Following the partnership between GRID Esports and Riot Games, we talked with both side about the importance of esports data.
GRID and Riot Games recently entered an exclusive partnership that makes the former the official data provider for VALORANT and League of Legends esports. It gives Riot analytical support to provide to its teams, internally and on the professional playing level.
As data becomes more and more prevalent, and honestly downright necessary, in esports, this partnership is one to keep an eye. And that's why we sat down with Moritz Maurer, CEO and Founder at GRID Esports, and Doug Watson, Head of Business Strategy, Global Esports at Riot Games.
They discussed how the partnership came to be, why the data that GRID can supply is so important, and what kind of industry precedent they are looking to set. Official data right from the source is the key focus.
Doug and Moritz's roles in forming the GRID x Riot partnership
It all started with the VALORANT Data Portal. This beginning to the partnership is how GRID showed Riot Games what they are capable of:
"My role is essentially to help understand the opportunities that exist around our esports landscape. And to help with our partnerships, our product development, and different opportunities in order to grow and find new ways for us to engage with fans. To make the ecosystem healthier and thrive."
Coming from a data and insights background, Doug has been with Riot for eight years. His intentions with the partnership are to have official data increase the entertainment value of the product, while also ensuring competitive integrity.
For Moritz Maurer, he has been in esports for over a decade, running a variety of startups. One of those was GGWins, the first legal and esports focused bookmaker in the UK. Back then, data was just as important, but was quite the manual proccess and ran mostly through Excel spreadsheets.
Now, in the year 2023, data can be obtained a lot easier. And if you ask Moritz about the partnership between GRID and Riot, he'll tell you plan and simple how valuable official data and real-time support is:
"Data and stats can help to broaden the appeal. Make esports more accessible, and engage the most informed fans and players. As well as support a competitive ecosystem, both on the integrity side, but also making data available and creating a level playing field around access to stats."
Why VALORANT and League of Legends?
It isn't a secret that Riot has pretty much perfected the esports formula. VALORANT is the fastest rising esport on the planet and League of Legends just set the record for the most-watched esports event in history with Worlds 2023.
So naturally, we asked Doug Watson and Moritz Maurer why are statistics, data usage, and analysis so important for the two games:
"We make games that have extremely competitive ecosystems. that celebrate the pinnacle of those via our esports, and things like VALORANT Champions and Worlds for League of Legends . . .
"We're talking about an audience that, from a game perspective, really does immerse themselves into those stats to help learn, grow, and understand the game itself . . .
"There needs to be more data points. There needs to then also be ways of having that official data made accessible in real-time, so that it can enable those experiences . . .
"By having a partner like GRID, we are able to bring thata data out to the market and make it so that stuff can come to life."
The CEO and Founder of GRID followed up with interesting points about the platform's purpose and a look at how esports data differs from that of traditional sports data:
"We are a data platform. We think about enabling innovators and we're not looking to build out every product ourselves, but be the gateway for anybody wants to build something with data, create this stuff, empower them, and make it available . . .
"If you work in traditional sports data, everything is built vertically and the sports don't change all the time. They're not introducing a third goal and a second ball on a football pitch next month without any heads up . . .
"The esports titles, they evolve and the games are changing. It's awesome to see. Especially League of Legends, which I have played since it came out. It is a very different game now. So, you have to be focused on this."
It is absolutely true. Another base isn't going to be added to baseball and you certainly won't see many changes in the roles of a position player in hockey. Nerfs and buffs, map tweaks, new weapons, and so much more are constantly being considered for our favorite esports titles.
The team at GRID Esports, in partnership with Riot Games, is set on providing data that also changes over time. They're here to enable creators, players, and fans the ability to use data that helps them adapt to these changes much quicker.
Setting an industry precedent with the GRID x Riot partnership
The last point we'll touch on from the conversation deals with industry precedent. It is no secret that esports and gaming has had its ups and downs. Mistreatment, misconduct, and mismanagement are not uncommon in the industry.
That doesn't mean there aren't a ton of positives to look at. Budding superstars in professional gaming, new titles with huge fan bases, and community backed initiatives of all kinds give hope to those of us behind the screen.
Riot Games, their esports, and their charitable efforts have been a shining beacon in the eyes of many in what some call an esports winter. Plenty look to Riot as the role model for engagement and feedback.
With this being such an impactful partnership, and the status that Riot Games holds in this industry, we asked both Doug and Moritz what kind of industry precedent they hope to set:
"Not all esports are the same. Not all the needs of fans are the same across. And so the needs from a data perspective are always going to be different. It is like saying, what are the needs when you track a soccer match versus when you're tracking a ping pong match . . .
"There's a whole world of future creators out there that have amazing ideas and opportunities to build immersive experiences around these titles.
"And I think that's something, as a company that's very focused on creating the best player experiences. If we can enable that type of ecosystem to come to life for gamers, I think that's really meaningful."
"The concept of official data is the most central theme to GRID's vision. That's why we exist. We exclusively work with rightsholders and cater to official data. There's no scraped data on our platform whatsoever . . .
"By using official data, you're part of the official data ecosystem and you're part of a chain that brings value, revenue, and engagement back to the rightsholder. Ultimately, you contribute to the growth and sustainability of the ecosystem . . .
"So, you ask about the precedent we want to set. The future we see starts with official data. There's a universal entry point, and we have built this out over years.
"Anybody can start with free access to data, build something cool, and turn their product idea or project into a commercial application down the line.
"That's the future we kind of dreamt up here and the role we want to play as a platform for Riot Games in this arena."
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