If you’re a pro Counter-Strike player, it can really stink when two major events happen on the same weekend. A new e-sports alliance called ESGN is hoping to put a stop to things like that.
The problem is that the regional organizations that run competitive gaming don’t often talk to one another. This can make for a disjointed experience for fans that are trying to keep up with everything happening with their favorite game.
That’s where Clauf is planning to step in and offer some guidance. The Germany-based corporation is in the process of launching two new websites designed to help gaming fans better understand e-sports from a global perspective.
Clauf is a new company from Korean e-sports pioneer Jong Hwan Lee, who previously worked with OnGameNet in South Korea. Lee decided to leave Korea a few years ago and start Clauf with the purpose of helping e-sports reach a global audience.
“While e-sports has been developing quite well in Korea, it was never able to make the jump from minor to major mainstream content,” Clauf chief executive Jong Hwan Lee told GamesBeat. “It was also never able to reach outside the borders and become a truly global thing.”
Now, with headquarters in Berlin, Lee hopes to connect e-sports fans from Europe, Asia, and North/South America. That’s his plan for ESGN.
Fragmentation in e-sports
Competitive gaming has plenty of successful leagues. Major League Gaming is popular in the U.S. Gfinity is a big Call of Duty organization in Europe, and Korea has the Korean e-sports Association. Then you have the developers like Wargaming.net, Riot, and Valve that run the e-sports leagues for their own games.
The e-sports frontier is wild and untamed, and that makes it exciting in some ways but hard to follow in others.
“The big idea is that there needs to be an overarching organization that helps connect the dots and creates unity and rule sets — something like a federation — for the different e-sports leagues,” said Lee.
“It would be great if ESGN could get all of the big leagues to work together,” Counter-Strike: Global Offensive pro Christopher Alesund, player on team Ninjas in Pyjamas, told GamesBeat. “For example, if they could help plan events so they don’t collide with one another”
When Lee left Korea about 18 months ago, his new company immediately struck up talks with outfits like MLG — although MLG is not currently working with ESGN — and European gaming association ESL. Those conversations eventually led to the launch of ESGN.com and ESGNTV.com.
“With ESGN and ESGN TV, we aim to be one of the leading content providers in the e-sports landscape — providing a fresh approach to the profession and airing incredible content found nowhere else,” Lee said. “This is the first step in a truly massive global initiative that will bring e-sports to fans like never before.”
Communication between competitors
At this point, ESGN is an alliance with the goal of getting all the major leagues communicating with one another. That means a cohesive and logical event calendar and a unified ranking system that applies to every competitor despite where they are playing.
“While each organizer is successful in its own region, they are still hyper-local,” said Lee. “For example, people in America don’t really know what is happening with Chinese e-sports. We want to connect that. That led us to the event calendar and ranking system.”
The calendar will, of course, feature every event from ESGN’s partners, but it will also list events from independent associations. This is one of the biggest pushes ESGN is focusing on in this early stage of its development.
“We want to get the organizers to talk to each other more,” said Lee. “We’d love for them to avoid scheduling conflicts. Recently, we’ve had multiple events happening on the same weekend. That’s not good for anyone involved, and we want to help avoid that in the future.”
ESGN’s unified ranking system will also help connect differing leagues as fans quickly learn about talented teams from regions outside of their own.
This is something that many leagues really want.
“Working together will really enable us all to grow faster and to make professional gaming a true global sport, rivaling the biggest traditional sports out there,” ESL managing director Ralf Reichert said. “One company alone will certainly not be able to make it, so we as an industry have to cooperate and combine our efforts.”
“The eSports scene in China has developed massively during the last couple of years,” said Chen Jianshu, general manager of ESGN partner and Chinese gaming league GameFY. “ESGN and ESGN TV will help to further strengthen this development and share our content with a worldwide audience.”
Original programming on ESGN TV
“On the other hand, we have ESGN TV, which is the media wing of our efforts,” said Lee. “With ESGN TV, we want to product TV-quality content from a production standpoint.”
ESGN TV will still let the organizations handle the tournaments, but it wants to use high production values to create content that is supplementary and complimentary to the big events. These will include news shows and more.
In addition to airing the shows on its site, ESGN TV will also distribute its content on YouTube, Daily Motion, Twitch, and Azubu.tv. The company plans to launch its first shows in early 2014.
The FIFA of e-sports … but not yet
As for the dream of a federation of e-sports leagues or a “World Cup” of gaming, that’s not in the short-term plan for ESGN.
“We first want to strongly establish the alliance [that we already have],” said Lee. “We also want to expand with more organizers. We want all the partners to see this is beneficial to everyone. Once — at an unknown time in the future — that we’ve reached the point globally where the organization between leagues works well, then we believe that the idea of creating something like a World Cup will come out about naturally — the market will want it so much.”
“I would welcome ESGN becoming the FIFA of e-sports if they could do things right,” said Alesund. “If they could do things bigger and better than they are at the moment.”
For now, Lee wants to dedicate his efforts toward making ESGN a healthy business. The company plans on generating revenue through advertising. To make that model work, it will have to reach a certain audience size.
“If we’re able to create high-quality programming for a large enough audience, then all of the business models of traditional sports will work the same way with e-sports,” said Lee. “With any online content you have product placements, endorsements, licensing sales, and merchandising.”
Once ESGN can start capitalizing on those revenue streams, then it might start using its resources to attempt the gaming World Cup.
“I feel that [a World Cup] is something that would really help get e-sports to the next level,” said Alesund. “The ‘scene’ is getting more attention in the ‘normal’ media, but if we things to get more professional, then that’s something we need.”