Welcome to "Game On," The Fly's weekly recap of the stories powering up or beating down video game stocks. In this week's edition, The Fly held an exclusive interview with Jacob Kuhn, VP of Operations at Misfits Gaming in Berlin, Germany. Misfits Gaming is an esports organization with teams and competitors in several games, including Valve's "Counter Strike: Global Offensive," Riot Games' (TCEHY) "League of Legends," Blizzard's (ATVI) "Overwatch," and Nintendo's (NTDOY) "Super Smash Bros. Melee."
WHICH GAMES TO PICK: When asked about what factors go into which games/esports his organization chooses to focus on, Kuhn said that there are "a couple of different factors" Misfits Gaming looks at, most notably the infrastructure of the game as an esport. The Operations VP noted that Blizzard and Riot, for example, go "above and beyond" to make sure teams and leagues have collaborative relationships, adding that "they know how to plan out a season" and how to acquire sponsors to support the financial aspects of the league. "What makes a longstanding esport is more than just the popularity of the game,” Kuhn said. "The game needs to have legs."
HOW BIG CAN ESPORTS BE?: The Fly asked Kuhn whether he believes any single esport or esports as a whole can become as popular as one of the major traditional sports, to which he responded that he thinks esports "can be bigger than soccer." He noted that certain esports titles are "getting there" in terms of popularity in countries such as China and Korea, and that there are typically more difficult barriers to entry for traditional sports. "There is a level playing field when it comes to video games and esports," Kuhn said. "If you have a computer and an internet connection, you can compete and practice any game out there.” He added that online streaming platforms such as Twitch (AMZN) and YouTube (GOOG) provide easy, free access for viewers to watch and connect with the biggest people in esports. "Accessibility to talent and professionals and people who are in the limelight in those games is so high because of the free platforms that are available to the consumer," the VP said.
BROADCASTING: Continuing on the subject of broadcasting, Jacob Kuhn told The Fly that traditional broadcasting is "extremely important" for the growth of esports. “I think traditional broadcasting means you have media deals with leagues," Kuhn said. "In order for esport to be long-lasting, the organizations need to have a way to keep themselves funded.”
BATTLE ROYALE: When asked about whether Battle Royale games, such as Epic's "Fortnite," will have a major presence in esports, Kuhn said that the genre is "very promising" even though it's fairly new as a "really popular game." Kuhn noted the difficulties of broadcasting and hosting events for Battle Royale games, however, since they often involve nearly 100 players competing all at once, which makes it "hard to capture all the most exciting moments of the game." “It’s hard to imagine an arena having all these games consistently," he said. Epic's investors include Tencent, KKR (KKR), and Disney (DIS).