In the space of just over a year Super Evil Megacorp has managed to build Vainglory from a tiny eSport to one of the biggest in the world. Streams regularly bring in tens of thousands of viewers, a partnership with Twitch ensures them prime slots on the site and the recent World Championship at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood proved just how big the scene is.
But that isn’t enough for Super Evil, they want to get everyone involved with Vainglory, and to do that they have decided to target the grass roots scene, and more specifically Universities. In the UK they just signed a partnership with NUEL, the UK’s national university eSports body. This will see more and more universities officially support Vainglory over the coming months.
To find out just why they have chose UK Universities of all places to try and grow the Vainglory eSports scene we sat down with Super Evil Megacorp CEO Kristian Segerstrale.
eSports Pro: It’s rare that we see eSports publisher target universities specifically, so why have you guys decided to do that?
Kristian Segerstrale: “If you compare to a year ago, where Vainglory eSports didn't really exist and the competitive scene was just driven by amateur organisations, it was really fun but it was very one dimensional in some ways. Right now you have the top level competition, you have community tournaments and you have the university tournaments. For us that's so important because ultimately to us the point, the reason why we are making Vainglory and the reason we are so excited about it is because it gives people the opportunity to play a competitive team game at every level.
“It’s a bit like football, you can play with your friends in the park, you can play in the amateur leagues or even the professional leagues and if you are really good you get to play in the world championship. All of that crates really fun content for others to watch. We have always dreamed of making a game that is as much fun to play as it is to watch and we are really thrilled to see it happen with Vainglory.”
eSports Pro: When you put it like that it becomes even more surprising that more publishers aren’t putting money into university eSports. Why do you think that is?
Kristian: “If you think about traditional PC based eSports, for you to truly be able to be together have fun together and assemble a LAN team you need to have people come together and bringing a high end PC with them, to their university, or access to their computer lab that is friendly enough to let you install the games and play on site. All together it is an activity that requires the people who are involved to either go into their dorm room or to seek out the PC dungeon somewhere in the depths of the university.
“Whereas with Vainglory the thing that is unique is that the game can be played at the highest level with a device that you have in your pocket. So if you look at people who are playing in the world championships, many play on iPhones, people play on lots of different devices that they already have. This fact makes University a much more interesting place for us in particular.”
eSports Pro: You touched on it briefly there and have mentioned it a lot in the past, but Vainglory is a very social game at it’s core. Is that a big reason for going into Uni’s to help breed that community and bring in more players?
Kristian: “What Vainglory is really about is bringing friends together to play together. All of us have gone through that experience of going to uni, not really having friends but making friends in the process of joining sports societies or other forms of societies. Vainglory is just like that. It is an activity that brings people together, and what we are excited about is working together with these grassroots organizations at universities to help people with a similar interest in competitive gaming get together and ultimately hopefully spur on the competitive scene in the future.
“But it really is about bringing people together in the same way as sports society and other societies. They predominantly bring like minded people together to have fun, it’s often as much about the game or sport as it is going to the pub and being social together, and that is how we want to introduce Vainglory to universities.”
eSports Pro: As we have already seen in Vainglory, UK students have the time to get really good at the game and more than a few have competed at EU regional finals. Do you think this move will result in more UK students making their way into the pro scene?
Kristian: “We are working on making Vainglory a product that can fill a similar role to a traditional sport or an activity that friends do together. The primary reason we want to work with NEUL is to simply help these students discover Vainglory and have fun with the game and get together and form friendships round it. That is the most important part.
“But there is also a very real consideration around the evolution of talent, and it's not just players. If you look at some of the top casters in the world of Vainglory, they actually grew up through the UK eSports University system, they became casters through working with NUEL specifically. That to us is really important. eSports is not just about players, it is about coaching talent, analyst talent, casting talent, tournament organization talent. All of that stuff is important for the broader evolution of the ecosystem.
“It is really fun to be able to engage students in not just having fun playing but also these other aspects of what it takes to make an eSport. Whenever there is a tournament anywhere, there must an organiser, some casters, some analysts and coaches and teams and players. All of those things are important to us and the more people that play the more people that will end up in these enthusiast communities, and then we build a great road from there to getting a full time job in the industry. We obviously help them with the Vainglory side but even in the broader eSports world. It is growing so rapidly, so it is going to be a great place for people who want to work in that area, and they can learn the skills they need with Vainglory and NUEL.”