Two days of esports business at Le Méridien – An eScon Report

Le Méridien in Piccadilly was host to eScon Europe last week which saw the recent growth of the esports industry discussed and dissected under the chandeliers.

The event was put on by Kisaco Research and saw the likes of Psyonix, Riot Games, Betway, ESIC, the British Esports Association, Ninjas in Pyjamas, ITV, Inter Milan, Spurs and more in attendance. It was a thoroughly busy two days which saw panel sessions running in conjunction with pre-scheduled meetings in the networking area.

One of the first panels of day one looked at ‘Expert Advice for Brands’ and featured Matthieu Lacrouts CEO of Hurrah, Benoit Pagotto, Marketing Manager at Fnatic, and Pieter van den Heuvel, Esports Market Analyst at Newzoo. It was moderated by Esports Insider’s very own Ollie Ring.

Pagotto discussed how at Fnatic they’re a team of content creators, and that producing good content in any campaign is vital. He noted that “putting a logo on a shirt is not enough”, and went on to state that there remains a leadership opportunity in esports for brands.

Examples of case studies of what not to replicate were discussed with the focus here on Bud Light’s ‘All Stars’ campaign. This saw the company invite 5 players (in different titles) to a gamer house which meant that there was no worthwhile. direct competition between them. The way the campaign was executed too was ‘over the top’ according to van den Heuvel, and it was apparent that they didn’t really understand the industry nor its target market.

“Putting a logo on a shirt is not enough”

Hurrah’s CEO made the sensible suggestion that in the case of Subaru, which recently entered the space with a $20,000 CS:GO Invitational, Rocket League would have made far more sense. In terms of activations he said how they’d have had far more and far more interesting and natural opportunities to reach an audience.

Later there was a panel on ‘Women in Esports’, the panel for which included event sponsor Rezli CEO Cory Allison. Rezli is looking to become an alternative to Linkedin for the esports and gaming industries, and has some fascinating plans up its sleeve. There was then a presentation of Rocket League by Psyonix’s Esports Manager Josh Watson before a break. The integrity panel which followed lunch saw James Watson, Head of Esports at Sportradar, alongside Daniel Wood COO of Ukie and ESIC Chairman Kevin Carpenter of ESIC speaking with ESI’s Ring once again taking the moderator hot seat.

Day two included panels on the ultimate esports experience with moderation from TEO’s Chris Hana, and some high profile speakers including Veronique Lallier of Hi-Rez Studios, Sophia Metz, CEO of Meltdown Bars and Tom Halls from Gfinity.

There were also sessions from ESL UK’s James Dean, LSE Fellow Dr. Jamie Woodcock, NiP CEO Hicham Chahine and Michele Attisani the Co-Founder of FACEIT.

The afternoon’s betting panel drew quite a crowd. With Scott Longley chairing the session, and Sportradar’s Watson back on stage, alongside Moritz Maurer of Genius Sports and Adam Savinson, the Head of Esports at Betway Group this was a true panel of experts on the topic.

Betting in general continues to be a subject of concern for many in esports, and much of this seems to stem from a lack of proper understanding. The issue of a lack of relationship between developers and bookmakers was brought up and the sentiment that this is more dangerous for customers was one shared by the full panel.

When asked how much interaction he has with game publishers, Betway Group’s Savinson responded “very little to zero”. He continued: “Developers need to support regulated gambling. Being totally anti-gambling is dangerous and it’s essentially helping to support and facilitate the black market.”

“Betting exists whether developers approve of it or not”

The stance of some developers is to look the other way and refuse any involvement with betting. Just recently after Unikrn announced it would be taking bets on Rocket League, Psyonix quickly released a statement denying any support or endorsement of this. With an audience made up of a significant amount of teenagers and children, this take on the matter is understandable but it isn’t sensible. Betting exists whether developers approve of it or not however a transparent, regulated market significantly reduces the risks that consumers might face who choose to bet on esports online.

Genius Sports’ Maurer commented: “We understand that the developers want to protect their IPs by ‘blocking’ betting however this approach often has unintended consequences such as playing into the hands of unregulated gambling market.” 

There is only so much that the likes of the UK Gambling Commission and ESIC can do about skins betting for instance. On the topic of the growth of esports betting, Watson commented on how many bookmakers now realise they should be doing something with it but most don’t understand what.

He said: “In over 90% of my meetings FIFA is mentioned, and of course it’s natural for a betting company to look to the EA Sports title but there is precious little interest from punters.”

On esports betting generally he added: “You can’t treat it like a normal sport and you can’t expect to have much success if you just plug in and go.”

The final two sessions in the afternoon of the second day saw one on ‘Esports Talent Management’ which featured Orlando John, Liam Chivers of OP Talent and Oliver Ward of ITM Sports with Joe Hills chairing.

The other was a look at grassroots esports which had Dom Sacco of the British Esports Association hosting with Meltdown’s Sophia Metz, FACEIT’s Michele Attisani and the NUEL’s Founder Josh Williams.

“It’s natural for a betting company to look to the EA Sports title but there is precious little interest from punters”

An unofficial Escon party took place at Fnatic’s Bunkr in nearby Shoreditch on the evening of 6th. It was a suitably festive evening which coupled Tekken with alcohol at the home of Fnatic in London, which will soon house ESL UK too.

In total, eScon saw 17 sessions with over 55 speakers and we-can’t-count how many meetings. The glamorous setting of Le Méridien worked well as a reflective backdrop to the ever increasing professionalism of esports as an industry in its own right.

A year ago, precious few would have believed esports would be where it is now and we’re genuinely excited to see where we’re at in April 2018.

Disclaimer: Esports Insider was an Official Media Partner of the eScon Europe event.