Today ESPN.com launched a new esports vertical offering comprehensive coverage surrounding the world of competitive gaming. Although esports is not a new concept, it has grown in popularity and cultivated a passionate fan base. Front Row spoke to the key players of the launch to discuss the significance of ESPN’s long-term commitment to competitive gaming and coverage of esports.
What is the significance of ESPN.com committing to an esports vertical?
Editor-in-Chief, ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine, Chad Millman: This is a natural extension of the events we’ve delivered and all the places esports has popped up on our platforms, from SportsCenter highlights to an issue of ESPN The Magazine. There’s no discounting the size or passion of the audience, and what we’ll do is make the same commitment to reporting, news gathering and storytelling that we do anything else, from the NFL to the NBA to college football.
In the process of getting the esports vertical staffed and launched, what have you learned about the audience that you weren’t aware of before?
Dan Kaufman, Senior Deputy Editor, ESPN Insider and Fantasy: The esports space was new for me when I started working on the project last spring. So I don’t know that anything was a surprise as much as it was entirely new information. The first thing that clicked for me was understanding how close the landscape was to the traditional sports world we know so well.
Once you get past the games being played on a screen, you have leagues and teams and players, stats and standings, free agency – all of the elements that we are familiar with in other spaces. And along with that, you have a large, knowledgeable and passionate fan base that demands being taken seriously. And this is a base that knows ESPN. Many of them are fans of some traditional sports and they have grown up in an era where ESPN is ubiquitous. So for them, having ESPN cover esports is meaningful, but also carries tremendous expectations. They want us to approach this seriously and deliver a product that looks to them like what they see in other sports.
As a veteran writer and gamer, what in your opinion has been missing in esports coverage currently and what do you hope to accomplish on ESPN.com with the new esports vertical?
Darin Kwilinski, Editor: A phrase has been coined over the last few years: “We want to be the ESPN of esports.”
esports has been around for a while, but its five-year growth spurt has produced many sites covering different esports in different ways.
Good news coverage, features stories, video content and podcasts are scattered across multiple resource-starved sites. What’s been missing is one roof where it can all come together; a singular esports coverage destination for fans worldwide. No one will be the ESPN of esports except ESPN. With a little bit of esports panache, we will cover our burgeoning scene in full with the same authority and legitimacy that any other section tackles their niche.