Last month, Futures First Gaming (FFG) founders Stephen Sye, Malcolm Coley and Newdy Felton spent a week at the Esports Business Summit in Las Vegas, putting the Wilmington-based gaming and education company shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the biggest names in the industry.
“It really reinforced that everything we are doing is what we should be doing,” Sye told Technical.ly. “And that a lot of other organizations may not have been tuned into yet. It validated our our company and our work. What was really prevalent and came across was that this is the only industry that can intersect culture, fashion, hip hop education and technology. That’s why it has such a bright future.”
FFG’s focus on education and workforce development is one thing that is generally lagging across the industry. Currently, there is a lot of attention on gaming as a college sport, vehicle for scholarships and recruitment, but less on educating the younger kids who will become top esports athletes, some before they finish high school.
“The industry is still in its infancy, as tremendous as it is now,” Sye said.
As the esports industry grows over the next few years, the FFG team’s takeaways from EBS include a few specific areas to keep an eye on:
Global expansion of esports competition
Esports has always been highly international, and professional esports leagues are following that lead. The basketball esports league for NBA2K, for example, just signed a league out of Mexico, the second international team to join the US-based league.
“And now traditional sports leagues are now getting into Esports,” Sye said. “The potential that lies within the metaverse to be focused, not just on gaming, but also on health, ecommerce, all types of global experiences.”
Whether you love cryptocurrency or loathe it, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, especially in the evolving esports industry, where its used to conduct micro transactions within the games as well as for esports betting.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have also emerged as blockchain assets enabling gamers to take their personal gaming avatar into multiple games.
The number of esports entrepreneurs keeps growing, including individual gamers who create content and take control of their own spaces.
“[Streamer] Pokimane, for example, announced the launch of its new company, which is designed to support content creators and address gaps that they have in terms of training and how to work with brands and how to how to become partnered with larger corporations,” Sye said. “So things are flipping, in that the content producers are now starting to gain a lot more power in the industry than just the major hardware companies or league aggregators.”
Content, content, content
Though related to entrepreneurship, the impact of content creation in the broader gaming industry can’t be overstated.
“I would say if you did a word cloud, that would have been the word that stuck out the most throughout the comp conference is content,” said Sye. “And the production of content is really what is going to be most important in the industry. Anybody and everybody has the ability now with these right here to produce content.”
Mobile is not just for Candy Crush anymore. Gaming is becoming increasingly accessible through mobile devices in apps like Omlet Arcade, which not only allows gamers to play and compete, but to stream and record, too.
The mobile esports boom will allow for more and more people to get into the industry even without the expensive PC setups that have limited the accessibility of competitive gameplay in the past (FFG tournaments focus on console gaming for the same reason).
“Now anybody can become a streamer,” said Sye. “Omlet really makes streaming accessible. And it’s a social community all for mobile gaming, and it will allow more and more people to get into it.”
Access to esports and the gaming industry, at the end of the day, is FFG’s mission. The organization, which recently launched an esports club at Friere Charter School, is currently preparing for its biggest event of the year, Pandamonium 2021.