Skillz is one of the leaders in mobile esports and recently announced that it has awarded over $50m (£40.07m) in prizes since launching in 2012. It was also stated that the company would broadcast 40 million minutes of competitive mobile gameplay this year, making for a notable increase from 8.5 million minutes in 2015.
With Amazon set to make big moves into mobile esports, and Facebook toying with it too if reports are to be believed, we thought it was time to sit down with Skillz CEO Andrew Paradise for a chat.
Esports Insider: $50 million in prizes since 2012. People seem to like mobile esports…
Andrew: It certainly seems that way. There are 2.1 billion mobile gamers in the world, making it the largest gaming platform in history. According to the recent media and technology outlook published by Activate, esports is on track to become a $5 billion business by 2020 and we believe that mobile will make up a sizable portion of that market.
Electronic sports have a large and well-established fan base. Currently there are more than 32 million esports spectators in the United States alone. Esports audiences bear a strong resemblance to traditional sports fans. Their interaction with the game doesn’t end at watching a match; they play these sports in their spare time, follow specific teams, and are consistently engaged with the sport in their day-to-day lives. In the United States, the esports audience has grown from 2 million to 32 million in just five years and is estimated to reach 50 million by 2017.
“Skillz accounted for 8.4% of all esports prizes awarded in 2014, 21% in 2015 and is on track to account for over 30% in 2016.”
Mobile helps to make esports accessible to everyone, and there’s a huge opportunity for continued growth to span a more diverse group of players than any other platform in history.
Esports Insider: Are you concerned about Amazon’s intentions in the space? And potentially Facebook too…
Andrew: Amazon has become an impressive, major player in esports. The company made a big statement when it acquired Twitch for almost $1 billion a couple of years ago, and it has only grown more influential in the industry since then. With the space heating up, it only makes sense that juggernauts like Amazon, Facebook, ESPN, Yahoo and more want to get involved.
As esports continue to grow, we welcome new entrants who bring new and creative offerings to the table and help to further push the industry into the mainstream.
Esports Insider: You anticipate that 38% of all esports prizes will be paid out by Skillz, a major increase from 21% from last year. Are most of these smaller amounts rather than grand single pay outs, and to what do you attribute this growth from 2015?
Andrew: Yes, we’ve seen Skillz grow to comprise an even larger portion of the overall esports market each year. Skillz accounted for 8.4% of all esports prizes awarded in 2014, 21% in 2015 and is on track to account for over 30% in 2016.
Many people think that only the professional gamers who travel to big, televised competitions can participate in and win esports competitions. In reality, that’s only the top 1% of esports players. Skillz is esports for the 99%. We’re making competitive gaming accessible to players at all levels, through smaller and more frequent tournaments. Skillz runs hundreds of thousands of tournaments a day that anyone can compete in.
Over the past year, Skillz has hit a point of critical mass in both our player and developer communities. For players, we’re seeing the social network effect of existing competitors loving their experience and sharing their favorite games with friends. What we see amongst our developers is similar; the success of game developers using the Skillz platform is undeniable, and others also want to take advantage of our free technology and tangible results.
“Only the top 1% can travel and compete in numerous big tournaments. Skillz is esports for the 99%.”
Esports Insider: More than 2.1 billion play mobile games daily…but which demographic loves mobile esports, or does it vary from genre to genre? Moreover, what are the differences geographically?
Andrew: Through partnering with Skillz, developers can reach an audience that is larger and more diverse than the traditional esports market. The Skillz user base is 49% female, as opposed to just 19% for the industry as a whole. Since we founded Skillz in the United States, unsurprisingly our highest concentration of players is located here.
However, we offer competitive esports tournaments to players in over 180 countries and are continuously growing. We also have developer partners that hail from all corners of the world.
Esports Insider: How big can the streaming of casual games really get?
Andrew: As with physical sports, there’s a spectrum from casual play to professional competition.
There are esports with very complex gameplay, but others where the gameplay is comparatively simple. As for the competitors themselves, there are casual FPS players and there are hard-core bubble poppers earning a professional living playing a game that many would consider casual. Just as the accessibility of mobile is contributing to the growth of the esports player base, so too will mobile help to enable widespread spectatorship for all types of content.
As people play, they naturally want to share the experience with friends and expand their competitive network. We’ve witnessed the growth of mobile game streaming firsthand. In 2016, Skillz is projected to broadcast more than 40 million minutes of competitive mobile gameplay, up from 8.5 million minutes in 2015.
Esports Insider: Where do AR and VR fit into the future of mobile esports?
Andrew: Skillz has developed flexible infrastructure technology that could be applied to a variety of platforms and industries. Mobile gaming is our current focus, but there’s obviously a natural fit between mobile and VR/AR, so we’ll see what 2017 holds!