Challengermode’s Philip Hübner

Esports: Challengermode’s Philip Hübner

Swedish esports platform, Challengermode has the mission of making esports more accessible for everyone. To find out more, PCR talks to Philip Hübner, Chief Business Development Officer at the company.

Joining Challengermode in 2017 as Head of Business Development, Philip Hübner has previously been responsible for onboarding the very first partners at the company, as well as devising the company’s partnerships and business strategy. With a wealth of esports specific experience – his first involvement in the space was as a competitive DOTA player. Here Hübner talks about Challengermode, the challenges currently affecting the esports industry and the future of gaming.

Please could you tell me a bit more about Challengermode?
We like to talk about Challengermode as the infrastructure for esports – the railroad, so to speak. We provide different stakeholders within the industry with the ability to host, monetise and play in esports competitions by building tech to automate this as much as possible.

What is the current state of the esport market?
Esports is in a stage of figuring out its monetization. The rate at which each esports fan is monetised today is less than a tenth of a sports fan. We’re considered something of a $2B industry, but once this key element of “how do we really make money” is figured out, that industry valuation will see a very immediate jump.

Where do you see the future of esports going?
Esports isn’t just here to stay, but to revolutionise and take over what traditional sports started. There are key accessibility questions that esports solves, such as with racing (not requiring a 100,000 pound car to participate in the sport), it’s easier to spectate, and statistics & player evaluations are easier to create than in traditional sports. With more and more people turning into gamers today, more and more will also undoubtedly start following esports.

What are the current key concerns such as security in the esports industry?
Monetisation, cheating and the power dynamics with the game developers/publishers, I believe are at the front of most people’s minds. I’ve already mentioned monetisation, but obviously cheating in tournaments, especially those played online, is a major concern. And then there is the issue of game developers technically owning the rights to everything that happens with their games, making it scary as a third party to build a business upon someone else’s IP. Sports don’t have this issue, as football, tennis, hockey, etc. aren’t owned by anyone.

How has or is the esports industry evolving?
15 years ago, almost nobody made a living off of esports. Today, there’s tens of thousands of people in different fields who can claim a full time income from their work within esports, be that participation, events, technology, or anything else. There’s a lot of innovation going on within esports, and I believe we’ll also see much more regulation happening in the coming years, as currently governments aren’t really involved or doing much to support the industry.

Who are the core audience or age groups currently attracted to esports and what more can be done to promote this across other social groups?
A distinct difference between esports viewers and sports viewers is that esports viewers are, broadly speaking, usually players of the games they watch, whereas only 9% of football fans actually play football as a hobby. With that said then, the audience attracted to esports is almost always the same audience attracted to the respective games, which means mostly 13 to 20 year olds for a game like Fortnite, or 18 to 35 year olds for a game like Counter-Strike or Dota 2. There’s work happening towards simplifying and making broadcasts friendlier towards people who don’t know the games, but I think we still have a long way to go.

Please could you explain a bit more about Challengermode’s commercial platform and its international rollout?
Challengermode is in its entirety a platform, both from a tech and a business standpoint. That means we grow our audience & make money by extending our work to stakeholders in the esports space, such as esports teams, gaming influencers, tournament organisers and game developers. Our international rollout, beyond scaling up some internal operations, is all about establishing key partnerships in new territories.

Does Challengermode have a dedicated esport team that plays?
That depends what you mean by a dedicated esports team! Do we as a company field a team that plays in professional competitions? No. That said, the majority of our company are gamers who spend their free time playing games with one another, and we participate in a multitude of corporate leagues.

How is the company working to promote or grow its presence in the esports market?
This probably sounds cheesy but: democratise, educate & partner. Our growth is based around making esports more accessible, educating the industry & interested players of the possibilities, and then partnering up with them to help them utilise Challengermode and enable their own growth.

Why is this sector so important to the company?
Esports is our lifeblood. Without a thriving esports industry it would be impossible for us to do what we do – providing a space for players of any skill level to compete and a place where organisers can effectively monetise their competitions. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t work to do in changing the space for the better. Through our efforts to further democratise, educate & partner within esports, Challengermode is creating value for all esports stakeholders from the bottom up through consumer revenue and participation, rather than just from the top down with sponsorships and advertising.

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