Today, Endemol Beyond USA launches its new digital esports and gaming channel Smasher, available across more than 20 platforms, including YouTube, Roku, TiVo, DailyMotion, Amazon Fire TV, Verizon Go90, Vessel and Endemol Beyond USA’s OTT platform GetBeyond.US.
In the coming months, Smasher will be launching six new series — “Rule ’Em Sports,” “Smashed Up,” “We’re in the Game,” “Game Fame,” “Pro v Pro” and “Fantasy League.”
But first up is its flagship series “Legends of Gaming,” debuting today. A U.K. version of “Legends of Gaming,” launched last fall, is now in its second season. The U.S. version, which taped at YouTube Space L.A. this the summer, is hosted by popular YouTuber Toby Turner (a.k.a. Tobuscus). It follows four teams of two gamers competing against each other, coached by some of the biggest names in the gaming industry, including Fatal1ty, Perfect Legend, HotShotGG and Hafu.
VideoInk spoke with Turner and 12-time FPS world champion Fatal1ty (real name: Jonathan Wendel) about why esports rock, the potential of VR gaming and why you probably already missed the boat on that esports fantasy league business.
How is your version “Legends of Gaming” than the British one?
Turner: We have beautiful chairs, and I think the U.K. version is very notorious for their not-beautiful chairs. They’re normal chairs. There are three CCDs in the camera. That’s very technical. Lots of CCDs. Google that. I think it means the colors are more vibrant.
At this point, the publicist interjects to point out that the U.K. version focuses on player versus player game play, while the U.S. version will focus more on team game play.
Turner: I knew that. I just don’t know how to compose myself. I get nervous.
Toby, you do gaming stuff on YouTube. Have you attended esporting events?
Turner: Yes, I love them. Me, as child, watching actual sports was very confusing to me, because I was like, “This is so boring. They’re running around on a field. Why would you not be slaying dragons or shooting people in the face?” That’s just way more exciting than throwing a ball around. But I’m also a nerd. Although I am very physically fit.
Whenever anyone in the industry talks about you, how fit you are always comes up. I won’t go into details, because you’ll probably blush.
Turner: I’m already blushing.
Good. Most people prefer to watch actual sporting events on TV and probably wonder how anyone finds pleasure watching other people play video games.
Fatal1ty: People watched me play mainly because the things I was doing in the game they couldn’t do. So when I’d perform a special move or do a special shot in the game, people would look at it just like they do a buzzer-beating three-pointer or an insane touchdown. They think it’s crazy that I can kill or frag people in this virtual world with such ease, like how can you be so much better than this other guy? It really comes down to the same skill sets you have in sports — having good hand-eye coordination and good reflexes and out-playing and out-strategizing your opponent.
Are you guys playing right now? It sounds like there are video game sounds in the background.
Fatal1ty: I’m at a casino. I’m at a hotel that’s like a theme park, so the music is very video game-esque.
With “Legends of Gaming,” are you doing anything to make the gaming more lively and engaging for viewers?
Fatal1ty: I think the interesting thing is you have these really famous YouTubers who are complete characters playing against each other for the first time in a game they maybe never played before… and they’re learning as the moment goes by. So you’re seeing these characters who are talking smack to each other and trying to psych out their opponents with trash talk, and you’re getting a kind of lively, in-the-front-living-room-with-your-best-buds [atmosphere], but you’re competing to win. And, at the end of the day, these guys only care about is winning.
How would you rate your gaming skills, Toby?
Toby: They’re not the worst thing you’ve ever seen. But maybe they are, actually. I’m like a lot of people who haven’t mastered video games — which is most of the world. For me, video games are fun. That’s the point. You can either go for first place or you can go in thinking, I’m going to sit down and play with friends, we’re going to laugh a lot, and a lot of times it’s at my expense. Fatal1ty has obviously gone in and spent a lot of time figuring out how to be very skilled about it.
Fatal1ty, you launched your professional gaming career in 1999, and went on to win more than $450,000 in cash and prizes. How long was before you proved to your family that you weren’t wasting your time playing video games?
Wendel: I think in 2006 when I was on “60 Minutes,” that’s when my parents finally realized what I was doing was something new, brilliant and innovative for the 21st Century of esports.
How do you feel about the potential of virtual reality in the gaming space?
Wendel: I think it’s a great new way of experiencing the games. They are definitely challenging in the sense that there’s a lot of movement with the eyes and so forth. I think Oculus and Morpheus and all those companies are working on upping the frame rate in the cameras to make it more fluid. I think it’s definitely going to work, it’s just about making it feel like you’re not looking into a tube and you’re just naturally looking everywhere.
I should probably seek out some VC people and pitch them the idea of a fantasy league for esports.
Wendel: You already see that with AlphaDraft and Unikrn. There are a lot of companies getting into esports betting and the fantasy sports aspect. That’s the evolution of what we’re doing today. Esports is the sport of the 21st Century. This stuff is coming, it’s coming fast and it’s getting bigger and bigger than traditional sports every day.
Facts About “Legends of Gaming”
- Endemol Beyond USA is producing over 100 “Legends of Gaming” videos,” with 37 episodes hosted by Toby Turner (aka “Tobuscus”).
- The talent roster on the show collectively represents 57 million subscribers and followers and over 7.3 billion lifetime views across YouTube and other social media platforms.
- Pizza Hut is on board as the principal integration partner, along with sponsors Razer and iBuyPower.
- The UK version, hosted by Ali-A, has attracted more than 32 million views and is the region’s fastest-growing gaming digital channel.
- The format is currently being developed locally in Germany, France, Brazil and Asia.