Guinness World Records has Dennis ‘Thresh’ Fong listed as the world’s first professional gamer. Since he hung up his mouse, there’s quite a number that have since followed him down this path. Fong is now the CEO of Plays.tv, a platform for gamers aimed at ‘capturing moments’.
We had a chat about his thoughts on the development of the esports industry, tips for pro players and Plays.tv.
Esports Insider: As Guinness WR’s ‘first pro gamer’, back then did you envisage the industry being at the stage it is in 2016?
Dennis: I remember the very first esports event took place in 1995. I was at a Doom 2 tournament that Microsoft threw and there were between 100 to 200 spectators. I viewed these events as fun opportunities to compete and proved I was the best. I didn’t think about these events as the beginning of an industry.
“There was never a moment where I thought ‘this thing isn’t going to happen’. It was just a matter of time”
The growth over the past few years has been incredible. Viewership is exploding – it’s amazing that many gamers spend as much time watching games as they do playing games. New leagues, teams, companies and industries are being created around this growth. As I look back, I always thought this growth was inevitable. There was never a moment where I thought “this thing isn’t going to happen.” It was just a matter of time. I expect to see this growth continue for many years as esports becomes more mainstream.
Esports Insider: What do you currently see as the most important ‘next steps’ for pro players and what tips would you give them for a successful and prolonged career? Any thoughts on the pros and cons of player owned organisations?
Dennis: Building a personal brand and growing a community of followers is key to making a living beyond winning tournaments in esports.
“If you look at the top League of Legends players on Twitch, most of them are successful because of their personalities. They are funny, engaging, creative and informative”
In fact, pros who have large fan bases can make more money after they retire from esports because they can stream full time, engage more with their fans, and create unique opportunities to attract sponsors. If you look at the top League of Legends players on Twitch, most of them are successful because of their personalities. They are funny, engaging, creative and informative. It’s not really about competition and it’s not about pure skills. It’s about entertainment and about standing out when there are thousands of other streamers who are also trying to stand out.
As far as player owned organisations, I think the main benefit is that the relationships between owners and players will likely be more personal. The owners will understand what players are going through, what challenges they may face, what it takes to build a winning team, and what opportunities exist for players after they retire.
The biggest challenge you may find in player owned teams is that the owners may not have as much access to capital. It’s different if you have to raise money from investors to fund a team versus if you are an owner with deep pockets who believes in the space and can self fund it. In addition, player owned organisations need to develop an expertise around building an organisation, recruiting players and staff, and the finance and operations side of running a business.
Esports Insider: Tell us about Plays.tv. Following a highly successful 2015, what have the developments been in the past year, how have you expanded your presence and how have the various gaming communities taken to it? You’ve stated in the past you’re like ‘Instagram for gamers’, is that a statement you still agree with?
Dennis: Since launch, Plays.tv has quickly become the number one destination for PC gameplay highlights and videos.
“Videos from more than 3,400 different games have been posted by users from more than 200 countries worldwide”
Our rapidly growing community is diverse both geographically and in terms of game tastes – videos from more than 3,400 different games have been posted by users from more than 200 countries worldwide.
Many games we’ve integrated with, like Overwatch, do not have an official replay system available. Plays.tv is the best way to replay a match, identify areas of improvement, and share highlights with friends. Key features of Plays.tv include auto-edit, auto-tag, and auto-detect features from major games like League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Rocket League and Dota 2.
Given the current feature set, “Instagram for gamers” is an easy way to explain what we do. As we build more features around customisation and community, that comparison may not be as accurate in 2017.
Esports Insider: Overwatch is one you’ve focused on to provide annotated timelines and full match replays…what needs to be done to improve Overwatch from a viewer’s perspective?
Dennis: The ability to record, save and replay gaming highlights has been one of the most requested features by the Overwatch community.
With Plays.tv, players can organise their recordings by match and bookmark match events such as: eliminations, deaths, resurrections, and Play of the Game to save and review later. Players also have their friends list integrated from Battle.net and will be able to see other Plays.tv users who they’ve just played a match with.
“On the Plays.tv website, players can browse game and character-specific videos with many different filters to help them focus on specific aspects of a game”
On the Plays.tv website, players can browse game and character-specific videos with many different filters to help them focus on specific aspects of a game. The annotated timelines feature is not working with the latest Overwatch release and we are looking into solutions for this. Players can still use bookmarks to easily find and share key Overwatch highlights with friends.
Esports Insider: Is VR something you have considered bringing in as it begins to enter esports, and affect how fans consume content?
Dennis: VR is an exciting development for gaming and esports, and we certainly are watching it. Like consoles,this is a space we pay attention to, but we are not building services specifically for VR. Since most VR content is PC-based, Plays.tv should technically work for them.
There are many improvements we want to make to our platform with the games we currently support. As far as new platforms, we plan to launch mobile features in 2017 to enable users to interact with Plays.tv content while on your phone.