Waco Hoover – XLIVE – Conferences needn’t be boring

Waco Hoover is the Founder and CEO of XLIVE, an entertainment media & events company which introduced esports last year. At the upcoming event in Vegas in December there’s a comprehensive esports track analysing some fascinating topics such as how esports will grow over the next two decades and “A look at the critical issues facing esports players’ amongst others. 

Waco Hoover, XLIVE
Waco Hoover, XLIVE

We spoke to Waco about putting on a good event,  South by Southwest and Uber.

Esports Insider: Why did you decide to bring esports into your XLIVE events?

Waco: With the advent of social media and digital networking tools, some speculated whether the need for face to face meetings would lessen. As it transpired when people are more connected online, there’s an even greater desire to meet in person. That’s part of why we looked into adding esports, to give those in the industry such an opportunity.

Esports is, as is well documented, in its infancy in its scaling as a global industry. Event organisers will increasingly need to be conscious of the fact that fans will come to expect more from these events, and they’ll need to deliver more than just what’s on stage.

Just like in traditional sports they need to focus on event experience and ticket sales and need to adapt and add new aspects to keep punters interested. We’re convening ESL, Activision Blizzard, WME/IMG, Twitch and other industry leaders to address the challenges and opportunities facing the eSports community.

For us it’s the live experience part of esports that we understand, and how it’s connected with the technology, is how we can add a tremendous amount of value to the industry as a whole.

Esports Insider: Will you be adding esports specific events?

Waco: Next year we’ll be hosting our first standalone esports event. They won’t be just be a run of the mill ‘here’s what’s happening in the industry’ type of event; they’ll have a specific focus in terms of what is happening with the technology, the experience and with the players both current and upcoming.

We’ll be shaping this in the coming months, and the esports track in Vegas in December is part of this.

Esports Insider: So it won’t be just be handing out business cards….

Waco: Exactly. When you look at XLIVE this year we have a whole virtual reality lab. VR is one with exceptional crossover into gaming, streaming and esports. The experience and tech side will be a huge part of esports continuing to grow and that’s something we’ll be ensuring is central at our events.

Esports Insider: Esports events will begin to attract more and more non-endemics of course, if this year’s investments are anything to go by.

Waco: So we’ve seen the 76ers, Magic Johnson, Steven Aoki and football clubs in the UK and Europe getting involved. My prediction however is that traditional sports will, for the large part, miss the boat. They’ll end up paying a premium later on.

In terms of investments we see a lot of opportunities on the player development side in addition to the game and team side.

Esports Insider: Are there any festivals you look to for inspiration for XLIVE?

Waco: I don’t necessarily see us as being a South by Southwest but what I respect and love about SXSW is that they’ve tapped into a really interesting community across not necessarily directly connected communities across film, music and interactive. Then they’ve added other components too.

I see XLIVE growing in a similar vein, by bringing together and connecting different communities; it could be esports, it could be drone racing in the future and motorcross. In terms of putting on events these industries can learn from one another, and we want to be the ‘connective tissue’.

Sometimes the best ideas for your own come from outside the industry. If you work in esports or the NFL or as a festival organiser you can learn from each other. Think about Uber for example. The founder had nothing to do without transportation whatsoever.

It can be hugely beneficial for someone non-endemic to shine a light as it’s easy to get caught up with this is how things are done and here’s how we should do it. So where we see XLIVE going in the future is creating opportunities for this to occur.

Esports Insider: Which sessions sound particularly exciting at the Vegas event in December?

Waco: ‘The next media goldrush’ should be an intriguing panel with so many issues to be thought through. Right now every brand and her brother wants to be involved in esports but, of course, it’s vital to be careful and do it properly.

So this’ll be talking about what’s working, what’s not, borrowing ideas from other industries and how to utilise new platforms beyond Twitch and whatnot. This panel includes Tobias Sherman Head of Esports at WME IMG, Ari Evans CEO at Maestro, Sebastian Lager Head of Gameshow Media, and Splyce CEO Marty Strenczewilk.

Another great looking panel is the esports explosion which is focused on the projected growth of the landscape over the next 25 years. Finally the ‘power to the players’ panel is assessing how to manage players, the challenges they’re facing, how to cultivate and recruit the talent, and more. The topic of compensation is another topic which could have a panel in its own right.  

Ironing out issues around players and bringing in more structure to this will be key in how esports evolves. More details about the XLIVE esports track can be found here.