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IPL Manager Discusses the Future of eSports

/ Sep 20th, 2012 No Comments



The IPL is an eSports division of IGN Entertainment that has been gaining solid ground in this emerging segment of the gaming industry in recent months. We caught up with Robb “JediRobb” Chiarini from the IPLto discuss what the IPL is, where it’s headed and what trends he thinks are the future of eSports.

Carl Armstrong, Gaming Illustrated (GI): It’s Carl here with Gaming Illustrated. I am with…

Robb Chiarini, IGN Pro League (IPL): Robb, Jedirobb, Chiarini from IPL.

Carl Armstrong, Gaming Illustrated (GI): Oh, JediRobb you’re with IPL. Now tell me something: I’ve been wathcing eSports here for the past few years now, watching it grow for the most part. How long have you been involved with IPL? I know it’s been growing, but tell us a little about IPL and it’s growth for the past, say, couple years or so.

[adsense160itp]Robb Chiarini, IGN Pro League (IPL): Great. Thank you very much. So, IGN Pro League: We’re actually an IGN company. We’re a part of the division of IGN and the pro league is out here to create a competitive environment where players can actually have a living. There’s so many community events out there in the world, you know I’ve run a few myself, I work with a lot, and we’re trying to create a league where there are players that actually can do this full time, earn enough to form a living, each going to these various events that they can actually do this and promote this as a full time career.

Carl Armstrong, Gaming Illustrated (GI): Now, tell me something. The growth here for the past, I guess, year or so has probably been exponential where the point where it’s almost like I know it’s huge in Japan, they’ve got the TV stations and everything like that out here, but it almost seems like the dynamics like: Alright, the talent’s out there, but the money’s out here in terms of the actual services here. Tell me a little about that in terms of your relationship with the Japanese tournaments and how the U.S. is growing.

Robb Chiarini, IGN Pro League (IPL): Well it depends on, I guess, what games you’re speaking of.

Carl Armstrong, Gaming Illustrated (GI): For example: Starcraft II, League of Legends.

Robb Chiarini, IGN Pro League (IPL): So you’re talking about those very specific games where I would counter with a Call of Duty or a Halo game. That’s certainly not a Japanese team winning that, right? So it all depends on the game and the type and where it’s at and where their community has grown. League of Legends I think is going to be very hot here. I think we’re getting some great competitors here. Not really my forte; but I think that there’s just as much growth out there as there is in here. I think we’ve seen a huge insurgence of players and people recognizing that they can actually make a living in this.

Carl Armstrong, Gaming Illustrated (GI): Another thing that I always like to look at in terms of the growth is the streaming numbers. Obviously you guys are doing very well right now and I remember when reading a Forbes article, I believe it was last year, that was talking about the streaming numbers for an MLG event that was over in Ralley, North Carolina, and talking about how they had about 24 million views compared to the NFL draft which has been doing more streaming and they went ballistic over their 16 million views. At the same time, it’s such an underground world here but it’s so big. Do you think it’s going to get bigger down the road?

Robb Chiarini, IGN Pro League (IPL): Oh, absolutely. Awareness is the biggest thing. Accessibility and awareness. People have the ability now to catch streams all over the place. There’s streams every weekend. Think of E3. How many streams are coming out of this place at one time?

Carl Armstrong, Gaming Illustrated (GI): Tons of ’em.

Robb Chiarini, IGN Pro League (IPL): Yeah, and accessibility: so more and more people have the ability from everything from a smartphone or a tablet to a laptop, and high speed internet to be able to actually watch streaming video and audio. And awareness: people hearing about it. IGN is in, I think, a great position to push that message out to the casual masses with 70 million unique viewers a month coming to our site; And being able to take that and help convert that into a viewing audience and then turn that into a participating audience, whether they’re a spectator or whatever the case is, and then hopefully encourage them to compete competitively.

Carl Armstrong, Gaming Illustrated (GI): You see any big games that might be coming up here in the next year or so that might be giving a little bit of a buzz that might blow up next year?

Robb Chiarini, IGN Pro League (IPL): Uhh… I am not at liberty to say… No. I think that the games that I feel personally that are most competitive: You’ve got your MMO’s, RTS’s that seem to be out there at the moment. I think that shooters, fighters and sports games are probably the next set of games that we’ll really see go competitive. MLG’s doing that themselves, getting some fighters and titles in there. I think that’s where you’re going to see a lot. You’re going to see some diversity in shooters and perhaps sports games and fighting games. Fighting games, I think, being the single biggest. That’s personal opinion.

Carl Armstrong, Gaming Illustrated (GI): I come from a sports background dealing with commentators: big name guys that do NFL games and NBA games all the time. When I try to tell them about eSports and how commentating and everything is just growing so big, they have no clue what the heck I’m talking about. Tell me a little bit about comparing casting a video game compared to doing something in the NFL. What is it that makes it so darn appealing?

Robb Chiarini, IGN Pro League (IPL): It’s two-fold, because most sporting events have a lot of longevity as far as the length of the match. You’re talking about a three hour football game. It’s a different kind of casting environment. Also, the technology that they have on a TV broadcast that has been able to be brought to bear on that. Think about all the people, the hundreds of people on those teams that are doing the broadcast, that can do replays, that have the tech to do that stuff and make it really cool. We’re talking about people – homegrown guys coming out of their house doing streaming, working up to where we have a IPL/MLG type production where we’re talking about broadcasting. We’re still not quite there as far as technology, but I think it’s really appealing because people can just grab a PC, grab a game and start streaming it.

Carl Armstrong, Gaming Illustrated (GI): It almost seems like you have a kind of smarter base when it comes to your broadcasting, because it’s like they have to know how to do this stuff themselves whereas if you had Vin Scully: he just has to know the sport, get on a mic and then let him do his magic for a couple hours. It’s definitely a different kind of dynamic, though broadcaster, that you guys are kind of developing here.

Robb Chiarini, IGN Pro League (IPL): Also, I think it’s the connection to the community that has made it so popular. Heck, I don’t even know many sportscasters, to be fair. I really don’t follow any. John Madden. Whatever. But, you know, those guys aren’t socialized like we are. They aren’t involved in the community. I don’t even know how many are out there playing the sport actively while they are broadcasting and doing those things. It’s a big difference. It really comes from a passion. You see a lot of the greatest people around here are coming from a passion from the community more so than an opportunity for them to be successful. I think everybody’s shooting for, ‘I want to do it,’ first and then they’re successful and they make it more so.

Carl Armstrong, Gaming Illustrated (GI): Gotcha. And I noticed that you guys are going a DOA tournament here I believe today, the final day.

Robb Chiarini, IGN Pro League (IPL): Yes. Dead or Alive 5. Yeah, we’ve been doing it all week.

Carl Armstrong, Gaming Illustrated (GI): Gotcha. Alright man, well thanks again for your time. I really appreciate it.

Thanks goes out to Robb for making time with this interview and also to Miranda L. Visser for transcribing the audio interview.

Carl Armstrong

Carl Armstrong

Associate Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Carl Armstrong has been with GI for over four years, serving as a review writer, on-site reporter and Associate Editor. He's worked as an award winning radio show producer for The Mighty 1090 sports station, Xtrasports 1360 and was the executive technical director for the San Diego Chargers radio network from 2008-2012.

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