This past weekend, several journalists and I were flown out to Las Vegas to cover the inaugural H1Z1 Pro League, the first Battle Royale eSports league (stay tuned for my editorial on the event for my full thoughts). In fact, just yesterday, H1Z1 was announced for PS4, and I had the chance to interview Tony Morton, Lead Systems and Combat Designer at Daybreak Games.
A press conference conducted by Jace Hall and Stratton Sclavos (Partner at Vision Venture Partners) was held Friday evening where we were provided some background behind the decision to enter H1Z1 into eSports. After the presser, I had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Schmidt, Head of PR at Twin Galaxies. Given that Twin Galaxies is part of the governance committee for the fledgling league, I thought it prudent to ask a few questions surrounding H1Z1‘s prospects in eSports and Battle Royale in general.
GameSpace: There was talk of the “Joe to Pro,” ladder. Say somebody doesn’t really know what eSports is, has heard about H1Z1 from his friends. How do you see their potential path from, “I’ve heard about H1Z1,” to “I really want to get into and see if I can make something out of it?”
Chris: Well one of the great things that Jace [Hall] and Stratton [Sclavos] mentioned is that we’re free to play now so you can go on Steam, download the game — there’s a really low barrier of entry for anybody to come in and play this game, whether they’re a casual gamer, whether they’re a very good first person shooter gamer. So we got the league — we already have the built-in aspects of H1Z1, so why not just download it and give it a try and see if you’re good? And I think the other part of that too is that you’re playing with your friends, so you bring in other people with you, you build that team mentality, and if it’s something you like, we’re going to have that “Joe to Pro” pathway established. We haven’t talked about it yet too much — the details — but rest assured, that’s exactly what we’re planning because we want to have as big of an ecosystem as possible for gamers to get involved at whatever level they want to get in.
GameSpace: The two juggernauts in this arena are PUBG, which is — you have to buy into the game — and then you’ve got Fortnite, which like H1Z1 is a free to play. So do you suspect that free to play — just by nature of lowering that barrier of entry — do you suspect that that is going to be the easiest jumping off point diving into it if you’re a casual gamer?
Chris: Yeah, I think so, and I mean, you know, in my personal opinion, I think it’s really to do what we’re trying to do with a pro league if we didn’t have a free to play game. Because if it’s free, you can try it out. And you saw this with a game like League of Legends where that’s free to download, free to play, you can play any champion with a free rotation just as long as you spend enough time in the game. And that’s how it became huge, and how it became a professional eSport. I think it’s the same thing here.
GameSpace: Obviously, this is pretty new. This is the inaugural event. Where do you see this in 6 months’ time? I know it’s very difficult to predict that far out, but given the — I’m not going to say “emergence,” I’m going to say “resurgence” — of Battle Royale, where do you see, not just H1Z1, but also Battle Royale in 6 months’ time?
Chris: Well with H1, particularly with [H1Z1] Pro League, we hope it’s huge, right? That’s exactly what we’re trying to do here in Las Vegas, just to make an impact first and foremost with as many kinds of gamers as possible, so viewers on Facebook, just traditional gamers. With the genre itself, I mean, I don’t see it slowing down at all. Like it’s just gigantic, Fortnite especially right now is just so huge. There’s a lot of interest in the genre, which I think is beneficial to every single one of those games, including H1Z1. So you can kind of pick your poison too, what attracts you the most, right? So with Fortnite, it’s an entertainment experience. They did such a great job updating the game with a new mode, so you have that. But then with the [H1Z1] Pro League, it’s like baseball. You have just an ongoing season. You have player stories, you have team stories. So it’s something that you follow from a narrative perspective. It’s the same thing with PUBG too, so I think there’s going to be a lot of new entries into the market so we’ll have to see what the next thing is. But yeah, I only see it getting bigger, bigger and better and I think that’s great.
GameSpace: Thank you very much for your time, I certainly appreciate it.