Battlefy has quietly been attracting big name investors from companies like Riot Games, Ziff Davis, William Morris Endeavor Agency and Deepfork Capital over the last few months, raising $1.3 million along the way. With the beta version of its online video game management system already a success with over 600 tournaments, the company is now looking to grow its business and ride the trajectory of eSports into the mainstream. Jason Xu, co-founder and CEO of Battlefy, discusses the company’s strategy and explains the near-future potential for eSports in this exclusive interview.
How have you seen eSports grow since it was first introduced in the U.S. in the late ’90s?
“ESports have been able to take advantage of significant improvements in infrastructure to get to where they are today. For example, in 2000, only 3% of Americans had access to broadband internet. Today, this number sits at 70%. When you’re talking about an experience that exists entirely digitally, this is a big factor. Most importantly, it impacted the number of people who could participate in eSports and the way they could be broadcast.
“Today, we’re able break geographic boundaries and have tournaments with players who are physically thousands of miles away from each other. We can stream that match to millions of people worldwide who can simply tune in by clicking a hyperlink. This increase in accessibility of participation and distribution is what has allowed the rise of the amateur scene which fuels the audience for professional level play.”
As a former pro gamer, why did you decide to launch your company?
“I wouldn’t say I was good enough to be considered “pro”, but I was definitely involved in the high tier competitive scene! I’m a very competitive person and that’s what drew me to eSports. I would play in my community soccer league by day, and I would compete in StarCraft and Counter-Strike tournaments by night.
“I created Battlefy because I saw the elements for the organic growth of eSports coming together and because there was still a lack of standardized infrastructure and technology to support this global growth.
“These elements I’m referring to are:
Affordable PC hardware that allows for gameplay + video encoding concurrently
Affordable high speed internet in North America to upload videos and stream
Popularization of YouTube and streaming sites like Ustream, Justin.tv, Twitch
Growth in eSports oriented games with publisher support, mostly driven by the MOBA genre (ie: League of Legends, Dota)”
Can you talk about the investor support you’ve been able to assemble thus far?
“ESports is the product of gaming and broadcast media. Our investors and advisors are veterans in these two industries: Deep Fork Capital VC, BDC Ventures, Jarl Mohn (first investor and board member of Riot Games and CNET), Dennis Phelps (Partner Institutional Venture Partners (IVP)), William Lohse (Former President Ziff Davis + Softbank Forums), Keith Boesky (Former President of Eidos), William Morris Endeavor Agency, Charles King (WME), Amplify.la and The Academy. Our advisors includes the former CTO of EA Canada, Executive Counsel of Activision, former COO of Square Enix, etc.”
How will Battlefy grow with this new investment?
“We will be taking our platform beyond proof of concept. In closed Beta we powered 600+ tournaments, but we were still inundated with user requests. This round will allow us to support a much larger user base and extend our support for new games.
“For example, when you have competitions happening online, you need to be able to verify that everyone is present and ready to go for the tournament. Though possible by manually reaching out to each individual team through different instant messaging clients, it’s quite a pain as a tournament grows in size. Working with organizers, we have automated the process of checking in to a tournament so that they know who’s present and when they start, that they’re only putting who’s available into games.”
What leagues will you be working with?
“We have some large partners upcoming this year that we cannot announce just yet. Some of our closed beta users include Might & Magic DoC World Championship by Ubisoft that included qualifiers run by PAX Aus, Dreamhack, Gamescom, Eurogamer Expo, Gen Con, Kublacon, Origins, FanExpo; Natural Selections 2 North American and European Championships, DOTA Peru (WCG), National amateur leagues (ie: North American DOTA, Highschool Star League), and Corporate leagues (ie: Microsoft Store, Google).”
How has Battlefy evolved over time based on fan feedback?
“As we expanded our closed beta user base from college clubs, to national leagues, to world championships, we expanded support for more competition formats and options to integrate with existing sites and platforms. We also improved reporting and verification features to reduce the communication overhead for organizers and players located in different geographies and time zones.”