The Future of ESports with Jonathan Pan
Recently we had the opportunity to speak to Jonathan Pan, former Product Manager at Riot Games (“League of Legends”), and co-founder and former CEO of Team Ember, who is now working with the University of California, Irvine and teaching a brand new course on the curriculum titled “Effective Communication in ESports”. There Jonathan will be teaching the business skills that professionals will need to enter the fast growing and increasingly lucrative field of ESports. We asked him about the course, the state of ESports, and his thoughts on the future of the sport.
OG: What prompted you to start this course? Was it something you always wanted to do?
JP: I heard about this course through my work with the UCI Esports team. I’ve always been interested in learning and teaching. I’ve mentored high school students as part of nonprofit programs in NYC and LA. I’ve also completed a certificate program through UCLA, so this seemed like a natural next step.
OG: What made you choose UCI as the location for the course?
JP: Essentially, UCI is the most prominent university to have entered into esports and they are taking esports seriously.
OG: What was it like for you working at Riot? How did that help you transition into the esports scene?
JP: I loved working for Riot. It was my foot into esports really – being part of the company that publishes the game (League of Legends) that is being played as the premier esport.
OG: What led you to co found Team Ember? What did you want to bring the table when starting the team?
JP: After attending the LoL World Finals 2014 in Seoul, I knew that I had to do something in esports, ideally as a team owner. I wanted to bring my experience as an infantry officer in the US Army – leading a motley crew of young men to perform.
OG: What can prospective students expect from this course? What skills will they take with them to apply to the esports scene?
JP: Full disclosure- this course is pretty difficult. I would equate it to an MBA-level communications course. The main skill they will take away is how to properly communicate via writing, presentations, social media, etc.
OG: ESports is growing at an amazing rate. Are you worried about any potential pitfalls or growing pains for the burgeoning scene? Or are we already dealing with it now?
JP: I think we’re past most of the bad growing pain areas. The main issue staring down esports in the near term is that many esports teams are far from profitability – and there may be a reckoning in 2018.
OG: Many people feel that esports needs to be “legitimized” in the eyes of the general public. Do you feel this is true? Or are people more willing to accept esports than many people might realize?
JP: Esports articles frequent major mainstream publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and more. I think, if anything, esports is more mainstream than ever before – but there is less clamor for “legitimacy” these days. Esports fans are comfortable with where esports is headed.
OG: What advice would you give to people that are interested into going behind the scenes of esports?
JP: it’s harder these days but networking helps. Being a student makes it even easier as organizations tend to be happy to host students for behind the scene visits.
OG: Where do you see esports in the next five years? Will we continue to see it growing bigger and bigger as we have been the past couple of years?
JP: I think esports viewership will grow linearly but esports being professionalized will continue to increase at a higher rate.
OG: Esports is becoming more and more of a business. Simple passion for games isn’t enough for people looking to get into the field. What are the skills necessary for those looking to break into the field?
JP: People coming from highly-regarded “traditional” professions such as consulting, investment banking, and brand marketing that have a passion for games might find it relatively easy to make the switch. Pure passion alone isn’t going to cut it anymore for most people. There’s always the path of creating content and hoping that it takes off.
OG: Lastly, how would you describe “Esports”? What is your personal definition?
JP: A game that is as fun to watch as it is to play – and there are a significant amount of people who want to play and watch.
Thank you very much to Jonathan for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us. For more information on Jonathan’s course, you can follow the link here.