When Kedreon Cole entered the world of gaming, he was a wide-eyed young boy, clicking away at a player control and enjoying a pastime he loved. But now, as a professional at nearly 40, the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for XR Sports, has grasped on to a much bigger picture.
“Kids aren’t just eating Cheetos and drinking Red Bull playing video games for 10 hours a day anymore,” Cole joked. Agreeably, the stakes are much higher, and utterly more attractive. With the DFW Metroplex (specifically Frisco) recognized as one of the eSports capitals of the nation, the virtual world of gaming has matured to levels unimaginable, and begs for one’s complete attention.
“Essentially eSports is just competitive video gaming,” Cole explained. “It’s not necessarily a new industry – it’s just about people playing games. It’s been around for 50 years or so.”
However in the last 50 years, the eSports model has exploded with growth, including the introduction of professional leagues, organized eSports programs for schools, scholarships for students, millions in venture capitalists investments, and lucrative career options for those who go pro.
In early 2018, the Dallas Mavericks tapped the trend by launching its official NBA 2K professional gaming team under the guise of Mavs Gaming. Shortly thereafter in September, the Mavericks opened its newly renovated state-of-the-art Mavs Gaming facility in Deep Ellum for training of draftees, gaming tournaments, watch parties, and more.
According to Mavs Gaming pro Ryan De Villon, there’s even talks of eSports becoming an Olympic sport.
“Esports is an upcoming industry. Five to ten years from now, it will definitely hold much more weight. There is talk about it becoming an Olympic sport, and other leagues like the NHL for instance, are starting a league. It is sure to create a domino effect.”
And in another fascinating twist, the virtual fantasy world of competitive eSports is arguably surpassing traditional physical sports on a much grander scale.
“In some ways, eSports has already surpassed traditional sports because you’re able to connect people seamlessly on a global level – and you can’t necessarily do that with a physical sport,” Cole claimed. “ESports is already unique in its nature in the way it engages its fans and enthusiasts. I could certainly make a case that eSports could already be considered more popular than traditional sports in some ways.”
And the fan engagement appears to be the key.
“Traditional athletes are limited to their interactions with fans until before or after the game,” Danny Ray Martin II, Founder of Geekletes said. “Within eSports, athletes are consistently engaging with fans while competing via mediums such as Twitch, YouTube and Facebook Gaming. For a younger audience, this is similar to speaking with your favorite superstar everyday.”
As the eSports models continue to develop, diversity and inclusion come in to play, indefinitely broadening the depth of the ever-evolving industry. The soon-to-be billion dollar mecca (by 2020), is actively on the hunt for female leadership.
“Females are underrepresented in the space,” Cole said. “There are clearly female gamers around the world, but there’s still work to be done to make sure that females are a big part of the future of gaming from all sides. “
With DFW at the helm of the eSports boom, the future remains bright with foreseeable developments in technology, virtual reality, infrastructure build-outs and even more eSports programming in high schools and colleges.
Professional gaming is undoubtedly a thing, and those with a knack for the “sport”, can rake in lucrative earnings and brand partnerships for sustainability.
“Nobody over 40…growing up the way I did saw professional video game playing being a profession,” internet personality and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk (“Gary Vee”) admitted on a recent podcast.
“All the moms told us to get off the [effin’] thing. Let me tell you how many of my friends at 17…should have just stayed playing video games – they’d be making a lot more money and being a lot happier today.”