This week, we were joined by James Dean – the CEO of ESL UK. He was involved in esports from the beginning – in the late 90s he was setting up home LANs and going to events with his friends.
Dean opened his Intel FutureGen session by explaining how he turned a hobby into his career. While at university he started writing for a computer magazine, which gave him access to high-end hardware and loads of useful industry contacts.
He used his experience and contact book to move into marketing. He launched gaming brands for a PC company, and realised the huge reaction you could get by designing products for gamers. It’s a lesson about the power of listening to and engaging communities that Dean still relies on.
In 2006, Dean launched his own company – a marketing and sales support agency. He used his contacts from his journalism days to land clients, and worked with lots of component companies. Those clients gave him more insight into gaming, where customers are early adopters who are eager to explore new ideas and buy high-end equipment.
Dean was introduced to ESL – a small German esports company. He opened the UK franchise to try and grow the UK’s inconsistent, unprofessional esports scene.
His strategy involved ESL establishing a presence at trade shows and then running its own events. Dean became frustrated with the pessimism he found in the UK esports community regarding ESL, but he explained that this was another lesson – he gritted his teeth, cracked on and proved that ESL could work.
Dean explained that ESL continued to grow, with the launch of the Premiership and the arrival of the UK’s first Dota major.
Dean delved into the modern esports ecosystem, detailing how esports can learn from conventional sports and broadcasting industries. He explained the esports stakeholder landscape, too, illustrating how publishers, teams, media outlets, sponsors and service channels all rely on each other.
Dean covered the diversity of the esports world, too, by breaking down how different genres, interfaces and platforms can define different types of esports – and he explained the pros and cons of different funding models, interface methods and communities.
Dean concluded by talking about careers in esports. He’s optimistic: the industry is growing, with traditional sports teams, huge brands and global media organisations getting involved.
Dean also has advice for anyone who wants to be successful: don’t forget the grassroots scene, engage communities authentically, collaborate with stakeholders and be consistent and patient.
The first audience question asked Dean about the potential pitfalls of publishers taking esports in-house – not using tournament organisers like ESL. Dean doesn’t blame publishers for doing this with their biggest titles. However, he’s optimistic that there will still be a place for tournament organisers, because there will always be publishers who aren’t able to do it all, even if their games are successful – and there will always be new games that can’t grow without companies like ESL.
Dean was also asked how students should maximise their potential when working in university esports societies. Dean advised everyone to get involved as much as possible – it’s fundamental to gain loads of experience. It sets everyone up for success when it comes to entering the workforce later.
This week will be the final Intel FutureGen 2020 broadcast that will feature Charlie Allen, Global Partnership Director at ESL! Tune in to www.twitch.tv/nse_gg at 2pm BST this Wednesday to watch it live.