Espo aims to bring esports fans straight to the heart of the action

It's not all about the bottom line; it's also about forging meaningful connections


Espo/Team Queso

Have you ever dreamed about receiving one-on-one coaching in terrorist-hunting tactics from your favourite Rainbow Six Siege player? Ever wished you could rock that one killer jersey that was gone three seconds after it went on sale? Espo is hoping to make your dreams (and wishes) come true.

The fan-engagement platform—slated to launch later this month—is the brainchild of Henry James. Espo’s founder and CEO brings to the table a background in both financial technology and sports-talent management. More importantly, he brings his love of gaming. As he watched esports grow into a multi-million-dollar industry, though, James felt that something was getting lost in all the hype.

“Over the last 10 years, as an esports fan myself, I felt that the gap in proximity between esports fans and players has been widening year on year,” James tells eCentralSports in a Skype call from London, England. “Our goal with our platform is to close that gap as much as possible, and to bring the esports fan to the heart of the action.”

Fans want limited-edition merch

Toward that end, Espo asked hundreds of esports aficionados which “perks” they most wished they could access. In addition to the aforementioned coaching opportunities, the fans expressed a desire for highly coveted team merchandise.

“Specifically, limited-edition merch,” James says. “So, stuff that they can’t go ahead and buy themselves on the website of Team X or Team YZ. They’d like to be able to access products made in a limited run or limited drops. Signed merch is extremely popular, from our research. As long as the merch is something that people can’t easily access, we’ve found that that stuff is super desirable—including old runs of merch. People have told us, ‘Hey, I want to get my hands on that 2018 jersey, which seems to be out of reach now.’”

To date, Espo has announced partnerships with three esports organizations:

  • F2K (Fade 2 Karma), which started as a Hearthstone team but has since grown into a small army of dozens of Twitch streamers;
  • Team Queso, a Spanish outfit fielding squads in LoL, Clash Royale, CS:GO, Fortnite, and PUBG Mobile; and
  • Sweden’s Godsent, which has active LoL, Apex Legends, Rainbow Six Siege, Hearthstone, CS:GO, and Dota 2 rosters.

Membership is free

For fans, Espo membership is free. The teams, however, will run their own campaigns and will set their own fees for the perks they offer.

“Just to provide an example, Godsent have said that they would like their first campaign on the Espo platform to be for their CS:GO roster,” James explains. “If there is a financial amount that needs to be contributed towards this campaign to access a certain perk, that amount will be stated on the campaign page, and it will be decided by Godsent.”

If you’re worried about being compelled to dig too deep into the funds you’ve been saving for new Fortnite skins, never fear. Not everything on Espo will cost you money.

“There will be some perks on there that will not require a financial outlay from our users,” James says. “Some perks will be available in exchange for EXP points, which are the loyalty points within the Espo platform, but that will not require a cash amount.”

The way James describes it, Espo will be a win-win for all parties. Participating teams, for instance, will get a revenue boost from their campaigns, and will also gain access to a network of corporate sponsors. It’s not all about the bottom line, though. It’s also about forging meaningful connections.

“What we’ve been really excited about is seeing just how open esports teams are to engaging with their fan base,” James says. “They really want  to do it, and some more than others are really struggling to do that. They might not have the resources, they might not know how, they might not have the infrastructure.

“That’s where, hopefully, we’re providing some value to them, in helping them to actually get closer to their fan base.”

I have done a lot of different things over the course of my life and professional career. I have interviewed Oscar and Grammy winners and written cover stories for glossy newsstand magazines. I have played guitar in a rock band on national TV and run an independent music label for which I wrote all of the PR and marketing materials. In my spare time, I sweated out a novel about a world where raccoons are kings and dragons are real.

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