When people are trying to understand the massive explosion that is happening right now in eSports, the most common analogy is naturally to professional sports. Headlines like, “Overwatch League aims to turn eSports into the next NFL” and “League of Legends’ championships watched by more people than the NBA Finals” are common.
Smash.gg has taken the contrarian bet that this analogy is largely false, and so far it has been paying off. Today we are proud to announce Spark is leading the Series A funding for Smash.gg, alongside our partners at Accel and Horizons.
Sports like the NFL and NBA are products of the TV age, where there were a limited number of channels, and tight controls that created the top-down hierarchy we have today. But eSports is distributed, bottoms-up, and a constantly fluid arrangement of different teams, players, and even sports. eSports, in short, is what you would expect to be born out of the Internet age.
Take for example the EVO Championship Series, one of many major eSports tournaments. There were over 7,000 people competing in the same weekend last month in Las Vegas, in nine different games. Everyone from the reigning World Champions to beginning players all in the same room, with many people participating in multiple games. It’s the kind of thing you’d never see in traditional sports. And it was largely powered by Smash.gg.
How Smash.gg got there is the kind of founders journey we love at Spark. Shantanu and his team were players in the Super Smash Bros community, and were frustrated with how technologically backward everything was being run. So, as engineers, they started solving their own problem.
It turned out that these problems were not just annoying, but were actually holding back the growth of the sport. The SSB series has seen amazing growth over the last few years, and as we talked to tournament organizers what we heard again and again was that Smash.gg helped contribute to that growth.
Today, no major SSB series is run without using Smash.gg, and over the last year the team has been finding these problems are endemic across eSports. And so they’ve started supporting other games like Hearthstone, Marvel vs Capcom, Rocket League, and Clash Royale.
Professional sports are a very particular thing, a single league tied to a single sport, tied up with broadcasting rights and allegiances at the city, team, and player level. eSports shares almost nothing in common with these, there are dozens of games, each rising and falling every year, and each sport can have multiple leagues, with players switching teams at whim.
eSports is a different ecosystem than sports, more like a network than a media property. And we are excited to be partnering with Smash.gg to continue building the network-enabling infrastructure for eSports.
And lastly, if this is exciting to you, they are hiring.