Disruptive Technologies For eSports: 3D Printing

DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES FOR ESPORTS:  3D PRINTING

3D Printer (Photo: KaboomPics)

3D Printer (Photo: KaboomPics)

TNL Industry Guest Post 007: Over the past 13 years, Anton Ferraro has helped develop numerous esports focused properties including tournament broadcasts, television programs, streaming platforms, branded campaigns, digital products & live event activations.

Anton began his career in 2004 by organizing and playing at local Halo events and shortly thereafter joined Major League Gaming to assist their media efforts. After 8 years with the company Anton transitioned to the West Coast and helped build the Azubu streaming platform as Director of Content.

Anton currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and pug. Too much of his time is spent playing Overwatch. You can view his work at www.AntonFerraro.com


TNL Take:  In the last post I explored the potential impact of the Ethereum Blockchain across a few different verticals and will have a follow up post shortly.  Today we’ll examine opportunities 3D printing can provide within eSports.

 

A CASE STUDY IN STREAMING

In the late 00’s a group of entrepreneurs saw that the cost of delivering a video stream over a network was falling exponentially. At the same time, the proliferation of high speed internet and Moore's Law were allowing an increasing number of hobbyists to engage in the activity.

After a few years of hard work, a few pivots and the ever-needed bit of luck, Twitch sold to Amazon for ~$1B and currently sits as one of the top websites in the world.

3D printing is an industry which mirrors that of streaming.

The technology for printing is becoming exponentially better while the cost to participate is falling. This is allowing an increasing amount of hobbyists to create increasingly more impressive offerings. Digital hubs like MyMiniFactory and support networks like Patreon are allowing some of these hobbyists to generate revenue.

The decentralized nature of the activity will provide opportunities for content creators while challenging IP owners.

The situation parallels the early days of YouTube when video creators utilized IP’s belonging to publishers to create their own content. Heavy handed reproaches by the IP owners were not effective for a multitude of reasons and it took years for the platforms, creators, and IP owners to find a balance all three parties could accept.

Ultimately the IP owners aka Game Publishers realized that free content was an ongoing advertising campaign they could use to greatly increase revenue [Edit: Read this line again and again]

Publishers shifted their product development cycles and created DLC (Downloadable Content) and the GAAS (Games As A Service) business model started padding their bottom lines.

Early movers like TSM and OpTic Gaming built highly engaged followings off the video niche and are still reaping the rewards of that effort. While I expect it will take a few years for the 3D printing vertical to mature, as always early movers may score similar gains.

 

THE IMPLICATIONS OF 3D PRINTING

3D printing will impact eSports by improving the product design and distribution aspects of merchandising. The current merchandising model imposes limits on experimentation and requires long turn around periods for heavily customized gear.

eSports owners are frequently limited by the options offered by their suppliers which has caused a glut of similar items such as the same t-shirts, hats, keychains, hats, and posters.

 

PRODUCT DESIGN

Adding a 3D printing capabilities will allow eSports teams to capitalize on time sensitive tentpole events. Having a subject matter expert designing the gear in house will both shorten the design cycle and increase the authenticity of the item:

  • Custom bobble heads for new roster additions
  • Commemorative medals based on tournament victories
  • Supporting merchandise for viral content

The latest generation of 3D printers are also capable of printing complex electronic components. Once this tech hits the prosumer level it will be possible to create merchandise that can interface with digital libraries to provide additional value to the customer. [Edit: Hi Amazon and the NFL]

http://tnl.media/esportsnews/2017/8/22/ea-madden-nfl-amazon-mobile

http://tnl.media/esportsnews/2017/8/22/ea-madden-nfl-amazon-mobile

DISTRIBUTION

The current model is a pipeline of injection mold design, mass production, and distribution via international shipping.

Injection molds are expensive to produce.

Only after selling a specified amount of merchandise does the designer hit a break even point that pays for the injection mold.

The 3D printing model does not require injection molds and eliminates the risks associated with minimum product and the need to accurately forecast demand. This makes it economically viable to profit from small batches of items and scale up if and when a greater demand materializes.

3D printing is already seeing factories and prosumer level printers offering their services in many areas around the globe. This moves the responsibility of distribution costs and logistics away from designers and allows them to focus on the product.

 

CHALLENGES

Would You? (Photo: Someone On The Internet)

Would You? (Photo: Someone On The Internet)

As with any disruptive technology there are legal and hardware hurdles that need need to be overcome:

  • 3D printing is the perfect storm of patent, IP and privacy law
  • Printers need to get faster & cheaper
  • The technology needs to be more consumer friendly

 

Despite these challenges I believe the momentum of the 3D printing industry will force the existing status-quo to be transformed as it was with eSports video and live streaming.

eSports Week In Review | The Most Active VC'S, The Reality of The NFL's Entrance, Disruptive Technologies: Ethereum

ESPORTS WEEK IN REVIEW | THE MOST ACTIVE VC'S, THE REALITY OF THE NFL'S ENTRANCE, DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES: ETHEREUM

The Next Level Official Content Partner of XLIVE eSports Summit (Photo: XLIVE)

The Next Level Official Content Partner of XLIVE eSports Summit (Photo: XLIVE)

HBO's Silicon Valley (Photo: YouTube)

HBO's Silicon Valley (Photo: YouTube)

The List: The Most Active VC's In eSports (Photo: Bloomberg)

The List: The Most Active VC's In eSports (Photo: Bloomberg)

XLIVE eSports Summit: Connecting Brands With Fans Panel (Photo: ULT/ XLIVE)

XLIVE eSports Summit: Connecting Brands With Fans Panel (Photo: ULT/ XLIVE)

EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports (Graphic: The Next Level)

EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports (Graphic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 057: EA Madden NFL Club Series Growth (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 057: EA Madden NFL Club Series Growth (Infographic: The Next Level)

 

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

Disruptive Technologies for eSports: Ethereum

DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES FOR ESPORTS: ETHEREUM

HBO's Silicon Valley (Photo: YouTube)

HBO's Silicon Valley (Photo: YouTube)

TNL Industry Guest Post 005: Over the past 13 years, Anton Ferraro has helped develop numerous esports focused properties including tournament broadcasts, television programs, streaming platforms, branded campaigns, digital products & live event activations.

Anton began his career in 2004 by organizing and playing at local Halo events and shortly thereafter joined Major League Gaming to assist their media efforts. After 8 years with the company Anton transitioned to the West Coast and helped build the Azubu streaming platform as Director of Content.

Anton currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and pug. Too much of his time is spent playing Overwatch. You can view his work at www.AntonFerraro.com


TNL Take:  The Ethereum blockchain is an incredibly complex idea that has gained increasing momentum in the past few months. While I am an avid fan of the tech, I will be the first to admit that my understanding of it is basic at best, so I encourage you to explore the below ideas on your own.

For fans of HBO’s Silicon Valley, Ethereum is apparently the focus of this season’s story arc.

 

WHAT IS THE BLOCKCHAIN?

The Blockchain (Photo: BlockGeeks)

The Blockchain (Photo: BlockGeeks)

The blockchain is a concept first pioneered by BitCoin. The Bitcoin Blockchain is a ledger of all existing BitCoin transactions. Think of it as a giant database for every use of BitCoin ever. It uses decentralized technology to verify every transaction to prevent fraud and a failure of the system by compromising any single node.

In the same way that Torrents utilize multiple computers to distribute content, BitCoin uses the blockchain to verify all data in the network. Users on the system have digital wallets in which they can store digital currency.

If you compare BitCoin to something like the US Dollar a clear difference emerges. Every year more and more dollars are printed resulting in inflation. Every year the dollar buys less than it did the year before. BitCoin differs from most traditional currency by installing a cap on the total number of BitCoins that can be in circulation. This has generally caused the value of BitCoin to increase.

Warning: BitCoin prices have fluctuated wildly over the past several years. Do not invest without doing due diligence into the size of these shifts and their causes.

BitCoin was the first mover in the space but it’s current limitations spawned several competitors that seek to fill the holes BitCoin does not. Enter Ethereum.

5 Year Bitcoin Growth (Left) and the S&P500 (Right). Huge Potential for Growth with the Volatility Risk (Photo: Coindesk and Yahoo Finance)

5 Year Bitcoin Growth (Left) and the S&P500 (Right). Huge Potential for Growth with the Volatility Risk (Photo: Coindesk and Yahoo Finance)

Ethereum took the Blockchain idea and expanded it to a true platform. It provides multiple services already and many more are being built out by developers.

 

SMART CONTRACTS

Let’s look at the traditional functionality of an eSports contract. Two parties agree to an exchange of services which will result in an exchange of currency. Here are some eSports related examples:

  • I will stream for 20 hours in exchange for currency.

  • I will compete at a tournament for which I will be compensated a certain amount of money for my performance.

  • I will engage in sponsor content for which I will be paid a certain amount.

Once the service is rendered one of the parties is then obligated to pay the agreed upon amount. However as we know there have been many cases where this party renegotiates for an alternative rate or absconds with the payment altogether. The recourse for the wronged party is to seek legal action which is time consuming, difficult, expensive, and frequently ineffective.

It gets even more complicated if the two parties are in different international jurisdictions.

You would not have this problem on the Ethereum Blockchain. Via it’s smart contract system, once both parties agree to the contract, the contract will automatically execute. Parties agree to terms, designate mutually agreed upon “watchers” for the contract (or utilize API hooks to monitor the desired metrics) to execute the contract.

In essence it acts as a computerized escrow account over which neither party has full control over.

 

ORGANIZATIONAL FUNCTIONALITY

eSports Startup Firstblood (Photo: Firstblood)

eSports Startup Firstblood (Photo: Firstblood)

The Ethereum blockchain allows the creation of custom tokens. These tokens can be used to weigh votes, signify membership, and interface with contracts.

In eSports this can be utilized to create a Pro Players Union that can provide benefits. Tokens can be awarded based on smart contracts. Union rewards and fees can be collected programmatically from each member’s connected wallets.

 

FUNDRAISING

Many an eSports Kickstarter has collected funds from the community without ever providing the advertised result. With Ethereum you can design smart contracts that connect to custom created tokens. These tokens can be sold to raise funds. If the agreed upon product never materializes, the currency pledged by the community can be returned back to the community.

Additionally third party services such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe will be cut out of the equation resulting in more funding going directly to the project.

Many of the Apps being built on the Ethereum blockchain are funded through this method. Some have been able to raise incredible amounts of money in a short period.

 

CONCLUSION

There is a lot of functionality in Ethereum already and I encourage you to explore the topic at greater length. The above ideas barely scratch the surface of what is possible with this decentralized technology.

Institutions such as Bank of America and Microsoft have already made inroads in building their own products on the Ethereum blockchain and many other traditional players are entering the space.

 

Utilized properly the Ethereum blockchain can eliminate many of the Wild-Wild-West antics of eSports while maximizing organizational efficiency.

[Edit: There are few startups-  Firstblood, Skincoins, DMarket, NeverDie and activity - Hungry Panda Games ICO-  in the space that The Next Level will cover next]

Startup Dmarket (Photo: Dmarket)

Startup Dmarket (Photo: Dmarket)

How You'll Watch eSports Soon

HOW YOU'LL WATCH ESPORTS SOON

How You'll Watch eSports Soon (Photo: The Next Level)

TNL Take: Date: Soon

Even with all the self-driving DidiUber's around, my trip back from LaGuardia took forever because the renovation that started in 2016 is still going on.

My door unlocks as I approach my house and I feel the cool A/C that switched on when I was 15 minutes away.

Siri: Welcome home. I hope you had a great trip.  Can I do anything for you?

Me: When's the next Overwatch tournament?

Siri: The Champions Ladder in 17 minutes on Facebook.

Me: Notify me when that starts and put on the last Still Shaqtin' A Fool in the meantime.

Siri: You've got 10 minutes remaining of yesterday's show, would you like me to start there and continue with the latest show?

Me: Cool.

Siri: There's also an Indian documentary on a rising star from the slums of Mumbai. I've translated and placed in your Recommendations.

Me: Thank you.

 


In part one of eSports Media Evolution, we looked at Verizon/Yahoo's entrance with the 2-year ESL partnership.

In part two, it was the various ways that Disney's eSports investment could be used across it's various platforms and consumer touch points.

in today's final and part three of eSports Media Evolution, Ill look at where I believe eSports heading from an overall consumption perspective.

 

If you're going to start with Consumption, I think you have to start with Disruption.

 

Disruption and eSports come together for me based on two authors:

 

/01 THE FUTURE IS ALREADY HERE — IT'S JUST NOT VERY EVENLY DISTRIBUTED

Potentially my favorite quote of all time, from one of my favorite writers, William Gibson. Gibson wrote the seminal book Neuromancer in 1984 in which he coined the phrase "cyberspace"

What he's saying is that you don't need to wait for the future - it's already here.

Live Streamed Virtual Reality Surgery? Yes.

Want to send something to space on a re-usable rocket? Yup.

While great advancements are already here, it's how to make them more accessible to everyone on the planet vs. the minority.

Just like eSports needs to do.

 

/02 THE INNOVATOR'S DILEMMA

I read this book the same year that Netscape Navigator 4.0 came out - 1997 - which I still remember as changing the browser game.

Written by Harvard professor Clay Christensen, the main theory that emerged was that large companies focus too much on current customer needs, fail to adopt new technology and will ultimately fall behind - essentially the definition of disruption.

You clearly see this in Media today.

I made it a point to avoid as much "Live TV" coverage of the Olympics this year as a test. I was completely fine "watching" the Olympics on Twitter.

Here's some viewer data for this Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards:

TV Ratings: -34%

Facebook Streams: +938%

 

So what's this all mean for eSports?

How You'll Watch eSports Soon (Photo: The Next Level)

Very simply, in 2014 there was basically one place to watch eSports content: Twitch.

In just two years, you can now watch live content across:

 

Twitch. TBS. Twitter. YouTube Gaming. Facebook. ESPN. Verizon. VR. Mobcrush. 

 

And that's just in the US and not counting 24/7 satellite channels like Ginx or the gazillion Chinese live streaming sites.

So not only is Twitch being disrupted, but so is the whole space as Publishers begin acquiring their own means of distribution. 

Let's end with a look at one potential scenario for content similar to what you see in current Pro Sports and Broadcast deals:

 

Channels and Content

MLG.tv = Call of Duty and Destiny

Facebook = Blizzard

NBA.tv = Counter-Strike/E LEAGUE

ESPN = EVO Championship

Xbox = Minecraft

EA = You name a game of theirs

Twitch = Rocket League Championship Series

Verizon = ESL One Cologne

 

Now replace Facebook for NBC and Blizzard for Baseball and you can see the potential future.

 

It's already happening. It's just not everywhere yet.


If you're interested in The Innovator's Dilemma, here's a talk with co-founder of VC firm Andreessen Horowitz and coincidentally also co-founder of Netscape, talking with author Clay Christensen earlier this year: