Angel Munoz was an early eSports backer with the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) long before livestreaming helped propel professional video gaming into a global pastime. Munoz is the founder, president and CEO of Mass Luminosity, and the creative mind behind Gaming Tribe, a next-generation social media network for gamers and technology enthusiasts. Launched in March 2014, Gaming Tribe has an audience of nearly 250,000 gamers who are active PC gamers. With sponsors like AMD, Logitech G and XFX, the site gives away high-end PC gaming rigs and other tech as prizes on a regular basis. Munoz talks about the integration of eSports functionality across this platform in this exclusive interview.
How did you get involved in eSports the first time around?
I became involved with eSports before it was called eSports, back then we referred to it only as professional gaming. My participation in the sport commenced with the launch of the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) in June 1997, which was the first professional league for computer gamers, and some think the initial propulsion of modern eSports.
How have you seen eSports grow since you sold Cyberathlete Professional League?
When we sold the CPL in 2010 and the new owners decided to move the league's operation exclusively to China the sport went through a brief period of dormancy in the Western hemisphere, but with the launch of competitive titles likes DOTA, DOTA2, and League of Legends a new generation of competitive gamers emerged and the sport started its growth trajectory again.
Why did you decide to re-enter the eSports space?
Actually, I have no interest in entering the professional arena again, the sport seems well served by the big title events. What I believe is needed is a global amateur league, that can provide new teams with rankings, on-going competitions, strong community support and access to potential sponsors and fans.
How are you going to use the Gaming Tribe to target eSports fans?
Gaming Tribe’s tech-engine can be effectively adapted to schedule, monitor, support and rank online competitions, while also providing a starting base of 250,000 PC gamers and potential fans. We already have a number of companies supporting Gaming Tribe, who also happen to be actively supporting eSports -- so this intersection of social media and competitive gaming seems both feasible and timely to us.
What do you feel differentiates your PC gaming audience from others out there?
The Gaming Tribe community is often referred to as the “best community of gamers in the world.” I think some of the reasons for this is how we successfully integrated a rich social media experience with active interaction with the community. Also our engagement numbers are through the roof and trump all of our other social media activities on the larger networks, by a factor of 2 to 1. This may be due to our gamification of the social media experience through leaderboards, earned badges, reward-action promotions and our proprietary Loot Drop giveaways.
What are your eSports plans?
Right now we are working on completing Phase II of Gaming Tribe RWD (Responsive Web Design), once we complete that process we have a couple of smaller projects to launch and then in early 2015 we will add the eSports feature to Gaming Tribe. We already have on our staff the two primary programmers who helped develop the now inactive Cyberathlete Amateur League (CAL): Andrew Waterman and Andrew Slane. That gives us a distinct advantage. We are also chatting with other members of the community who wish to assist us with this new development.
What games will you focus on?
Our global amateur league will not have a specific focus and will be open to any competitive game the community wants to support.
How will you work with game publishers and established leagues?
If game publishers or leagues feel it’s of value to partner with us we are willing to discuss that when the time comes, but neither are necessary at this stage of our development.
What opportunities has livestreaming opened up for you when it comes to eSports tournaments and events?
Livestreaming will be incorporated into our platform, either through the Twitch API (which seems a bit undeveloped at this time) or our own solution. We are fine with either path, but would love to see Twitch fix some of the glitches we have encountered in supporting their platform remotely.
What opportunities do you see for sponsors and brands through your eSports endeavors?
We think the reach and interactivity of our new platform will be very attractive to sponsors, and in fact our early discussion with our top corporate sponsors about this new initiative have elicited unanimous approval and high levels of excitement.
What role has social media and social networking played in connecting your audience with PC gaming brands?
Social media is a unique form of crowd-sourcing content in real-time, and its augmented by the close interaction of its participants. We know that young gamers are consuming traditional media at extremely low levels, so the opportunities for advertising are systematically vanishing. Therefore, social media, especially one focused on this core demographic, is truly the ideal environment to present brands and services in a fresh new way, not only to create new customers, but also to reinforce the loyalty of existing customers.