Twitchcon 2017 Fan Engagement
Today’s write up will focus less on the esports side of Twitchcon (although there were some highlights!) and more on the incredible job the event does in serving fans. For those who are unaware or haven’t been to Twitchcon, it is a celebration of all things Twitch and streaming. From content creators, streamer’s communities, IRL/vlogging and other gaming related things, Twitchcon was a place for fans to meet and hang out with other likeminded people.
When I first arrived, I got a bite to eat and chatted with a few people at the table I was sitting at. They had flown from all over the country (Washington, Florida, and New York) to attend the event together. They had met in the chat of one of their favorite streamers, got an Airbnb together and planned to hangout all weekend long. Awesome to hear about friendships forming through the platform and in the chat of a streamer.
Compared to last year, this edition of Twitchcon provided a lot more entertainment on the convention center floor. When I first entered the convention center, I spent time watching a Hearthstone match from the Budlight Bar. The set up allowed for optimal viewing from my perspective, fans sitting down by the stage but also for passerbys heading to a different part of the floor.
I checked out some cool World of Warcraft fan art and saw a massive piece that was being done by four different artists throughout the course of the weekend.
I walked past the streamer meet-n-greet area and there were massive lines of people waiting to get an autograph and picture with Twitch influencers. I happened to be there when summit1g was signing which was reason for some of the craziness.
Just behind the streamer zone were old school arcade games, air hockey and pinball machines. I spent a while there, schooling some coworkers on an arcade basketball machine before heading over to watch the PUBG tournament.
Twitchcon is a prime example of fanaticism within the gaming and esports world. Fan engagement and community building are often overlooked in the world of traditional sports when in reality these best practices from streaming/gaming/esports should be flowing the other way. For those who still ask “people watch other people play video games on the internet?”, you’ll understand why after you attend Twitchcon 2018. It’s not as crazy as it seems.
The NCAA: An Unlikely Companion to Esports
Whether we like it or not, the NCAA is coming. In an op-ed for ESPN, Catalyst Sports’ very own Bryce Blum recently commented on the NCAA’s engagement with esports. While there has been a huge amount of investments made into professional esports by professional sports teams and private investors, collegiate esports have flown under the radar–until now. In late August, the NCAA submitted a request for proposal (RFP) to attain esports industry experts as consultants in order to develop a plan of action for intercollegiate competition, citing efforts to “engage a younger, more diverse group of fans that will provide a connection and loyalty to higher education and collegiate sports.” Of all the controversies surrounding esports to date, this has produced the most backlash amongst industry insiders.
Despite the universal condemnation of the NCAA’s recent involvement with collegiate esports, the athletic association will continue to push its way into the scene. The esports industry has become too big to ignore: schools do not have to invest huge amounts of resources into the development of an esports team, which is one reason why nearly 50 colleges and universities already offer a form of esports scholarship.
The NCAA’s tarnished reputation has undoubtedly caused widespread concern amongst those within the esports industry. The association could vastly impede esports’ growth and development, and much progress has been made since the inception of collegiate esports. Blum explains that collegiate programs are beginning to create entire curricula around esports that educate scholarship recipients on the esports industry, allowing them to develop skills necessary to join the esports workforce upon graduation. Beyond collegiate programs, a governing body, the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) has been organically developed. NACE hosts most collegiate varsity programs, and actively involves students in its processes.
Certainly, many strides have been made in collegiate esports. However, compared to the pros, the scene remains largely underdeveloped. If the goal is for national competitions in which each school has a team representing each game, there is a long way to go. In reality, many of the top-tier institutions have not yet incorporated esports into their programs. That’s where the NCAA comes in. Blum has adopted a (cautiously) optimistic attitude towards the NCAA due to its enormous reach as well as its approach to esports to this point. The NCAA must recognize the difference between traditional sports and esports. For example, one major outlier between esports and traditional sports is the common incorporation of cash prizes into esports tournaments, as well as streaming revenue received by gamers.
Although we’d rather see more involvement from the esports industry, the fact that the NCAA has acquired the resources needed to learn about a new space provides hope that it can adapt and push collegiate esports in the right direction.
New player-focused esports conference, GG Expo, looks to differentiate itself
GG Expo will be the “first player-focused conference” and will be held in Seattle over Memorial Day weekend in 2018.
GG Expo will focus on major esports titles and categories like MOBA, FPS, sports, fighting, and card games. In addition, there will be strategy sessions, panels, contests, and live competitions throughout the expo. Players will also compete to be the best “all-around” esports triathlete.
GG Expo is entering an increasingly crowded gaming and esports calendar with multi-esports events, conferences, and conventions almost every weekend of the year. For the Memorial day weekend slot, GG Expo will be competing with Phoenix ComicCon, MomoCon in Atlanta, and MegaCon in Orlando (not to mention the more established conventions like E3, TwitchCon, and VidCon throughout the rest of the year).
Despite the challenging timing and landscape, I do believe GG Expo is targeting a current white space in the convention calendar that could resonate with fans. Many of the current conventions look to offer the most diverse and expansive experiences so attendees can experience a little bit of everything. GG Expo seems to be very focused on players and helping them improve. GG Expo will be slightly similar to Evo, the largest fighting game tournament that allows anyone to join in the competition, but will instead focus on a multitude of gaming genres and not just fighting games. It is unclear how large the competitions aspect of GG Expo will be but the general theme seems to be to create a very engaging and beneficial event for players.
The only aspect I am not sold on is players competing to be the best “all-around” esports triathlete. While this title may sound appealing, professional players are usually only focused on 1 specific game on 1 specific platform and the novelty of being one of the best in several games just isn’t as valued in the community. Regardless, I am excited to see GG Expo grow and deeply engage players over the 3 day convention.