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Twitch’s ESports Evangelist To Brands: “It’s Not Simply: Buy ESports. Check.”

Twitch’s eSports evangelist, Andy Swanson, sat down with Ayzenberg’s Matt West to discuss how Twitch is working with developers and brands to explore opportunities in eSports.

“We are starting to see this trend of eSports for everyone,” West noted as games like Rocket League, a pick-up-and-play family game and Vainglory, a mobile multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) have lately emphasized eSports.

“I think the important thing is going to be treating the higher levels—the upper echelon—as a true eSport, making sure that you’re not going too casual,” said Swanson when asked what the current challenges were with developers and publishers getting involved in eSports. “When [professional players] get to this level, they are doing this for a living, in most cases. That’s what we want to do—create a sustainable place where each of these games has an opportunity to create their own eSport and have it be sustainable for the long tail future.”

“You also have to have an audience. You also have to have consumers. You also have to have people that will play the game and be aspirational about ‘I want to be able to do that,'” Swanson went on to say.

“With a professional league, you have to have a premium production to go behind it and with a premium production, you have a premium price tag. Sponsors inevitably end up being part of the conversation,” said West, highlighting Amazon Appstore’s involvement with Vainglory. But what other brands are sponsoring?

“Interestingly enough, en route with Rocket League, we actually got, the very first, I believe, of branding dollars from Exxon Mobil that Twitch has ever seen,” said Swanson. “They see it as a natural brand association.”

Swanson went on to say that other non-endemic brands have expressed interest in the space, like tire manufacturers and quick-serve restaurants, alongside more obvious sponsors like peripheral companies.

“We’re just opening Pandora’s box in terms of all the opportunities that are coming out,” said Swanson, but cautioned that for non-endemic brands, there is a lot of education and alignment which must happen in terms of understanding what games, viewers, demographics, content and timing fit most with the brand.”It’s not simply: buy eSports. Check.”

Swanson and West also touched on the upcoming broadcast of the Street Fighter IV Championship at EVO on ESPN 2 and what this kind of mainstream exposure means for the eSports community.

“We know that by going on to linear television that you’re exposing this tour to an audience that generally wouldn’t have watched it or ever seen it before,” said Swanson. “We really view this as a validation of what we’ve been doing these past years.”