Closing the loop

First of all, Happy New Year!

Never knew I would publish a book one day. It actually did happen.

I have to say a large portion of the book is from the blog posts that I’ve written here in 2019 before the crazy pandemic started — which was my original intention. In other words, if you’ve been reading the posts here, you aren’t missing much of the individual story nuggets. But I’d say the book has definitely a better story as I tried to weave a one cohesive narrative and, of course, better English as my editor had spent a fairly good amount time correcting. The first draft was a blood bath…

Since its release on October 20th, 2020, the reviews aren’t that bad at all. Actually pretty good.

I started distributing with Amazon, but now I have a few more distributors around the world.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/demystifying-esports-baro-hyun/1137783002?ean=9781544516479

https://www.kinokuniya.co.jp/f/dsg-02-9781544516479

https://books.rakuten.co.jp/rk/d7efc595fd403f18b5ebcf9f16ce3870/?fbclid=IwAR1b7GLqTjFdtNBsPClnhlbviKs6Vr6JaHNvOm5NXhdMvEZrtJS3SlGk5B0

Now that was pretty cool to see a concept to materialize into a book-form.

OK, so what’s next?

Modern day 놀이문화 (Entertainment)

The word “entertainment” would come across very differently depending on the generation who you talk to. Seniors would evoke a game of backgammon or a round of limbo at a park whereas my sons would soon think of hours of playing Fortnite on their Nintendo Switches or watching endless episodes of Mukbang on Youtube. Ask someone from different nationality or cultural background, their answers would be drastically different.

The bottomline: entertainment is universal.

As long as there is human being, there will certainly be some form of entertainment. That form of entertainment may be long lasting as backgammon (Wikipedia says it traces back as old as 5,000 years) or a short instance in the history of entertainment that goes out of fashion at some point, like collecting NBA cards in my case.

There are industries that strived around this notion of entertainment. In my mind, they are mainly Game, Sports and Entertainment (the last one is an oxymoron, but specifically I have traditional television broadcasting and live music performance in my mind at the very least), but there are certainly more.

I guess the key message is that entertainment evolves based on the needs of the consumers.

The early episodes of the Korean long-running variety show “Radio Star” had a very different feel than that of the more recent ones. And so does another show “Knowing Brothers”. From the early concept that was based on some preliminary hypothesis of the program director, it has evolved gradually through trial and error based on the consumers’ reactions, which essentially served as critic.

Now the fun part is that, different country (or continent) has different consumers’ needs and even if the core component may be the same, the resulting entertainment form may be quite different.

Oogui (大食い、”food-fighter” in Japanese) competition has been a popular television content since the 90s in Japan (to the best of my knowledge, but I may be wrong). The same form of entertainment, however, never really took off in Korea — the nearest neighboring country that was heavily influenced by Japanese mangas, animes, games, J-pops, and even culinary, but never food-fighting competitions.

But then there was Mukbang (먹방, Wikipedia describes as “an online audiovisual broadcast in which a host consumes large quantities of food while interacting with the audience”) that became popular in the 2010s Korea. Mukbang has its strange appeal (trust me, as I had never imagine this sort of content could possibly be entertaining to a moderately educated middle-aged father like myself, but I have a few subscriptions of Youtube channels now). The amount of food that these Mukbang-ler consumes is no less than that of the Oogui’s.

It came across to me that Oogui and Mukbang may essentially be the same types of entertainment, just in different format in different medium that appeared in different face in time due to different needs of the consumers.

and now I’m thinking… there may be a deeper story behind to investigate.

Blue pill or red pill, Neo?

What would the business book look like

The easiest way to frame this book would be either of the following two.

  • Categorize by business destination within the esports ecosystem
  • Or by the originating business

Or a little bit of both. If I were to go by the first option, the sub-category would be along the line of

  • Sponsors
  • Event organizers
  • Teams and athletes
  • Game publisher
  • Broadcaster

and so forth. This makes sense, but not so much fun story to tell. If by the second option, we have something like

  • Professional sports team business owner
  • Regional municipal office and small game company
  • Government
  • Non-endemic brands (trading houses, power plant)
  • Local cable company
  • Universities, event organizers & operators

and etc, which seems more exciting story-wise for the reader.

It will be reasonable to clarify the main purpose for the business owners to consider gaming and esports upfront.

  • Direct monetization
  • Branding and marketing
  • Investment

For the government officials who often have the taste for big-concept categorization not limited to business activities in the private sector but also social activities like local economy boost and education, the frame would look more like

  • Direct market
  • Peripheral market
  • Education
  • Social service

Now that’s a start.

plans for the next coming years

it took me awhile to convince myself of writing a book but as i can see the end of the tunnel for this first one, now i’m starting to thinking… perhaps i should write more books. as long as i have something worthy to write and there is a niche reader market for the book, i can already foresee that the process can be painful but the result can be truly rewarding.

if i were to take the first book as a part of some esports series (very roughly speaking), the second book may be on the overall and various esports business models and the good news is that i already have some frameworks made for esports. the third may be on the esports governance and education, as the two are heavily related to one another.

oh well, the actual content may change along the way but i don’t see anything bad from doing so.

let’s see how far this goes.

so the idea nuggets continue…

An insight from Jordan Peterson video

Completely unrelated to esports, I stumbled upon this Jordan Peterson video on Youtube (I’m a sucker for Peterson) “The meaning of life for men”. He lightly touched upon game addiction, which I found it interesting, then found this comment below that got the most reaction.

I think there is a certain truth in it.

If what we seek in life and in game is essentially the same, why do we have such different stereotypes in the respective world? Why do goal seekers in the gaming world get frustrated in trying to do the same in the real world? How do we bridge the gap? Or can we bridge the gap? Is there any component in gaming that we can make use of, in order to assist the goal seeker in real life? Is this simply gamification? How is this relatable to esports?

Original video can be found below:

Hit and run… and regret forever — What possessing a game console means

Here I am to share a glimpse of the dark side of game addiction, based on my own personal experience. So it’s a confession, so to say.

This was when I was around 14~15 years old in junior high school. PC games were gradually taking off the market and so did the PC bangs. But the traditional Japanese game consoles like Super Nintendo, Play Station, Saturn and the sort was sill an unnegligible part of the market. If you were a lucky kid, you had a networked PC and a game console at home while going to PC bangs occasionally with friends.

I was a big fan of Play Station and have played many of the important RPGs at the time like the Final Fantasy series. Yes, I confess that I may be promoting esports for living right now, but my secret pleasure is and has always been single playing RPGs that are hard to call as esports.

Owning a game console and the software was quite expensive. A few hundred bucks for the console and some $50+ for a single software. People get tired of monotonous entertainment (and so did I) so usually we tend to own multiple software titles — RPGs, sports, adventures, actions, simulations, and etc. You name the genre. But, as I mentioned in another post, there was no way you can comfortable afford all those software titles. Unless you take the dark side and illegally modify the game console such that it can run pirated software titles that virtually cost nothing. You could modify your console pretty easily at the local game shop with a small fee. Some warned about the potential shortened life span of the console due to unprofessional modification, but nobody really cared.

I despised the dark side. I just couldn’t accept the fact that playing a private version of the game. In my mind, it was so disrespectful to the game creators who must have spent years just to develop that wholesome virtual world with a spectacularly absorbing story lines and characters just to mention the minimum. Being a big fan, I couldn’t line up in the dark side train.

On the other hand, the realistic economical concern was colliding with my pleasure-seeking game-centric nature. There was this new title that recently came out by Konami (called the Castlevania Dracula X) that I’ve been eagering to play for long, despite it being a different adventure-type genre than the comfort zone RPG. But I couldn’t afford to buy anytime soon. Perhaps wait another half a year until the next new year holiday season when I can expect some sizable pocket money from the grand parents.

After weeks of internal mind battle, my ethical consciousness finally surrendered. There was no time to wait. I had to play. So I decided to steal it at a local game store.

I won’t go into details on how I did it. But the punchline is that I succeeded in stealing it. Pure shoplifting.

Was I happy to eventually get a hold of my then-favorite game title? Maybe. But it didn’t last long because the shop owner soon began to hunt me down (we were living in a small town after all) waiting for me night and day in front of our school building.

I’m not trying to brag about my shoplifting experience during my adolescence here. The take away point is that, as I look at the industry and the past from a more consulting point of view, the game console business model and the right to play the game contents by the rightful owners of those who have payed are outdated. In fact, nowadays it is getting rarer to find game contents that you have to prepay a fixed price to have the rights to play.

Most of the games now are free of charge to play. They rather charge you by in-gaming purchases such as items, characters, or character skins and etc. Virtually most of the households in a developed country own at least one PC and online network or a net cafe-like business model that people can go and pay as they play. So playing the game contents itself is virtually free. And I think this must have had a huge impact on the shoplifters like myself back then as you don’t need to go beyond the law-abiding citizenry just to enjoy a game. Some similarity with music industry as well.

It may be worthy of looking into how the copyright of gaming has changed over the past decades.

Target the audience

  • Who is your Primary Audience? (The microtribe your book must reach to achieve its objectives)

Senior executives in their 50s and above who hadn’t had much experience playing video/computer games in their lives but who have heard about the boom of esports in the media, but don’t quite understand why and what it is all about, yet curious.

  • Describe a typical person in your Primary Audience (an avatar). What are they like?

Steve owns and runs a Fortune 100 enterprise (or an SME) that has been running for a few decades. The business runs primarily on manufacturing (parts for automotive and medical devices), so anything with manufacturing process and the industry he knows inside and out. But when it comes outside of his comfort zone, he is just clueless — especially on modern entertainment business. Being a baby boomer himself, he might have a thing for a poker night and an occasional “business trip”-disguised Vegas excursion, but as he had never played any sort of video games in his life, to say the least, he just don’t understand the gaming industry nor he has a genuine interest towards it.

Steve’s grandson is in 10th grade and he’s an avid gamer. He’s the leader of his school’s League of Legends esports club, earned moderate successes within the gaming community, winning several local tournament events for instance, and recently started off his own Youtube channel of his game play with a humble size of regular subscribers that is growing. He is making some income out of the activity too. The grandson is seriously considering a professional career in esports, either a professional player or a professional streamer or a professional event coordinator, and the nearest goal seems to be applying to University of California San Diego where they offer a scholarship for esports-dedicated students.

Listening to his grandson’s career goal and plan, Steve has mixed feelings. He likes the fact that his beloved grandson has an ambition and an actionable plan, despite his young age, but he just can’t understand why it has to do with gaming. Why not a medical school or a law school or becoming an engineer? Isn’t this so called esports just another trendy keyword that evil game publishers try to lure all the bright students into their puny entertainment business that has no real ever lasting value? He thinks.

Doing a little research himself, he quickly learned that esports industry has been there globally for awhile in fact, and it is growing quite overwhelmingly. Being a respectful businessman he immediately sensed that there is something more than that meets his eyes, so he wants to know more. Not the numbers anymore, but the stories. He wants to know historically how did all happened (having been a fan of history in general) and why is it a worldwide phenomena nowadays. He was able to google some related articles that were scattered and fractionated, but being an analog guy inside, he would really appreciate a book.

  • What pain are they experiencing because they’ve not read your book?

Steve will never understand his grandson of the present and the future.

  • What benefit will they get because they read and implement your book?

1. Steve will understand where his grandson is heading as he will have a better idea of the industry and even know a few anecdotes from Korea where esports had started. Now that Steve has learned the trials and errors in esports industry, he may be able to advise his grandson for important career choices.

2. Steve quickly learns that even within his firm there are many employees who are avid gamers but did not shared with anyone at work. Knowing the benefits of esports from reading the book, he organizes an internal esports tournament for his employees team building and internal communication.

3. After reading the book and trying some practices himself, Steve realizes that his enterprise has always been shut off from the consumers (a fate of being a supplier for OEMs), but esports can be a great opportunity for a complete rebranding of his company. He started off by being a sponsor for a regional esports professional tournament events. Then move on to sponsoring a professional team. And etc.

4. A couple of years later, he finds that there are a few new employees whom got to know his company purely by the esports sponsorship effort.

5. Thanks to Steve’s change of perception of esports, the esports market has gotten bigger. (I could probably make a similar argument with the market being safer)

Updates

After a month-long hiatus, here I’m back in front of my iPad. I wasn’t slacking (nor that I was writing either..), but getting ready before another big push towards publishing the esports stories that I’ve been jotting down in this blog throughout this year. Yes, I’m pretty serious with this publishing idea.

A few updates.

  • I’ve signed a contract with a book publisher based in the U.S. If everything goes well as planned, by the next fall there should be an esports book available in Amazon US, UK, Japan and Barnes & Nobles that many of the contents are based on the blog posts written here. Before I jump into a serious daily writing commitment, I will be visiting Austin, Texas at the end of January to attend the writer’s workshop organized by the publisher… Yes I might need to tone down my afterwork Tokyo night life a bit from 2020….
  • Kudos to the esports global market research project that we recently won, I got to interview a diverse esports representative worldwide. An esports dedicated lawyer in the US, the general manager of a world class professional esports team based in Korea, the head of esports federation in Germany, a former ESL employee who’s now leading a international esports e-learning business, the founding member of the esports union in Poland, Chinese game publisher, and etc. Hopefully I can bring out some of the interesting stories over here.
  • Roy is organizing a panel discussion on esports for the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) where I might be on stage with the CEO of Lenovo Japan, who’s an esports enthusiast. We are targeting sometime early next year.

There are a few story nuggets left that I haven’t had a chance to write down. Taking full advantage of the long holiday season, I’ll try to pan those down before the Texas trip.

Time for some interviews

So my story juice is slowly running out. Since I started out this blog early this year, recently reaching 50 posts, most of the stories that I’ve posted here are what I’ve experienced on my own, some from books or the web. I have to admit that these were pretty much free contents for me as I didn’t have to spend too much time on researching and collecting information out there in order to write a post. There are still a few stories that I haven’t had the chance to share, which are still in the draft backlog, but I can see that the list is shortening. The tunnel is nearly reaching the end.

That being said, I think this is the perfect timing to switch gears. As Roy once suggested, interviews with the people in the field would be a pleasant learning process for myself as it will widen my still-back-in-the-Starcraft-era perspective as well as a missing piece of contents that would complement what these posts will eventually turn into.

Luckily, I’ve been working in the esport scene for a couple of years now and gained quite a few important contacts that would be worthy of interviewing. Of course, have no idea what I’d like to ask yet, but always up for a good quality conversation with someone who has the passion in this gaming thing.

Below is the list of people whom I can think of right now. (Will be constantly updated)

  • Japan
    • The first esports caster in Japan
    • Celebrated Street Fighter professional player
    • General manager of a top tier pro team
    • Esports lawyer, Nishimura Asahi
    • Government of Tokushima
    • Female professional player
    • Vice president of Japan esports Union
    • Organizer of Rage, the most popular esports event in Japan, CyberZ
    • Organizer of Toushinsai, Taito
    • Organizer of the first esports high school tournaments league
    • The esports evangelist
    • Gaming PC sales lead, HP
    • Executive, Lenovo
    • Esports lead, Shonan Bellmare, J.League
    • Japan national FIFA athlete
    • AEON entertainment
    • METI
  • Korea

    • Slayer Boxer
    • Hong Jin Ho
    • Cho Hyung Geun
    • The legendary caster-commentator battery
    • PUBG
    • Samsung
    • KT Rolster
    • SK T1
    • OGN producer

    US

    • Attorney specialized in gaming, GT Law office
    • The Dallas Cowboys

      UCLA esports club
      Blizzard
  • China

    • Esports lead, Alibaba
    • NetEase
    • Tencent
    Europe

    • LaLiga
    • JC Arena
    • Station F

The time before Starcraft – part 2: the rise of PCs

When it comes to video gaming, South Korea was obviously a console-centric market until the mid 90s. So what happened to the market such that the later Korea could lead the PC-centric esports scene? A few points to mention.

  • Everyone started to have a PC at home

My first PC was a 286 that my dad bought one day when I was a second grader in primary school — 1991. I remember my only usage of that strange boxy looking machine was to play games such as the Prince of Persia (an epic game by the way) and Tetris. I wasn’t the only one among my friends, but probably on the early adopter side. A PC-holding household may have used the PC mainly for some other non-entertainment reasons (documentation, programming, design, and etc.), but these machines were a perfect platform for gaming.

  • Infinite numbers of game contents produced and the ubiquity via piracy

As new PCs were introduced in the market (e.g., 386, 486, Pentiums), so did the computer game softwares. The graphics got more realistic; the sounds got more vivid; many new game genres were created. For instance the first sensation when I played Doom (i.e., the early form of First Person Shooter) for the first time was simply unforgettable. And these game contents were virtually free as software piracy was a common practice in the Korean market.

  • Modems, LAN, and online games

Before the internet really took off in the mid-90s, Korea had what we called “PC Communication (PC통신)” such as Naunuri, Choen-Ri-an, and Hitel that were accessed by modems. These PC communication channels also provided online games, partnering with game publishers, such as MMORPGs and these became more popular. The only drawback was that, because it was based on Modem, while you’re playing the game (usually hours) your household phone line would be on busy and the phone bill would skyrocket. It wasn’t a good era for online gamers as you would get scolded by your parents very often but the situation turned more favorable when high speed cable internet had become available in the market.

  • PC bangs — Commoditized service and community-building

Availability of PCs, Local Area Networks (LANs) through affordable high-speed internet, pirated offline and online gaming contents readily available to the user were all important factors of Korea becoming PC-centric market. But what really changed the game was the advent of PC bangs, i.e., game dedicated net cafe. You no longer needed to have the best PC and the network environment at home neither needed to get a hold of the latest game software through some piracy site. As long as you play a few bucks an hour, you could play whichever game you want at the time of your likings. Also, it naturally enabled local communities to form. It was always fun to play together with your friends or even if you don’t know anyone you could make new friends.