Former Cloud9 VP Eunice Chen aims to make esports more accessible - Dexerto
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Former Cloud9 VP Eunice Chen aims to make esports more accessible

Published: 9/Nov/2020 18:35 Updated: 10/Nov/2020 9:15

by Adam Fitch

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Eunice Chen made a name for herself in esports as an event manager for Riot Games in 2013, planning and managing events as part of the coveted World Championship.

What she’s perhaps best known for now in the industry, however, is serving as a founding employee of North American giants Cloud9 across partnerships and marketing.

What Chen is looking to do next will be an amalgamation of her variety of esports experience and her love for building and community. She announced Enlight — a venture that aims to equip people to start a career in esports — on October 30, and spoke with Dexerto about her admirable plans not long after.

Having worked with major brands like Riot Games and Cloud9 in the past, it’s perhaps unexpected to see Chen enter the startup world. When you consider her past roles and adoration for community-building, Enlight makes a lot of sense.

Enlight students
Enlight
Enlight are hosting their first class on November 9.

Enlightening the next wave of esports personnel

“I had to really think about what I wanted to invest my time into moving forward and really be honest with myself on what’s important to me,” she told Dexerto. “I know that I like building things, and even more, I know that I like building things that help other people. I had to think through a lot of my previous jobs and the conclusion I came to was that the best part was that I was building something and helping people at the same time.

“There are people who are trying to learn these things and people who are trying to teach these things, but there’s no scalable space or easy way for them to do so. Twitter direct messages are not scalable. Conferences are great but it’s just overwhelming and very impersonal. Taking both of those together, it seemed natural for me to think about how I could build a community around learning and the sharing of knowledge.”

Making money without products

With any startup comes questioning around monetization, especially when they’re not inherently selling products. A common theme around early-stage companies is that they initially prioritize building a community and that they’ll then focus on how to make money from the community at a later date. As Chen explained, she falls in line with this approach.

“I launched with a free class because I really wanted to learn and build alongside the community,” she said. “I didn’t want to do spend a year building courses, trying to sell them, and then realising I wasn’t even heading in the right direction. I work best when I keep communication open and really work with the people I’m trying to help. From this free class, I’ll learn so much about what people want and what they find valuable and therefore what they’re willing to pay for.

“If we’re providing something of value for students that enable them to go and get jobs that pay them a salary, that’s something that is valuable and worth actual money. I think there’s also room for things like diversity scholarships and things like that. I’ll probably have a better idea in a few weeks.”

Enlight will be bootstrapped — entirely self-funded — foregoing the ever-common trend of esports companies raising millions from venture capital firms.

“I haven’t really looked for funding just because I want to be authentic to what I’m building and to the mission of that, instead of to what the investors want,” Chen said. “If I do get investment down the line, I want to reduce the cost for customers but I also want to make sure the vision is pretty set.”

Ability to adapt

There are plenty of applications for a service such as Enlight, it even has the ability to tap into pre-existing communities and establishments and then provide a service from there. As esports grows, so too does the amount of paid opportunities and career options, and that’s something that Chen is cognizant of; her experience in a large entity in Riot Games paying off in spades.

“There are so many ways to think about education, and both professionally and personally,” she said. “With professional skills, there’s a group of people that are very early in their careers and need help with things like their resumes or interviews. There’s also a group of people who already have jobs and want to get better.

“With the beginning part of their careers, working with companies to help with the recruiting pipeline is really interesting. People that go through the Enlight programme, so I hope, will have better skill sets and be more readily prepared. For people that are already working in companies, that could be a really interesting opportunity. If they need to level up around certain skill sets, if they’re hiring a bunch of new photographers or social media coordinators and don’t have time to onboard them, and so on — there’s certainly work around that that can be done.”

Esports experts

Enlight has an impressive roster of “experts” on their website that will serve as mentors to users. This includes lawyer Bryce Blum, Cloud9 senior producer Emily Gonzalez-Holland, Ateyo CEO Rachel Feinberg, Twitter head of gaming content partnerships Rishi Chadha, and Riot Games senior develop relations Gene Chorba.

These mentors are experienced in their own areas and have been picked for that exact reason, as Chen understands that esports is made up of many categories — just like any other industry. While they shouldn’t expect any sort of monetary reimbursement for their time initially, working with Enlight enables them to pass on knowledge and experience to the next generation of esports personnel without spending hours of their time each week doing so.

Ateyo co-founders Enlight
Ateyo
Ateyo co-founders Rachel Feinberg and Breanne Harrison-Pollock will both serve as Enlight experts.

“The experts that I partnered with, they’re more than happy to speak on panels to speak with younger people to help others,” she told Dexerto. “A common thing that I hear from them and other veterans is they just don’t have time to respond to every single direct message from young people asking them how they can work in esports.

“So for me to set up this kind of structure, where they can easily transfer their knowledge and I handle all the heavy lifting, makes it so easy for the experts who are super busy with their jobs to just come in for an hour, speak on a topic that I’ve laid out for them, and I do the rest. They don’t have to have individual conversations if they don’t want to, they don’t have to deal with scheduling. It’s super turnkey for them.”

Collegiate esports on the rise

It seems as if a new collegiate esports program pops up every week, and this emphasis on teaching people before they’re ready to start their careers is ideal for Enlight. The current means of education is also fitting for the startup, with online and remote learning almost becoming the standard method of deliverance in 2020.

“I think it’s perfect for Enlight to emerge right now,” exclaimed Chen. “With what’s happened in 2020, virtual learning and remote learning has been a really big thing that we’ve all gotten used to. Gaming and esports have just exploded and so colleges are really feeling the pressure to offer something around gaming and esports and engage students.

“Colleges are super swamped and just don’t have the resources to build out very detailed courses and so I hope to be a supplement to that. I’m literally working on this full-time and it’s hard to distill down into how everything actually works and deep dive into each one of those tracks — I can’t imagine a college being able to do that with limited resources and staff.”

Auditing the audience

In terms of who’s able to enroll in Enlight and what the format will look like, Chen is encouraging interested parties to reach out to her for a discussion. She’s “targeting all types of people who are looking to get into esports or learn more about it” and taking a “three-category approach.”

“People who are trying to learn about how esports works, people who are excited to learn about additional soft skills that can help them in their professional careers, and people looking to add to their personal skill set; building confidence, handling imposter syndrome, dealing with rejection, things like that,” she explained.

“Every week, we’ll have discussion topics, I hope to have exercises and we’ll see if people participate in them, we’ll have experts come in to talk about different topics. I’m going to be experimenting with a lot of different formats. I think presentations makes sense but maybe it could be a fireside chat. Maybe it could be an interview format. There’s also room for fun ways to do those discussion topics that we could experiment with and see how people respond.”

While the shape and form of enlightenment that Chen offers may evolve over the coming weeks, it’s clear that she’s looking to equip the next generation with the personal and professional tools necessary to make it in this emerging industry.

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Adam Fitch: Sorry Dr Disrespect, mobile esports are thriving

Published: 27/Nov/2020 17:00

by Adam Fitch

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Earlier in November 2020, streamer Dr Disrespect spoke down towards mobile gamers on Twitter by questioning how it could be a “serious thing” — however, he’s just failing to understand how popular competition on mobile already is.

While mobile gamers and industry figures alike came to the defense of mobile gaming when the Two-Time took aim at the platform, there’s still a serious misconception around mobile esports and the success it’s already achieved.

Firstly, it’s worthwhile addressing the “serious” comment from Doc. While mobile devices perhaps don’t allow for precision that PCs do, there’s still a major skill gap between average and professional players and that lends itself perfectly to competition. The most common and widely-accepted definition of esports is a “video game played competitively for spectators,” mobile tournaments meet such a criteria on a daily basis and it’s already serious to hundreds of thousands of viewers on a weekly basis.

This skepticism from one of the faces of gaming is emblematic of a larger problem of platform elitism that plagues gaming on all levels. Ever since the popularization of esports there has been debate between console and PC gaming, centering around not only which type of players are better but whether console esports have unfair advantages due to features such as aim assist.

Ezreal in League of Legends Wild Rift
Riot Games
The most popular esports title, League of Legends, arrived on mobile in October 2020.

Tribalism is also a factor in this spritely, never-ending discussion, with players grouping together based on their platform of choice and nonsensically taking aim at those who have other preferences.

The only time in which such a debate would be productive is if cross-platform play is embraced in serious competition, which seems to be a long way away from ever becoming a reality. Fortnite developers Epic Games received plenty of criticism when implementing this feature in casual play, never mind in their esports activities, so it’s probably safe to assume no companies are rushing to make this a reality for the time being.

Infrastructure matters

Something that all good games need to be viable on a competitive level is infrastructure. Creating an appropriate structure for esports initiatives is important, whether it’s by a game’s developer or a third-party tournament organizer.

A great example of this in the realm of mobile esports is Clash Royale, one of the more popular titles from Finnish developers Supercell. The real-time strategy game has its own official team-based league from the company themselves, with top-tier gameplay spanning nine weeks and culminating in a year-ending world championship. This level of support and structure actually goes beyond what some PC and console games receive.

On the third-party organizer front, especially in the West, you only have to look as far as ESL to see how seriously mobile esports is being taken. As well as hosting regular online events for the likes of Call of Duty: Mobile, Clash of Clans, Brawls Stars, and Clash Royale, they have the ESL Mobile Open for elite players.

Clash Royale League World Finals
Supercell
The Clash Royale League World Finals are always a spectacle, rivaling events in almost any other game.

Recently incorporating the Middle East and North Africa into the European arm of the competition, it’s said that ESL hosted over 500,000 players in the inaugural season alone. The second season involves PUBG Mobile, Auto Chess, Asphalt 9: Legends, and Clash of Clans, and will be expecting even more success with the widening of the player base.

In North America, the Mobile Open from ESL is already in its sixth season and has a headline sponsorship from the world’s largest telecommunications company, AT&T. There are other examples of infrastructure being fleshed out for mobile titles, but you get the gist.

A sight for sore eyes

One major factor of how we define success in esports is viewership. With a healthy amount of eyeballs on a product comes sponsorship opportunities, bragging rights, and further validation that fans are interested in watching the elite face off against each other.

With that in mind, it’s never been clearer that mobile esports isn’t just a major part of the future of the industry — it has already arrived. According to analytics agency Esports Charts, mobile events made up three of the five most popular tournaments in October 2020. This happened alongside the League of Legends World Championship taking place, which is not only one of the most anticipated occasions in the esports calendar but as it turned out to be one of the only LAN events we’d seen in six months.

Garena Free Fire
Garena
Free Fire hit a record of 100 million peak daily users earlier in 2020.

Asia and Latin America are where mobile esports are truly thriving at the moment, rivaling the popularity of any other title you decide to compare them with. This is proven from last month’s peak viewership statistics, where MOBA title Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and battle royale game Garena Free Fire occupied three of the top five placements.

Ryan ‘Fwiz’ Wyatt, the head of gaming at YouTube, posted a thread on Twitter on November 26 backed up the sheer popularity of Free Fire on the platform. In 2019, it was YouTube’s fourth most-viewed game and it’s proving to have some longevity considering its monthly viewership peaked in October 2020.

While this level of success isn’t replicated across all regions just yet, that’s how esports typically work. Call of Duty and Counter-Strike are mainly popular among those in North America and Europe, for example, which is reflected in the demographics of both the top-level players and the viewership alike. The same applies to mobile but it’s not an excuse for ignorance.

The future?

Mobile devices are generally more accessible than a high-end computer or new-generation gaming console so there’s a much higher ceiling on participation in mobile esports by default. Whether adoption from mobile users does indeed propel it into becoming the de facto competitive option is yet to be seen, but such potential can’t be ignored.

With viewership rivaling (and even oftentimes besting) that from console and PC esports alike, it’s sheer ignorance to state that mobile gaming isn’t already a major player in the industry. If you fail to see that from the investment that’s being funneled into mobile titles, or the number of people who already enjoy playing and spectating, then perhaps you’d like to argue that grass isn’t green too.