Mentioned in this article
Ethan Teng, the co-founder and current president of VSPN, uses what can best be described as high-speed, but logical speech. “Sorry about my talking speed, it used to be my occupational habit; as [I] was a Warcraft III shoutcaster,” Teng told The Esports Observer.
For many Chinese esports fans between the age of 25-40, Teng and his paid-television program “Warcraft World” are responsible for many childhood memories. With over 17 years of esports experience, Teng now acts as the co-founder and president of one of the biggest esports production companies in China.
Standing for “Versus Programming Network,” VSPN’s presence can be found throughout the Chinese esports space. The company handles production for the biggest competitions, including League of Legends Rift Rivals, King Pro League (KPL), and the PUBG MOBILE Club Open (PMCO) Global Finals.
The majority of Teng’s career has been spent working for tournament organizing and production companies. He spent six years as a Warcraft III shoutcaster for GTV between 2003-2008, and served as the company’s operation manager between 2008-2012, putting aside his career as a shoutcaster. Then he joined Shanghai-based esports production company Gamefy as vice general manager.
In the west, we’re familiar with those who pioneered esports production, such as long-time League of Legends esports producer Ariel Horn, or Simon Eicher, who joined ESL in 2005 and today manages the broadcast for all the company’s esports productions. The person who inspired Teng was actually a stranger.
“It was in 2005, I went to Seoul to attend the first World eSports Games (WEG) as a Warcraft III shoutcaster,” said Teng. “I was having a barbecue dinner with Jeong Ilhun [the founder of WEG and a fellow StarCraft Korean commentator], and the female owner of the restaurant recognized Jeong.”
South Korea has recognized esports as a mainstream sport since 2000, with the Korean e-Sports Association (KeSPA) belonging to the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism. In this country, professional esports players can be recognized as mainstream celebrities, like film or music stars.
“It was a huge shock for me, as this lady was 30-40 years old and she understood esports. From that time, I realized how big esports was in South Korea, and I was determined to work in esports as my life-long career,” said Teng.
In 2016, Teng co-founded VSPN, and led as the president of the company. In 2018, the company received strategic investment by Tencent Holdings. Now, VSPN has branched overseas with offices in Thailand, South Korea, and has plans to open offices in Europe and the U.S.
Unlike most esports production companies, which attempt to develop their own content brands and series, VSPN predominantly works on “white label” productions for game publishers including Tencent and NetEase. These include the KPL, PMCO, NetEase Warcraft III Golden Series, and the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games esports event. It was even involved in the broadcast works at Dota 2’s The International Shanghai 2019.
There is probably no esports production company with as much presence in a single market as VSPN has in China. In order to face the challenges in managing so many different productions in one market, Teng explains two directions that the VSPN production groups keep in mind:
“For small and medium-sized tournaments, the company needs to think about how to make sure the quality [is] above average. As for top esports tournaments like KPL, and international events like PMCO, the goal is to generate more social influences and audience of all ages,” said Teng.
Every esports company has a mission statement in the industry, and VSPN is no different; Teng would like to see the demographics of esports expand to include more women.
“To break the young age [20-30-year-old] and male-dominated image of the industry is our goal in esports,” Teng repeatedly emphasized.
In order to better achieve this goal, Teng explained the company’s strategy:
“It’s all about how to improve the viewing experience and business value of esports,” Teng explained. “We try to reach out to more sponsors and non-endemic brands in our tournaments, such as vivo, Google Play, HLA Jeans, SPD Bank.”
From an objective perspective, Teng’s statement is not wrong. At a Warcraft III Golden Series event, most of the audiences were between the age of 30-40, with some people even carrying babies. Mobile esports, especially the KPL and PUBG MOBILE (or Peacekeeper Elite in China), have attracted more and more female audiences.
As a number of VSPN’s biggest productions are based around mobile esports, Teng explains how these differ from hosting a PC esports tournament.
“From a production perspective, hosting a mobile esports event is actually harder than hosting a PC event,” said Teng. “PC products already have high-quality features like image definition, while mobile esports titles are comparatively low. Therefore, we need more considerations and processing when making additional content for mobile esports events.”
Talking about the recent addition of augmented reality (AR) characters and features in esports competitions, Teng believes it’s fulfilling the wish for high-quality content that all esports audiences are looking for.
“In traditional sports, the core subject in the image is the player’s body, and it depends on the camera, and that’s reality. But esports depends on switching gaming images, and that’s the virtual world,” he said. “The AR technology can combine reality and the virtual world, and increase the sense that game characters and players are whole, and let more audiences feel that esports becomes a part of their lives.”
Recently, the novel coronavirus outbreak has influenced the global sports and entertainment industry. Most significantly, for esports events outside of China, the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice was played with no audience on-site, with signature events in League of Legends, Rocket League, and other games facing cancelation or relocation to studio venues. ESL, Riot Games, and many esports companies have not only lost out on revenue, but staff and fans alike have missed out on major esports experiences of their lifetimes.
“We [VSPN] respect ESL a lot, and they have a long history in esports. VSPN has been in the “Force majeure” scenario before, and also feel heartbreak due to both of us being production companies and tournament organizers,” Tengn said. “All you can do is to reduce the loss as much as possible. For example, taking care of the attendances, and setting up a few scientific standards to decline the labor cost.”
Talking about how the coronavirus has affected the company, Teng remains optimistic about dealing with the challenges in the short-term.
“Definitely, there are negative influences for the company, but as long as the coronavirus ends before April or May, I don’t think it’s a crushing blow.” Teng said. “Though we need to face a few challenges, we’ve already started to think about how to bring our competitions online, and how to commercialize those events.”
Credit: Source link