With eSports moving out of a few scattered basements and dorm rooms to become a growing sports industry, a multitude of companies and startups are moving to invest in this area. One such company is eSports Heroes. To learn more about this company and its place in the developing eSports ecosystem, I was able to interview eSports Heroes’ co-founder James Heldridge.
Nicholas Yanes: What is eSports Hero?
James Heldridge: eSports Hero is a skilled gaming platform where gamers compete for money in head to head microtournaments. Our platform also lets users crowdfund their money matches in real time through donations and features a spectator mode with twitch stream integration.
Yanes: What was the inspiration to create eSports Hero?
Heldridge: We want to create the day job infrastructure if you will for gamers to either earn supplementary income, or launch a vibrant career as a professional. Not only do we facilitate money matches in a safe, compliant way, our website also serves as a recruitment platform for some of the top global esports franchises.
Yanes: When first developing eSports Heroes as a business, what challenges did you encounter that other startups don’t have to deal with?
Heldridge: We struggled with understanding the skilled gaming laws which vary from state to state and building out our platform in a way that will future proof us as the landscape of esports law continues through its formative years. We’ve partnered with an awesome payment solutions provider Dwolla which handles not only our payouts but also our KYC compliance work.
Yanes: eSports Heroes has a fantastic Match Feed system and allows for microdonations from fans. How did you develop these two systems? Were there any unique challenges that you encountered along the way?
Heldridge: We developed these features because we want to avoid the Zero Sum Gain problem that affects poker sites and other money match services where one user wins and one user loses and the value you are providing stops there. Our main KPI that we are focused on is retention and in order to retain users we need to stop them from becoming discouraged if they lose their money. We needed to find a way for users to play money matches but not lose their money. This may seem paradoxical but this is where the magic of twitch and social media come in. Gamers are able to leverage their brand / following whether that be through youtube, twitch, or even their parents. Our users can subsidize the matches they play on eSports Hero through microdonations or weekly credit stipends. On top of that, gamers can stream this matches and broadcast them out to the world to help them grow their presence. People like watching games when there is money at stake.
The anonymous match feed system was designed from the ground up so that there will never be a shortage of matches and so that people can’t snipe certain players. When you join a match on esports hero you don’t know who you are playing against until you actually commit your credits into escrow. We let natural market forces and risk tolerance determine our matchmaking.
Yanes: Do you see casual games becoming more common in eSports?
Heldridge: eSports are inherently highly competitive, however, the games that really succeed share two characteristics. They have to be accessible to the masses of casual gamers, and they have to be good spectator sports. The biggest innovation in esports of recent in my mind is Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. This is a new turn based digital card game that has created a new genre of esports out of nowhere. This game isn’t an FPS or RTS and it has attracted a massive diverse player base of both males and females.
Yanes: Of all the games that are popular in eSports, what is your favorite?
Heldridge: My favorite game is CS:GO. I love watching it. I love playing it. I love my stat trak knife. It is a timeless masterpiece that I hope stays relevant for years to come.
Yanes: There are already a few other companies trying to get into eSports. How do you think eSports Heroes stands out compared to these other startups?
Heldridge: This industry is young and needs more bright entrepreneurs to help it develop. In my mind there is plenty of room in here for everyone and we are focused on collaborating with as many organizations as we can. With that said, we’ve partnered with pro gaming teams, our amazing payment solutions company Dwolla, we host weekly eSports events in NYC, and have a live platform with a rapidly growing community.
Yanes: There are already industry discussions of ESPN, Fox Sports, and other large sports companies getting involved in eSports. How do you plan on competing against these giants?
Heldridge: We have no intention of competing with them but instead coexisting with them and working with them. These networks are focused on eSports coverage and bringing events to the masses whereas we are focused on money matches and helping to jump start the careers of aspiring pros.
Yanes: The idea of women competing in MMA was largely legitimized by Ronda Rousey. What do you think eSports competitors will have to do to get mainstream acceptance?
Heldridge: eSports players need to get on a consistent streaming schedule and make their personality and charisma shine through at all times. eSports needs more plot lines and stories. It’s difficult to feel emotionally connected or have empathy to an anonymous person with a headset on sitting at a computer but if players can convey their back story, how they got to where they are, what is on the line for them, what their dreams and aspirations are the people will rally behind them and the sky is the limit.
Yanes: Finally, what are your long term hopes and goals for eSports Heroes?
Heldridge: We want to create generations of Heroes that will continue to amaze the world with their talent and for them to be compensated for their hard skills. We will do everything in our power to help the esports industry grow and become strong and vibrant.