The Rise and Future of eSports

The Rise and Future of eSports session gave WSBS attendees detailed information on the rise of

Twitch.tv and future areas of growth for eSports through a warm conversation between Jeff Eisenband

and Tucker Roberts.

The Guys:

Jeff Eisenband is the senior editor of ThePostGame, where he documents sports through writing, video,

and podcasting. Eisenband also serves as a host on the NBA Twitch channel. He graduated from

Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications in 2015.

Tucker Roberts is the President of the Philadelphia Fusion of the Overwatch League, where he leads the

day-to-day management of the team. Prior to his time with Fusion, Roberts worked in the eSports space

with industry leaders Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts. He graduated from The Wharton School at

the University of Pennsylvania in 2013.

The Rise of Twitch:

The first topic of discussion between Eisenband and Roberts was about the rise of eSports. When talking

about its sudden mainstream attention, both agreed that one of the biggest reasons for eSports’s rise is due

to the wild success of Twitch.tv. A streaming service that began in 2011, Twitch marketed itself as a

television streaming service. However, just a year after their launch, Twitch realized nearly all of their

business revolved around video game streaming. Roberts and Eisenband explained that this realization

made Twitch rebrand themselves as more than a TV streaming service, but a gaming streaming service as

well. This marketing repositioning brought more gamers into the Twitch community and exponentially

increased their viewership. Roberts explained that this move eventually led Amazon to purchase Twitch

for 1 billion dollars. Twitch is now the largest gaming streaming service in the world.

According to Eisenband, he believes Twitch, and eSports as a whole, is so popular due to its ability to

connect the streamer with the viewer. On Twitch, there are three main ways the viewer can connect with

the streamer: the video display, the chatroom, and donations. First, most streamers will display a video of

themselves while they play a video game. Eisenband and Roberts note that this small detail creates so

much value: when a viewer can see a streamer through a webcam, it feels as if the viewer is hanging out

with the streamer. Unlike other sports where you have to pay thousands of dollars for close seats, on

Twitch you see your favorite eSports athlete up-close for free. Second, there is a chatroom for all Twitch

streams. Eisenband explained that viewers can talk to each other and even communicate with the streamer

through the chatroom. Streamers will often read the chat feed and respond to questions and comments in

real-time. This feature adds another outlet of communication between viewers and streamers and creates a

connected community of viewers. Lastly, viewers have the option to donate money to streamers. When a

viewer donates money, the streamer gets a notification that pops up on their video, informing everyone

who is watching as well as the streamer that a viewer donated money. Roberts also noted that streamers

will often acknowledge the person who donated money and thank them for the donation. Roberts and

Eisenband believe donations are so powerful because they are an easy and relatively cheap way to get

noticed by your favorite streamer. Roberts and Eisenband compared it to the feeling of having your

favorite basketball or football player say your name and thank you for being a fan, for just five dollars.

Obviously almost every fan would take advantage of that offer, explaining why so many viewers eagerly

donate money to streamers. Altogether, the video feed, chatting feature, and donations, all contribute to

creating a close and interactive relationship between the viewer and eSports athlete that more and more

people want to experience. It is a connection unlike any other sports’ fan-athlete relationship and is the

reason eSports has become so popular.

The Future of eSports:

With such a close and connected community, Eisenband and Roberts predict a bright future for streaming

and eSports. The two talked about one possible area of growth for eSports: team-based competitions. As

president of an Overwatch eSports team, Roberts explained how team competitions are becoming a bigger

part of eSports. He explained that if eSports can get entire nationwide leagues setup for specific video

games (i.e. Overwatch), then viewers can not only follow specific athletes, they can follow an eSports

team like they follow an NFL or NBA team. By creating fans of teams rather than athletes, eSports can

expand their viewership and create longer-lasting viewers. For example, when their favorite athlete stops

playing, if viewers are following a team, they will continue to follow eSports even after their favorite

player retires.

Eisenband and Roberts also discussed another possible direction for the future of eSports: partnering with

other sports leagues. The two made a very interesting argument that the NFL and NBA should purchase

Madden and NBA 2k, respectively. After purchasing the video games, Roberts suggested that the NFL

and NBA should market the games for free. He explains that one of the biggest shortcomings of eSports is

its high barrier of entry. He noted that many young kids are either intimidated by older players’ high skill

level or by the expensive price of the games and consoles. By making these games free, it lowers the

barrier of entry and dramatically increases the number of people playing video games and competing in

eSports. Roberts compares it to the wildly successful video game: Fortnite. By being free, Fortnite attracts

millions of consumers and as a result, has become the most popular game in the world. Fortnite still has

in-game purchases, but the purchases do not give a player an advantage, allowing Fortnite to make money

but still maintain the even playing field among all competitors. By buying Madden and NBA 2k and still

having in-game purchases, the NFL and NBA can follow in Fortnite’s footsteps. As a result, Roberts

believes the leagues will make great profits and also make Madden and NBA 2k astronomically more

popular, creating more NFL and NBA fans while also expanding the popularity and talent of eSports.

The Wrap:

After Eisenband and Roberts hour-long conversation, WSBS attendees were left with a detailed

understanding of eSports’ rise as well as its possible future. The two speakers informed the audience on

the rise of Twitch and its unique way to foster a close relationship between the streamer and the viewer,

discussed the future of team-based competitions in eSports, and left the audience with an industry-

breaking idea that the NFL and NBA should buy Madden and NBA 2k and sell it for free.

Trevor Mele

USBC Journal Writer

Class of 2022