Esports is Not a Sport.

Esports is NOT a sport.

Not even close.

That might seem to be a strange statement coming from someone who has spent the majority of my career building a business around competitive video gaming.  But I refuse to continue to watch ignorant money being thrown at companies because they claim to serve the esports industry.

I am not talking about the old and lame argument about using a form of the word “sports” means the competition needs to be athletic.  I am mad about how unorganized esports is compared to regular sports structures.

How is no one talking about the scary similarities of the investment into esports to the 90s dot com boom?  Aren’t we supposed to learn from our past mistakes?  I have to believe that the business people behind these investments are intelligent and wise, but if you don’t understand something, why are you throwing money at it blindly?

Esports is either traveling to massive tournaments or playing in your backyard.

Esports is either backyard basketball or playing for the Indiana Pacers. There is no middle ground.

Why is esports not a sport?  Very, very simple.  It is not available to the masses.  There is no path to make everyone feel like they have a chance to play at some kind of level.  There is no level in-between playing random online matches and playing on a professional esports team.  We are sorting out the “best” players according to online matches, twitch followers, youtube subscribers and the ability to have enough cash and free time to travel to try and be seen by a professional team.

That is not how sports should work.  Let me take you down the path of a Hoosier kid chasing the dream of basketball.

(1) I grew up in Indiana, spent 4 years in Dallas, Texas while my father went to seminary, then moved back to Indiana in the 8th grade.  I was a sports nut and was blessed with a decent amount of athletic ability.  I was probably the most gifted to play baseball, taught to hit left handed by my father who spent countless hours playing anything I wanted outside in the backyard.

(2) When we moved back to Indiana in 1987 it was my 8th grade year (one year before high school here in Indiana) and I went out for cross country, basketball and baseball.  As a kid who was the star on any single team I played until this point, I was devastated to barely make the basketball team, not getting much playing time and for the first time I was not in the spotlight.

(3) For those that know me, I am rather competitive.  Not playing much drove me into a frenzy.  I immediately identified as many possible paths that would lead to get me back into the starting lineup as quickly as possible.  If you live under a rock you might not know that in Indiana, basketball is life.  There are rules to follow for practice times and what the coaches could and could not do, but there were a ton of things that we knew we had to do to have a shot to play.

(4) Summer between 8th grade and freshman year was intense.  In the summer every single day the gym was open for “free” play.  I believe it was 3 PM until sometimes 8 or 9 PM depending on how many players were there.  The first 10 formed teams and started playing.  Those that arrived later formed teams to take on the winners.  Sometimes there was enough teams waiting to open up the middle school gym (attached to the high school).  Not only active players, but even older players came to the gym.  We would have 14 year-old players trying to keep up with 25 year-old players, or in some cases the opposite.

(5) Then freshman year started and I found out that the gym was open before school each day.  I didn’t have a way to get there, but asked the coach who lived past our country house farther in the country if he could pick me up.  He pulled into our driveway every single morning that year, with his beat up old pickup.  One of his sons was on the team and a year older than me and the truck had bucket seats.

(6) I remember that old beat up truck and have forgotten so many other things in my life. I sat on a folding chair between the two seats.  The passenger door had to be tied to the chair with a rope, sometimes it would not get tied well and fly open around a curve.  One of the headlights was rusted and pointed straight down, so it was easy to see them coming to get me from way down the road each morning.

(7) Every morning most players arrived around 6:45 or 7 to play for an hour, but because I rode with coach we got there just after 6.  Coach suggested that I practice free throws and shots around different parts of the court and showed me a clipboard with shot charts I could use to track my progress.  I loved it.  Every single morning I shot 200 free throws and then took as many shots in different spots and tracked everything.  When enough players arrived we scrimmaged again, sometimes right up until the bell or after and took a tardy getting to class.

(8) That freshman year our team was crazy good.  I don’t remember how much I started or played much through the year but we were good.  Our school was 400 students, while the other two high schools in town were 2000 students each.  But the fun part was that while we were in high school the other schools were transitioning from 9th grade at middle school to 9th grade being in high school.  We won the first 15 games of the year, most by a large margin, against schools that had a ton of resources and a big pool to draw from for players.  I remember the TV news coming out after the 13th win and interviewing a few of us.

(9) That year for sectionals (end of the year tournament to lead up to the state championships) the coach did a crazy thing.  He took 2 of the older seniors that didn’t play much and put them in street clothes and had myself and my buddy Jimmy on the freshman team dress varsity.  We got to play in one of the blow out games and I remember hitting a couple threes.  Our guys won the sectional and we went on to travel to the regional weekend.  We lost but it was a real feeling of success.

(10) The story was similar throughout high school, we kept playing non-stop, anywhere we could travel and find games.  We went to local 3v3 competitions and played in a lot of parks/playgrounds in the summer on the weekends, in the gym every day during the week.

(11) I hated weight training but I really wanted to be able to jump out of the gym and I remember running hills with weight vests.  By my senior year I could touch the rim with my elbow.  I remember when the coaches from college would show up and our high school coach would just line us up for “rim touch”.  Think about layups without a basketball, except that after a few runs of seeing how high you could touch on the rim or the backboard those of us that could dunk would pull out the basketballs and start getting crazy.

(12) My high school career ended up on a tough loss in the sectionals when we were picked to go on much farther.  But that then launched my college career.  I knew I wasn’t good enough to play professional someday, so I picked a really good educational school to play that was based on Midwest Division 3 schools in a conference called the ICAC.  I would say the ICAC would be competitive with most D2 programs.  For example, Steve Alford, the Indiana University star who now coaches at UCLA, started coaching at Manchester in our conference.

(13) My college career ended much better for me with our team upsetting two higher ranked schools in the conference tournament and getting a bid to play in the NCAA Div 3 tournament.  We lost a heart breaker in that tournament that I relive in my mind a few times each month to this day.


… I can throw a football over those mountains.

13 paragraphs about my life growing up a basketball kid in Indiana.  Some washed up player talking like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite?  Probably a little bit, but I do have a point.  🙂

Throughout my career, with a very similar story as anyone else who has played traditional sports, there were big milestones that we take for granted that DO NOT EXIST in esports.

Think about it… how many people are involved with traditional sports at some level that never make it to the pros?  I think they say less than 1% of players that start in little leagues will ever play at the college level.  The number is even smaller at the pro level.  But those players did more than just shoot baskets in their driveway.

Why share 13 paragraphs about my path through basketball?  I want to point out where esports has a chance to really expand to 99% of other gamers, this is where the REAL focus and investment should take place.

(1) Support from Parents, how do we get them involved like parents of sports kids?
(2) Available geographically everywhere, even through moving states/cities with your family you need to jump right back into the same scene you just left.
(3) Multiple paths for success and different training options, not just being the guy to play the game the most.
(4) Many options for play with a variety of competitors all year in something more than online ranked play, even off season finding groups of local players to practice and scrimmage.
(5) More adults getting involved to help kids get to practice/events and create a support system.
(6) Impressionable memories at younger ages, marketing companies would go crazy for reaching these ages.
(7) Ways for players to practice individual skills.  I am surprised that more games do not have single player modes to practice certain skills that are crucial to the games they play.  The only way to practice a certain scenario is to get lucky enough in a game to have that scenario happen.
(8) Community and Media support at lower levels.  Make events and kids feel accomplished.  Don’t just cover the giant events, plenty of media already covers those.  Local newspapers are dying, why can’t they jump in and support this new movement and become relevant again?
(9) Organized levels of progression for local teams.  Local teams against local teams, then regional teams, then state teams.
(10) Many options for competition.  A true esport is one that can be played casually, recreational, with all ages, multiple formats and all year long.
(11) Recruiting for the collegiate level and again training programs to increase the player’s individual abilities.
(12) Just because games are “online” and can instantly be “national” that isn’t a good thing.  Online you are one of 100 million League of Legends players.  There is a reason that there are multiple college conferences and divisions.  Everyone needs to find their standing in different skill pools.
(13) Everyone needs to be able to follow their path to their ultimate end of the story.

Here is where I think investments in esports should be directed.

Area 1 – Little League/Boys Club (ages 12 and under)
In esports if a kid is under the age of about 12 video games are looked at as an addiction or a problem.  “Oh those parents are bad, they just let their kid play video games all day.”  I know that is true in many, many cases depending on what game they are playing, but when was the last time someone said “Oh those parents are bad, they just let their kid play basketball all day”?  How are we supposed to take “professional” esports seriously if we think that playing video games is bad?

In addition to the negative view of video games for kids, there is zero support and organization at this level.   For every sports player that succeeded at some level, there were many instrumental people that helped them get to that point.  Parents, coaches, clubs, schools, teachers, bus drivers and more.  There has to be adults involved to organize the matches, teams, practices, travel, etc.

Area 2 – School Teams (ages 13-18)
The ability for any kid to have a chance to play.  Everyone can go out for the team.  You don’t need 4 other players to join a basketball tournament, you just need to try out and make your local team and the coach/manager takes care of the rest.  Not only can every kid have a chance to play, but it is local to their school and the games are played locally against other local schools.  Schedules are set, team travel is arranged.

Again at this level where are the supporting teachers, clubs, school corporations, state organizations, coaches, athletic directors and parents?  What options does a 15 year old Call of Duty or League of Legends player have?  They can just hope to get noticed in online ranked leaderboards?  Tweet at their favorite esports organizations to try and get a DM to show them some montage videos?

Area 3 – Collegiate (ages 18-22)
Esports is starting to do better here, but please understand that it is not even 5% to where it should be right now.  Schools are adding esports as more of a marketing tool than as a serious commitment to esports.  I like what Lambton College is doing up in Canada, working towards adding a degree in esports promotion and management.  Those kind of efforts help grow the programs into something that is sustainable.

However again we are looking at the major esports organizations at the collegiate level being mostly filled with club teams, not actual organized teams that have a support system from the school around them.  It is mostly the players themselves trying to do everything and in the end, a player can’t make rational decisions on practice times, roster changes, travel budgets, strategy moves during a game, etc.  It takes coaches, managers, directors, office staff, etc.

Area 4 – Professional (any age)
I hate the current state of professional esports.  It is a pathetic marketing land grab and there is generally no focus put on what is the right thing for the players or the longevity of any of the leagues/games.   For companies that own their own IP and run their own leagues they are the most stable, but all they are doing is trying to sell more stuff in their game.  I know that professional sports is all about advertising and marketing, but before all of that is added on top, beneath the surface there is a basic concept that was made for the players.

Think about it this way.  The NBA doesn’t “own” basketball.  Basketball is a game that was created for players and teams to compete in a standard format.  Rules were made and then distributed out to local clubs to add to their list of activities.  NBA, NCAA, high school associations, Boys Club, AAU and any other organizations do not own basketball itself.  Spalding doesn’t own it.  They took a fun game and organized it.  Guess what?  Someone could make a brand new professional league for basketball today.  It wouldn’t work because there really isn’t room for two professional leagues and it ruins the whole concept of reaching the top of the pyramid for a sport.  But legally the NBA doesn’t own the game of basketball itself.

Game companies will control their own IP and obviously they want to make money from the game and the players.  But start looking at making esports for your games relevant at many levels, not just the ones that you can generate 20M views in a weekend.  You have the burden of creating all of the levels of competition if you want to sustain a “sport” around your video game.

I love competitive video games, we have been hosting tournaments for 13 years and have grown to support hundreds of centers around the world.  But I hate using the word esports and giving investors and partners an idea that our industry is even close to being organized and compared with other sports.

Esports is not a sport.



VR in LAN Centers / eSports Arenas

Tonight we started off talking about VR in LAN centers and what eBash will be doing in the space.  We then touched on game nights and casual eSports tournaments followed by ggLeap updates including:

  • Increased client security
  • Offers coming soon, as well as reporting on offers/sales
  • New releases next week
  • Building up to the launch next week!


Starting and Running a Video Game Center Lounge: Do I need Cafe Software and How Do I get Tournaments Going?

From today’s show we covered the following topics:

  1. Introduction to the weekly Twitch-cast
  2. LAN Center start-up “Question of the Week”
    1. “How important is software for a LAN Center?”
    2. How important is software in other businesses?  Stock Control?  Sales projections?  Employee management?
    3. Software is crucial for controlling PC access, but also for saving $$$ in game purchases
    4. Even as a timer, software helps track time balances as well as cash balances
    5. Credit on store accounts is CRUCIAL
    6. Useful data such as games reaching license limit, times of the day/week when it is slowest, etc.
    7. Using the right software, eBash has set-up a 100+ network of systems in two days, had 5,000+ gamers create accounts and play by the hour and tracked stats and given away random prizes, sent out a follow-up email to the group
  3. LAN Center growth “Idea of the Week”
    1. “How do I get tournaments going at my center?”
    2. Tournament Negatives:
      1. Nothing worse than spending tons of time, money, energy promoting an event to only have a couple people show up
      2. Displaces regular customers during busiest times
      3. Extra Work, Extra Cost, Extra Systems
    3. Tournament Positives:
      1. Great way to reach new players
      2. Gives your center the sense of importance, coolness
      3. Always want to have something going on, events
    4. Types of Tournaments:
      1. Big Cash Money
      2. Random/Scrambled
      3. Money vs. Prizes vs. Fame (Call of Duty players asked about trophies)
      4. Not always PvP, sometimes PvE
      5. Find a way to create rivalries with schools, clans, etc.
    5. Promotion = success
      1. “Impromptu” tournaments have a place, but not a good idea for long term
      2. Start it a month away or more
      3. Fliers:  Colleges, High Schools, Local Game Stores
    6. Results
      1. Ladders, leaderboards, presetige
      2. Photos and social media
  4. ggCircuit PULSE:
    1. Halo API notes
    2. Skin Release Schedule
    3. Tournament system Updates
      1. Brackets can be for just Players  now, not just teams
      2. Admin can automatically add players
      3. Types:  PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Wii U
    4. Extra Life
    5. WANdemonium
  5. ggCircuit “Tip of the Week”
    1. Winter Season Details
  6. ggCircuit Center Spotlight – Escape Gaming
  7. Welcome to new ggCircuit centers
    1. FunFirst Gaming – Czech
  8. Ending – ggCircuit now over 70,000 gamers

Video Game LAN Center Video Including: How much space do I need and what is a good layout for my store?

Here is this week’s video for new and existing LAN centers.  The topics of discussion this week include:

  1. Introduction to the weekly Twitch-cast
  2. LAN Center start-up Question of the Week – “How much space do I need and what is a good layout for my store?”
  3. LAN Center growth Idea of the Week – “Why do players come to your center?”
  4. ggCircuit PULSE:
    1. Sneak peak of the skin (mockup)
      1. Logged out view
      2. Logged in view
    2. New Auto-Create online accounts for Centers, both batch process and auto-process for new users
    3. Bronze, Silver, Gold levels
    4. Weekly Tournaments
  5. ggCircuit “Tip of the Week”
  6. Welcome to new ggCircuit centers
    1. FastNet Lima, Peru
    2. Rails Billiards – Dubai, UAE
  7. ggCircuit Fall Season week 4 winners

Week 4
Total Entries: 273278
Razer Chroma Keyboard – The Gamerz Funk, Jormy (562 entries)
Razer Kraken Headset – GUF Werribee, LukeCan (415 entries)


How much money does it take to start a Video Game LAN Center or Cyber Cafe?

Hopefully this is the first of weekly show we plan on doing each week that will help me help you.  What I mean by that is the number of questions I am getting each week is really increasing and this is a way for me to spend an hour to hopefully help many of you at one time.

This week’s outline:

  1. Introduction to the weekly Twitch-cast
  2. LAN Center start-up “Question of the Week” – “How much money does it take to start a LAN center?”
  3. LAN Center growth “Idea of the Week” – “We had a slow month in September, now we are just waiting for things to pick back up.”
  4. ggCircuit PULSE:
    1. Gold Memberships / Prizes
    2. Smartlaunch ggCircuit skin
    3. CS GO
    4. NVIDIA events
    5. Halo 5 API announced
    6. Sneak peek of new website mock-up?
  5. ggCircuit “Tip of the Week” – ggCircuit Stages of a Center – 85 centers in the system
    1. Registration, Email Sent to Create Password – 72
    2. Download and install ggCircuit Client – 62
    3. Earned Coins – 62
    4. Start Slider – 23
    5. Set-up Kiosk – 4
    6. Facebook Tab – 4
    7. Website Widget – 5
    8. Add Local Prizes – 30
    9. Redeem Local Prizes (min just 1 per week) – 14
  6. Welcome to new ggCircuit centers
    1. Hajwala Games, Abu Dhabi, UAE
    2. Game City, Malmo Sweden
    3. The Grid, Chino Hills, CA
    4. Game On LAN, Buffalo, NY
    5. Section 9 Cyber Cafe, Fargo, ND
  7. ggCircuit Fall Season first half winners

Starting a Video Game LAN Center – How many and what type of systems should you offer?

A variety of systems is good, but only having a couple will make them not as attractive for group gaming or team events.

A variety of systems is good, but only having a couple will make them not as attractive for group gaming or team events.

I am going to try and post a few quick blogs each week answering some of the repeated questions that I get from potential new LAN center owners.  I really try to not be rude, but I am sometimes blunt when giving advice to people that I can tell are not anywhere close to being ready to open a store.  However answering the same questions many times over-and-over becomes a bit tiring.

Here are the things I have observed over the years at our stores and watching other centers open-and-close around the world.   I attribute these stores closing to poor decisions in many areas, but one of the biggest mistakes is choosing the wrong number of systems and wrong set-up around those systems.

Recently I was contacted by someone wanting to open a store with 6 PC, 6 Xbox and 6 Playstation systems.  This is very wrong on many different levels:

– Any kind of event you want to run usually consists of two teams playing each other.  Standard teams for PC games are usually 5 players.  Standard teams for most console games are 4 players.
– LAN Centers are like movie theaters, we do 90% of our business on the weekend.  You have to be able to hold enough paying customers on the weekend to pay your expenses for the month.  That means if your expenses are $10k per month you need to make $2500 each weekend, or $1k on Friday, $1k on Saturday and $500 on Sunday.  Can you make $1k on a Friday with only 20 systems in your store?  Most of us charge around $20-$25 for a day pass.  20 customers paying $20 each for a day pass fills up a store with 20 systems and is only $400 in revenue.
– First time players usually come in groups and want to play the same thing.  If you have 4 Xbox One stations and there is a couple guys playing what happens when 4 friends walk in and want to play Call of Duty together on the Xbox One?  They probably leave and maybe will not come back because they know your place is too small.
– Many games are the same on different systems, you don’t want to buy 2-3 full game libraries for all of the systems.  In the past at our stores we focus on the Xbox for console games and have a small amount of Playstation systems for their exclusive titles only.  Now we are looking at doing mostly Playstation 4 at a new location because Call of Duty eSports will be on PS4 in 2016.

Number of Systems Guidelines
Here are the guidelines I share when someone asks me for my advice on the type and number of systems:
– No matter how big your city/town is, you need to try to start with at least 40 stations.  That way on busy weekends you can break that $1k/day goal in sales
– If you cannot purchase at least 16 of the same console (Xbox or PS4) then just pick one of them and only get a couple of the other for exclusive games.
– Set-up systems in multiples of team sizes for events.  That means 20, 30 or 40 PCs (4 teams, 6 teams or 8 teams of 5 players each).  For consoles shoot for 16, 24 or 32 systems (same number of teams, just 4 players each team)

Equipment Specs and Space
– At our stores we shoot for 36 inches of counter space per player.  That is 4 players per twelve feet.
– Purchase 24″ monitors with built-in sound for ALL stations.  This means PC and console.  No, no, no, no you do not need 200 inch screens for console players.  They are not coming to your store to play on a BIG screen, they are coming to play as close as they can to their friend’s screen.  If every station in the store has the same monitors then moving things around for events is much easier.  Also it makes it easy to have 1-2 spares available (we use the same monitors at our admin stations as well.  *****(Exception)**** The exception for the screens is the Wii U.  We usually have 2-4 stations for Wii U that are on larger screens like 55″ or so and couches.  We also sometimes put a couple of the other consoles on those for unique single player games and for streaming.
– Mount the systems above the players on a shelf, this saves a lot of counter space and floor space.

Here is a mock-up of our Terre Haute store drawing showing how we fit so many stations into 4000 square feet.  We sometimes have 100-125 gamers at our building for special events.

2303 Building Drawing 1-14-2013-page-001

eBash’s 4000 square foot Terre Haute location.

One thing to keep in mind is that I do not recall ever hearing a LAN center say that they wish their store wasn’t so big.  They ALWAYS wish they had more space or more systems.  When you cannot hold enough people on the weekend and you watch those $20 bills walk right back out the door you will find out the hard way.

That being said my biggest advice is to not open a center if you cannot build it big enough to start.   It is false to think that you can add more systems later as it grows.  It will never “grow” if it doesn’t have room to grow.  You will just throw away your money.  If you want to be in this business do it right from the beginning.  Don’t just “test” the market out by starting small.  It will never work.