Esports conferences are an underrated part of industry conversation. While there are no hard statistics on just how many business deals are forged during these busy, action-packed events, they’re arguably the lifeblood for many of those who work behind-the-scenes. Things have changed in the past year, though.
With much of the world going into lockdown in March 2020, in-person esports conferences were forced to cease. It didn’t take long for companies known for these events, the likes of Esports BAR and Esports Insider, to pivot to hosting online versions, but they’re just not the same. Considering most of us have been forced to work from home, we’ve grown accustomed to sitting in Zoom calls for hours on end each week, as well as using similar programs to keep in touch with friends and family.
However, it’s hard to be enthusiastic about more screen time, more chatter about the global health situation and how we’re coping, and simply more of the same. People with precise knowledge of online conference attendance have informed me of the dwindling nature of participation over the past year. It’s not surprising.
While what I’ll call ‘lockdown fatigue’ is no doubt partially responsible for the demise of esports conferences, there’s another major factor: Clubhouse. Though it launched in April 2020, the exclusive invite-only nature of the audio-only chat app saw esports industry professionals gain access en masse around January 2021.
From there, industry professionals flocked to the latest social media craze to partake in spontaneous conversations surrounding the business they work in. At first, the novelty was good. You didn’t have to — in fact, you couldn’t — sit in front of your computer screen and make yourself presentable to converse with others. You could tune in, and occasionally participate, while doing effectively anything else.
Esports rooms on Clubhouse are no longer sparse, but they’re flawed. Though I feel they could render the existing version of esports conferences and panels pointless, that potential has yet to have materialized. Instead, it plays host to frequent generalized conversations aimed at the layperson and those who frankly don’t know what our industry is. This serves a purpose, but not for everybody.
If you’re looking for a deep dive into how organizations monetize, whether data is accurate and sufficient across the industry, or what’s holding mobile esports back, then Clubhouse isn’t the place for you. Conferences and panels are still your best bet for any sort of nuanced discussion surrounding competitive gaming.
The rudimentary, general chats on Clubhouse are abundant, but there’s also oft a conflation between casual and competitive gaming on there. What may be labeled an esports room is likely to be 75% about gaming at large, from my experience.
I have conference/panel/talk/Clubhouse/Spaces fatigue. It feels like the same old conversations are being rehashed on a weekly basis.
Am I alone in this?
— Adam Fitch (@byadamfitch) March 9, 2021
There’s obvious potential here though, potential that erases the inherent barriers to entry at esports conferences: cost and location. If (when?) the exclusive app is widely available to anybody with a mobile device, the number of esports rooms should balloon. This will lead to more of the same old conversations but likely great and informative ones too.
It’s worth noting that once it’s safe to be out and about, flying to foreign countries to conferences and business meetings, then most of the virtual renditions of industry events will disappear. Most people will prefer to be mixing with others in-person again.
That doesn’t mean Clubhouse is necessarily going anywhere though. It can still serve a purpose. It’s easier to chat in the public realm at length and in-depth on calls, rather than on character-limiting Twitter or another social platform that has fewer of a relevant audience.
— Esports Clubhouse (@EsportsOnCH) March 10, 2021
Presuming Clubhouse is one day available to all, even when lockdowns are a thing of the past, it can still be constructive to have shared online areas where industry folk can share insights, gleam lessons from experiences, and have constructive, perhaps-challenging, conversations that can help to move a topic forward. This could be progressive for esports.
- Read More: How to get access to Clubhouse
There will, of course, continue to be the typical snake oil salesmen with no credentials or knowledge spouting out crap and wasting everybody’s time. That’s nothing new on the internet, of course, but it’s something to keep in mind. What if those interested in learning about esports are unassumingly fed nonsense and thus get the wrong idea about what this industry is? It comes down to moderation, I’d suggest, and hinges on the tools and functionality being available by those who develop the app.
All-in-all, esports conferences and panels as we know them at the moment are at risk due to Clubhouse (and Twitter’s upcoming Spaces). These audio-only platforms are yet to have reached their potential. Even when in-person activities can resume, I wouldn’t bet on Clubhouse becoming irrelevant by any stretch of the imagination. As long as ease of access is increased, this new social tool could well prove helpful in our quest for improvement.