Interview by Lauren Keyson
Esports – those multiplayer video games played competitively on jumbotron screens, in arenas as big as stadiums, by competitive gamers. “We’re talking absolutely insane money – with payoffs upwards of $5M. At one point a payoff came to $20M!” according to Mike Wiston, the founder of SlashShout. He loves esports so much that he created a daily newsletter-type email that covers competitive gaming from around the world including the tournaments, players, teams, technology, and the business itself.
His crew looks primarily for games that have the highest payouts and hold the most interest because it’s news. And they put it all into a 5-minute digest of what is happening, making sure to hit on the most interesting pieces. Personally, Wiston likes the game Overwatch, which is a vibrant team-based shooter set on a near-future earth. As far as an individual player, he has always followed Justin Wong’s career in Super Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom.
Mike Wiston is a veteran of the esports space, originally entering the industry with Borderland Gaming (BLGaming) by hosting shoutcasted tournaments and sponsoring top players in Super Street Fighter IV, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Bloodline Champions, and Tekken. He got started back when the term ‘esports’ was first being coined. Their company’s line was: Bringing E-sports into the Mainstream. “People didn’t even know what that was, and now it’s this giant amazing thing; and it’s one of those where you kick yourself, ‘Why did I get out of it back then? But I’m getting back into it now.”
Lauren Keyson: How did your company evolve?
Mike Wiston: I come from a company mowMedia, a digital ad network, connecting publishers and advertisers. Many of our clients in the newsletter space have come to see the success that newsletters are having. I have an esports and competitive gaming background on the business side. Our entire focus was bringing esports into the mainstream. So, it’s always been one of those things that I have wanted to get back into. It’s a huge opportunity. So, I called a lot of my old contacts — kind of pitching the idea of what we want to do and how we’re going to go about it. Across the board, they said, “That’s an amazing idea, I wish I’d thought of that first. Let me know what we can do to help.” It was all the validation we needed, and we got a team together. “We found ourselves subscribing to and visiting upwards of 20 sources from around the web to get our gaming news. We started summarizing the hot button topics and our friends loved it. Early feedback and results suggest that the gaming community loves it as well.”
LK: What are the most interesting topics and news for you personally?
MW: The teams that get acquired or make big moves or have new games. When I used to do this I’d sponsor players, so I was always interested in the players themselves. How they kind of just go up through the ranks – and they work really, really hard to be the best at gaming. We had the Number 1 street fighter in the world – he wasn’t Number 1 when we got him, but he became the Number 1 player at three major events. We were able to sell him off – he came up through the ranks and then sold to Team Liquid.
LK: What will gaming be like in the future?
MW: It will be a lot more televised and exciting. There are sites like Twitch. Beautiful online streaming platform for games. Just like YouTube, there will be more gaming influencers, and it will be more part of daily life. It’s going to take over your cell phone. You’re going to be able to participate in these things from your cell — you already can to an extent. You’ll actually be able to view and navigate with your phone. It will be an interesting way to interact with the players if you want to get that bird’s eye view and see what’s really happening. It’s part of the stage – I think that kind of technology will be next.
LK: What is your advice for people who want to do this for a living?
MW: Add value and remove steps – just like any business. This is not just exclusive to esports. If you are creating a technology solution, don’t add steps, don’t make gamers do something else. Don’t make game companies and studios do something else. Don’t make it harder. Even if your tech is cool, remove a step from the process, integrate with this, cut out steps, find a way to streamline, make things more accessible, and ask the question, ‘If I logged into my platform as a gamer, would I love it?”