ESports are a large and growing part of the video game industry. College teams are forming to compete for scholarships, major companies are lining up to sponsor players and huge crowds are lining up to see gamers compete for big money. Last year, 27 million people watched the League of Legends season finals.
That's a lot of people expressing at least a passing interest in high-level competitive gaming, and Frisco-based company PVP Live wants to be their destination for scores, player info, stats and more. On a website they're officially launching today (pvplive.net) they collect news and data on today's biggest games and players then present it all in an easy-to-digest format. They say their analytics tools are deep enough that even professional players (and their managers/coaches) benefit from the amount and quality of the data they provide.
Other websites have tried (and are trying) to be go-to sources for eSports news. Even ESPN has aired video game tournaments in the past (much to the dismay of some of its employees), but PVP Live hopes to stand above the competition by diving deeper into data than others have in the past. They want to be able to tell fans not just who won, but how they won.
"PVP Live's aggregation of content is much broader (collecting all news, videos, etc.) as well as deeper and more thorough (events, players, statistics) than anything else in eSports," J. Casey Wehr, CEO of PVP Live told me via e-mail. "Further, the aggregation is not reliant on untrained volunteers, as technology and human capital have been specifically devoted to collecting eSports content. The content is then curated through an extensive combination of programmatic automation and individual hand-crafting, all of which is further audited by the data science department."
Just glancing at the numbers can be intimidating, even for someone who has experience playing games. But Wehr hopes you don't have to be a hardcore competitive gaming fan to get something out of PVP Live.
"Since the beta tests began in 2013 (centered on World of Warcraft and Hearthstone), PVP Live has always exclusively focused on engaging the entire audience of viewers, no matter what their background or playstyle is," Wehr says. "The presentation ... [is] deliberately designed to be both accessible to casual viewers and hardcore fans. We find this approach better rewards the passion of fans and maximizes the engagement of coming together as a global community, rather than segregating the audience into discrete units (X content for new users, Y content for the hardcore, etc.)."
The site's launch is coupled with the start of the Hearthstone Pro League (HPL), which is run by PVP Live and produced in collaboration with the video streaming service Twitch, Hearthstone developer Blizzard Entertainment and event technology company Production Resource Group (PRG).
Hearthstone, a digital card game set in the world of Warcraft, has been a big hit with people who stream video games online, which Wehr says helps make it a great choice for his company's first pro league.
"PVP Live bases its choices of live event titles on a number of factors," he said, "including developer support (financial, technological, and promotional), presentation viability (accessibility to spectators, organizers), audience engagement (Twitch viewership, community involvement), and the potential for true professional, competitive play (game balance, skill cap, statistics). These are also weighed against other factors, such as market saturation and life cycle of the game.
"Hearthstone satisfies all of these factors, particularly when it comes to Blizzard's full support of Hearthstone eSports programs like Hearthstone Pro League."
The HPL championships, when they happen later this year, will take place live at a location in North Texas. Wehr says that several venues in Frisco and the surrounding D-FW metroplex have already expressed interest.
PVP Live's Frisco office currently employs 21 people, including the crew that organizes and broadcasts the HPL show.
Later this year, PVP Live intends to launch a 24 hour eSports news network. The continuously-running stream will feature "scores, highlights, commentary, previews and features focused exclusively on eSports."
If they're successful, maybe there's a future in which you can ask your local sports bar to turn the nearest monitor to PVP Live instead of ESPN and not get weird looks. In the immediate future, though, we'll at least get to watch some good Hearthstone matches online.