with a culmination world's events. And the production qualities that they're applying TO that year over year is phenomenal. The stuff that they did last year with the K-pop band, what they're going to end up doing this year with, in Paris. They continue to evolve and I think that's been key to growth.

Tatiana Tacca                    

And then there's, at the same time, publishers and tournament organizers are pushing themselves. League of Legends... Sorry with Overwatch League coming in, and having local based franchised teams, and really mirroring it closer to traditional sports, has really helped other tournament organizers take a look at that and apply similar models. And that type of growth, that type of organization only makes it more helpful for brands to come in, for sponsorships to be developed, and they're looking at the white space. We talk, I talk a lot about how experiential is a really big white space in esports.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah, delve into that if would, Tatiana, that's interesting.

Tatiana Tacca                    

For instance, when you look at regular season matches and qualifiers, a lot of that is held in smaller studios or online with these culminating major finals. And these occur multiple times throughout the year. But they're really these major moments for fans to really kind of travel, and experience their IP and the sport, esport, that they love hands on. And so what we're seeing is that there's about a 70% plus of many of these events have people traveling to it there. The engagement and the atmosphere and the attention on the stage content is really phenomenal. When I take, when I host people and take them to see their first esports event, I always recommend, don't look at the content for awhile, because you might not understand the concept. Look at people watching the contents, because it's incredibly entertaining to see how no one has their phone out. And especially when you bring a marketer there, that's one of the first things they'll note. No one has their phone out.

Tyler Suiters                      

That's a great point. Yeah. If you look at the, I think, at the professional pictures taken at events like that, when someone's covering it media wise, and it's not just the pictures of the players in action. Like if you go to a basketball game, it's all about the players. Often the media members will have those cameras turned away from the action so to speak, and get the faces, the expressions, right, the excitement of those in attendance.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Absolutely. And but what we are seeing is, despite that, despite this hyper passionate audience, a lot of brands are focusing their dollars more on broadcast, and media, and things like that because there's a lot of scale there. But overall I would definitely argue that that's a really big white space. And so looping back and saying, "What are publishers doing and how are they reacting to trends?" We're seeing them literally create more opportunities for brands to do live activation. This year alone, League of Legends, in their European League, had a Fan Fest for their Spring split the day before the actual competition. They did the same then for their Summer split in North America. Overwatch League had a Fan Fest many hours the day before, sorry, the hours before the Overwatch Game Finals. And those really offer very strong opportunities to actually allow for brands to add value to the scene, which is a core of what I'm always recommending to brands.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Add value to the scene, and showcase to audiences how your legitimizing and supporting, directly, their passion points. Because we are seeing that esports fans, our own data showed that 70% of esports fans believe that sponsorships is good for the gaming industry, but they want to see brands step up. They want to see them really add tangible value. So I'm always looking at what are ways to take what esports is doing and then elevate it, to take it to a next level. What's something that only this brand can do?

Tyler Suiters                      

So using that as a jumping off point, I mentioned the faces of gamers or those in attendance meaning literally, right?

Tatiana Tacca                    

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tyler Suiters                      

But broadening that out, and as you talk about the growth, the excitement, the opportunity, where is the gaming sector going as far as inclusiveness, diversity? I mean to be a major sport or even major brand today, it's a consideration you have to make.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Absolutely.

Tyler Suiters                      

What's the state of play today and how quickly can we get to a place where perhaps the industry needs to be? If that's a fair way to put it.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Yeah. Well, I generally find that if you think about esports from its widest perspective, which is playing esports titles at home, watching live on Twitch. There's a significant level of accessibility there. A lot of the esports titles are free. Twitch content is free. So when considering that there is a certain level of accessibility. To play at the highest level, it does require more expensive gear. But there is, the core content is readily available to folks who want to engage which is great. As it relates to the female gamer story, there's been a lot of talk about that. How can more female pro players break through? Is there a esports audience for women? And this is something that we actually, as Momentum, did some bespoke research on. And what we found is that 11 million women in the US watched a Twitch stream this year. We found that they are similar, there's, esports fans who are women are spending, similar to men, about 15 hours a week watching and playing online.

Tyler Suiters                      

So very similar investments time wise, bandwidth wise.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Exactly. And there is scale there. We find that the esports audience is roughly about 70% males. That's a really important 30%. And 62% of the women that we had surveyed said that brands do not market to them. They're overall being overlooked, ignored. Many state that when merchandise is being made, for instance, that it's being made for male and for kids but not women. So I'd say overall that's a huge white space. There's definitely a great opportunity there.

Tatiana Tacca                    

I would say that certain teams are taking that into consideration, but overall, yeah, I would definitely highlight that as a really big white space. And I'm excited for the opportunity to see more women break through at the pro level. It's not like... There's a lot of societal and cultural reasons why things like that aren't occurring right now. But I think as esports grows over time, you will see more pro women break through to that level.

Tyler Suiters                      

I feel like we're just scratching the surface on this discussion, Tatiana.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Oh definitely.

Tyler Suiters                      

Let's hold it for now because I want to check back in, let's say a year and find out how much progress you've made, and where things are going.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Okay.

Tyler Suiters                      

Tatiana Tacca is director of esports at Momentum Worldwide. Fascinating conversation, and I think it's fair to say infectious enthusiasm. Tatiana, great conversation. Thank you.

Tatiana Tacca                    

Thank you.

Tyler Suiters                      

With us now from Logitech is Amanda Sanyal. She is director of digital marketing, and a gamer herself. Amanda, it's great to have you with us today.

Amanda Sanyal                

It's great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Tyler Suiters                      

Let's begin with a bit of a broad dive if we could. What is your take on the esports industry, today as we know it, knowing it is evolving rapidly, but if we could take a moment in time here at the end of 2019?

Amanda Sanyal                

Yeah, I think that rapid is a great word to sort of describe it overall. It is growing rapidly. And I think that this is really interesting area to watch. From a revenue perspective it's expected to be over 1.65 billion by 2021, which is a huge number. And then between players and fans, there's over 400 million people who are sort of actively involved in esports in 2019. So it's a really interesting space to watch and is rapidly growing and evolving.

Tyler Suiters                      

So let's take it a little further down the road then. Five years, 10 years. What is the, I don't know if it's the growth curve that you want to address, Amanda, but maybe it's just a sketch of what the industry and the ecosystem looks like over the next decade or so.

Amanda Sanyal                

So we definitely expect esports to continue growing. I think if you look at all the research it points to that. And I think one of the most interesting things that we've seen happening are more traditional non-gaming brands and organizations getting involved, so from Nike to Coca-Cola, tons of people who already invested. And then I think we're also seeing some interesting things like traditional sports teams coming in and fielding esports teams as well.

Tyler Suiters                      

So drive down that road a little bit if you would. The traditional sports teams, how is that relationship evolving and what do you think is the impetus of how it started? How that interest crosses over from what seems to be a high powered franchise in one of the big three or four sports, to getting into something that is growing so fast but it's still not on that commercial scale perhaps, and awareness scale with various demographics here in the US?

Amanda Sanyal                

I think it really happened very organically. These teams are traveling so much. Gaming is something that a lot of the players do in their downtime. And that sort of personal interest, that of course the organization leaders can see, combined with this sort of emergence of esports stadiums and competitions, and seeing super high viewership across all of those things sort of led people down this path. So I think it was a combination of really organic growth within the organizations themselves.

Tyler Suiters                      

So what has been the biggest area of impact, Amanda, in your mind? Is it the in-person crowds that are showing up, the development of arenas, the actual infrastructure, the online audience that seems to be growing exponentially year after year? The list can go on. I'd also add the commercial interest in this, but what do you see are the major areas of impact?

Amanda Sanyal                

I think everything is at 100%. There's so much there to uncover. I think, for me, some of the time, and these are maybe anecdotal, but the biggest impact I think especially because we were just talking about investment from traditional sports teams and those sorts of things. But I think esports is something that people heard a lot about before they actually experienced it themselves. And so I do think that those in person events, and coming together, and just seeing the excitement from the crowd that really does rival what you would get from traditional sporting events, and in many cases exceeds it, I think that that is a real aha moment for people. When they think, "Oh yeah, this is a real thing." And then I think the other thing that gained a lot of attention from traditional, more traditional, industries was the Fortnite competition this summer and the prize pools there. When you start talking about money like that, I think people tend to pay attention.

Tyler Suiters                      

Is Fortnite maybe the best example of a crossover between gaming culture and pop culture?

Amanda Sanyal                

I think that I would lend that title to streamers overall. I think the people that are streaming all of these games really sort of cross a border between pop culture and professional esports players because... And they are professionals. They are making their living this way. But they're doing it just by playing a game they love and making content that people really want to see. So I think that that's where the true crossover happens.

Tyler Suiters                      

Sure. And driven deeply by the passion of gamers too.

Amanda Sanyal                

Yup. Absolutely.

Tyler Suiters                      

Let's narrow this down a bit, Amanda, into a single sector, although it's a broad one. Eracing, is that a, I hate to use this term but, a driver of esports overall? What is its role been in the growth of the overall sector and how it moves forward?

Amanda Sanyal                

You know, it is so interesting and I think that SIM racing seems definitely has the potential to be one of the biggest esports in the world. Esports is already really integral part of the traditional racing community. A lot of real world racers get there, start playing SIM games. And it's becoming this real on-ramp for aspiring racers to get discovered, because they can go and stream, and get people to notice them while they're playing and racing. Viewership, it's smaller than the numbers we talked about before, but 5.5 million viewers in the last year. And we're seeing big name brand, like McLaren and Porsche and NASCAR, getting involved in the game today.

Amanda Sanyal                

Logitech G does have some personal stake in the SIM racing world. We have a challenge that we have, called the Logitech G Challenge, and it takes from finals all across the world to find the best driver in each region, and brings them together at a grand finals that's going to, coming up November 16th in Las Vegas. And everybody's going to race and stream it live together. And then the winner goes on to compete in the McLaren project Shadow, and has the chance to race for McLaren.

Tyler Suiters                      

Let that sink in for a moment. Your chance to race for McLaren. We talked, within the last few weeks, to a member of the F1 team. This global sport with exotic locations on virtually every continent there is, and one of the points that the F1 circuit was making is that is such a tech centric sport, and maybe the most tech centric automobile application within larger racing. Is the appeal of technology part of what's driving interest in eracing? And the point that you just made, Amanda, in that racing at home, online or streaming, however you want to phrase it, maybe is much closer to the real thing than say playing football online or Fortnite or anything that much more violent and dangerous.

Amanda Sanyal                

Well and you definitely learn the skills needed for certain tracks, and you can learn about different, how they all perform, just through some racing. And I think that the thing about them is that it is a real democratizer of racing in general. So to become a traditional racer, following maybe a historically traditional path, would take a lot of money, and it would take a lot of resources and energy to put behind it. But a lot of people can learn very quickly, on the technology they have at home, a lot of lessons that translate into real world racing. And that's where we see the real opportunity for people who love to race to get that start.

Tyler Suiters                      

So democratization is one term to use. I think inclusiveness might be another. A previous conversation we had here on the podcast was with the founder of Sugar Gamers talking about diversity and inclusion within esports. What's your perspective, Amanda, on the rise in female gamers, as yourself a female gamer, and what sort of communities are out there for them?

Amanda Sanyal                

Yeah, so I think this is another area where esports in general is really fantastic because it does sort of level that playing field. The differences in physicality and just size are really eliminated when you're in this esports world. I think on the topic of just the rise of female gamers, I think it's a little bit of a misnomer. So women have been in gaming for a very long time. And I think, just now, as the sport is getting more attention, the women playing it are getting more attention. And I think it is, in part at least, because of that unique difference that esports has over traditional sports. And so I think women have been in gaming forever, and so what's really changed is the way that they're being recognized and supported across the industry.

Tyler Suiters                      

You mentioned the global nature of gaming, Amanda. What about the potential role, or the immediate role in 2020, of esports at the Olympics, the ultimate international platform for sporting?

Amanda Sanyal                

Yeah. There's been a lot of discussion of it and I think a lot of interest in it. I think it's very relevant for the Olympic committees to always think about new sports and how they might fit into the organization. That we can help driving meaningful conversation around competition.

Tyler Suiters                      

How would you see that, and this is purely speculative, I will give that to you, but how would you see esports taking shape at the Olympics? Do you have to pick a single game, or is it a suite, a medley, kind of like a esports decathlon. What, and this is totally your view, Amanda, I want to qualify it properly, but as a gamer and as a professional in this sector, what would you like to see?

Amanda Sanyal                

I think I would go more for the medley and again, totally speculative and just dreamy dreams here, but I think that there's a lot of different skills that come across different games. And so having people compete between them would be really interesting.

Tyler Suiters                      

Looking ahead now to CES 2020, you are a CES veteran.

Amanda Sanyal                

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I am.

Tyler Suiters                      

You've been to a number of shows with, years on and years off. What's the evolution you've seen of gaming there? And the growth? And maybe the corporate diversity, perhaps is the right way to put it, of the gaming ecosystem at CES?

Amanda Sanyal                

Yeah, I think, every year at CES there's something new that is the story that comes out of CES. Right? It is a great show for driving that kind of new cycle. And I think that gaming over time, the way it has been at CES is a reflection of the way it is in a world. Right? So as gaming as an industry grows, as things like esports gain more traction, I think we see more and more presence there at the show, and more and more relevancy for the CES audience there.

Tyler Suiters                      

And where we'll be in let's say 20 years, with gaming? More immersive, certainly less latency, right? With the development of 5G, and I guess it's fair for looking that far out to say 6G beyond that. How immersive do we get? How boundless does gaming become with the decades ahead?

Amanda Sanyal                

Yeah. You know, 20 years out, I have no crystal ball or belief, because I am continually surprised by the things that come up in gaming that capture people's attention. So I think absolutely, definitely the trends are headed towards more immersive, around VR and sort of integrating those things in.

Amanda Sanyal                

But I also think this community aspect, and how gaming is really something that can bring people together, if we're talking global again, they can bring people together across wide geographies, make fast and deep friendships worldwide. And it's one of the most beautiful things that, I think overall in gaming, is when you see teams come together and they compete online regularly. And they are talking to each other every week but they've never actually met or never actually seen one another. And they come together at these events and get a chance to meet in real life. And it's a really just lovely thing to witness when it happens. And so I think what I am most excited about gaming, as we move forward, is something that has always been a part of the industry, and that is really that ability to forge friendships and to forge just a broader gaming community for, that anyone can participate in.

Tyler Suiters                      

Amanda Sanyal is the Director of Digital Marketing at Logitech, a key player in the gaming industry. Amanda, a great conversation. Thank you. Let's pick it up again at CES in a little while.

Amanda Sanyal                

Okay. Thank you so much.

Tyler Suiters                      

All right. Coming up next time on CES Tech Talk, the issue of robotics, one of the most exciting areas of CES. It is transforming industries, from healthcare to mobility. And areas that we might take on every day, like our household duties, retail experiences, even education itself. That's all coming up next time on CES Tech Talk.

Tyler Suiters                      

As always, we want to help you be CES Ready, so subscribe to this CES Tech Talk podcast. We're on all the major platforms. That way you won't miss any episodes leading up to CES 2020. Speaking of the big show, the dates are January 7th through the 10th in Las Vegas. The information you need is at ces.tech. That is CES dot T-E-C-H.

Tyler Suiters                      

None of this would be remotely possible without the true stars of CES Tech Talk, executive producer Tina Anthony and our senior studio engineer John Lindsey. Y'all are the very best in the business. I'm Tyler Suiters, let's talk tech again soon.

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