League of Legends / Riot Games
ESports, the catchall term for professional video gaming, keeps on growing: Major League Gaming claims some six million unique viewers watched 54 million hours of games on its site last year.
But before gamers can get to a place where they’re being watched by millions, they often have to start with much smaller tournaments. This is one of the key differences between eSports and regular sports: It’s far easier for a player no one has ever heard of to rise up to the big leagues, and fast.
However, with so many wannabe pro-gamers out there, managing the little leagues is a pain in the neck, according to Battlefy CEO Jason Xu. His company purports to automate the organization of players, teams and tournament brackets, thereby making it cheaper to hold huge tournaments that could discover a future star.
That pitch seems to have clicked with an initial group of investors, who have kicked in $1.3 million to Battlefy in a seed round announced today. Those investors include the William Morris talent agency and former Riot Games chairman Jarl Mohn.
(Riot Games, for the uninitiated, has released only one game in the past five years — the runaway free-to-play eSports hit League of Legends. Riot says the game attracts 32 million players every month.)
“We’re sort of the pickaxe for [eSports],” Xu said in an interview. That is, even a well-funded and well-staffed game tournament can speed up operations with the right tools.
“The limiting factor for eSports’ growth is its ability to scale,” he added. “The largest-ever organized League of Legends tournament in the world was 2,000
players teams. Do you think only 2,000 teams want to play League of Legends?”
Update: An earlier version of this story misquoted the size of the largest League of Legends tournament. The quote has been corrected, above.