Sixers move into eSports

"He's very confused right now," Joe LoGuidice told me as I stared at the screen, trying to understand what was happening.

"Him, or me?" I asked, completely out of my league.
"Him," said Joe, who runs eSports tournaments at N3rd Street Gamers space on 3rd Street. It was at this point that I realized I'd hit my apogee at eSports. I'd confused the enemy with my ineptitude.

I used to know a thing or two about video games, as a kid and a young adult. Those days are over. The Philadelphia 76ers still keep up, though, having bought two eSports teams, video game teams recently. I was at a loss to understand why, but the Sixers and local game pros tell me, the numbers don't lie. "36 million people viewed the League of Legends World Championships," says Jake Reynolds, Senior Vice-President of Ticket Sales for the Sixers. "That's more than the BCS National Championship, the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals and the World Series."

"Ten years ago it was taking place in high school gymnasiums, the biggest tournament in the USA," says Joe. "Now they're selling out the Staples Center."

Joe logged me onto his "Starcraft" account -- it's a very popular eSports game that has professional gamers competing for an audience, both live and online. It involves managing tactical moves, economies, and much more, and it's not something you can just step into and be any good at. Or at least I can't.

Top players are making six figure salaries in eSports, not including bonuses. Alex Gilbert of Red Queen Gaming makes tools for online gamers to improve their skills, and he says that's one key difference now over ten years ago -- now you can make a living at gaming. "Kids these days can legitimately say, and potentially get to the point where they could be a professional game player."

"It's a legitmate opportunity to get out there and generate a new fan base that's not your typical stick-and-ball sports," says Reynolds, from the Sixers Navy Yard offices. He adds that the benefit will be mutual. The Sixers will benefit from the younger demographic that's crazy about eSports, he says, while the NBA team will be able to bring it's infrastructure and powerful marketing tools to bear for the gamers.