B2B Tech Talk with Ingram Micro
B2B Tech Talk with Ingram Micro

Episode · 3 months ago

Building Esport Spaces and Launching Tournaments with Andrew and Michael


There’s been debate around the credibility of esports in the world of education and whether it should get the same consideration as regular sports.  

What are the benefits of esports, and what does it take to see success through creating an esport space? 

Shelby Skrhak speaks with Andrew Schmidt, senior Solutions Center engineer, and Michael Mason, senior Business Transformation engineer, both of Ingram Micro, about: 

  • Stepping into the esport space
  • Designing spaces for esport tournaments 
  • The benefits of building an esport arena 

To join the discussion, follow us on Twitter @IngramTechSol #B2BTechTalk 

Listen to this episode and more like it by subscribing to B2B Tech Talk on Spotify,Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Or tun e in on our website. 

You're listening to B two B tech talk with Ingram Micro, the place to learn about new technology and technological advances before they become mainstream. This podcast is sponsored by Ingram Micro's imagine next. It's not about the destination, it's about going someplace you never thought possible. Go to imagine next, DOT INGRAM MICRO DOT com to find out more. Let's get into it. Welcome to B two B tech talk with Ingram micro. I'm your host, Shelby Scare Hawk, and our guest today are Andrew Schmidt, Senior Solutions Center engineer, and Michael Mason, senior business transformation engineer, both of Ingram Micro. Andrew and Michael, welcome, thanks, shelby. Thank you, shelby. Well, so today we are talking about building out an e sports space, but both the opportunities and the challenges there. So I understand that Ingram micro's BTC team actually built an e sports space in house there on the Ingram micro campus. So I guess before we get into the intricacies of that, Michael, you get this kind of a thirty foot view of the sports. I mean how ubiquitous is the sports becoming? Well, well, I think in my mind there's a lot of people that follow e sports, right. So, you know, from a professional standpoint, right there watching Gamers, kids follow youtube channels or twitch streamers, things like that. So so definitely it's a big deal. There's a professional circuit and obviously there's tons of people that that love the game. So from our perspective, you know, where we see a ticking up and the markets that we serve are mostly in the education segment, or at least that's the lead segment that we think about. Certainly for colleges it's sort of table stakes. Right at colleges, you know, they're gonna trying to attract children to their school or, you know, teenagers, high school students. There are schools, right, they're going to have the sports programs, right, that's absolutely we're seeing it in high schools for sure, and that's sort of the number one place that we're looking to sort of help and guide and inspire. Right, we see a lot of our partners sell into schools, right, and maybe they're not bringing this up. So really trying to inspire them to look to sell into that space, you know, and and really Ingram has sort of this this full solution, right. So we have all these different pieces and parts and then we're seeing it pushed down into even smaller parts of the education market, so middle schools and and uh, elementary schools, which was an interesting one that we had run into. So it's about competing, right, just like you compete with soccer and football and school you can have a different set of kids essentially competing with gaming, and there's a lot of benefits that sort of come along with that and and that that was one of the appealing things for for us as well. Well. So the business transformation center at Ingram Micro. They, you know, like I mentioned, they just finished building this this small sports arena. Basically. So, Michael White, did the BTC set out to do this? Because I wanted to, is, I guess, the short answer. But right. So I was looking for ideas, for something interesting to do with the space. Right. So we have different spaces, you know, in the BTC already, right, and really what we're trying to do is show the breath of the things at Ingram cells. So we have a data center, right, and you know, we show all the data center stuff. We have a healthcare space, we have a classroom and we have a retail space. So, for instance, a retail space is great for showing a lot of the data capture, point of sale type of things that we have. Well, you know, we were looking at different spaces and Ingram actually has a gaming program uh. And then really our our pro a v divisions, and then really what we once we started looking into eastport. It's as...

...an idea. It touches so many different parts of of Ingram, micro and and the different types of solutions, from security to networking to video distribution things like that, and we have all that stuff. So that was sort of one of the things that kind of brought in another part of Ingram that we really weren't represented when we tried to show the breath of Ingram. And then, if I can keep talking, I would say that the other reasons, well, one it's just a fun thing to show, right, for for Andy and I for for other people, and the other thing is, you know, we you know, sort of post covid or coming out of Covid, however you want to think about it. You know, I think it really fits our campus strategy as far as having a draw to bring people to campus. Right. So, believe it or not, a lot of ingram associates are like wow, I can do my job from home. Why do I? Why do we need to come in even one day a week? You know, and and certainly there's a lot of culture things there and we're trying to appeal and help, you know, maintain the community that we've built for so many years on the campus. And we've already started seeing that from our from our first event for sure. But but really that was one of also the driving factors. Hey, let's have some contests on campus. Let's make it something to do and and fund to do, have teams compete and you know, really I think that's something other businesses could could look at themselves, right, something to do in their offices that's a little bit different that it sort of certainly appeals to maybe some different types of people, maybe newer employees for sure, which a lot of us have newer employees. So, yeah, those are some of the reasons we we went ahead and spent a couple of years actually creating the space. Yeah, I mean talk about about a perk. It's interesting that this isn't just a a BTC thing. I mean, you know, I understand. Yeah, you've you've got several setups. I understand there's a Home Office set up in a cafe, set up there in the in the BTC. Basically all these little vignettes of technology uses. But the fact that this isn't just a you know, four demonstration purposes. You know, it's actually open to the to the campus. Uh. It's a really interesting idea. So, Andrew, tell us about the space. I mean, how how large is it? How many gamers can it accommodate? That sort of thing? Well, the actual physical space is nearly thirty ft uh in the largest direction, and about twelve foot wide. So we're set up with six gaming stations. So right now we're configured three V three. Three stations along one side three stations along the other side. We could also, obviously, if we're competing with somebody external, with another team, we could do up to six players on the team. We actually have a seventh station which is really set up as a creator station because when we get into actual comminitive matches, and this was one of the fun things we did with the tournament we ran, we actually had a commentator, so somebody who was watching the game calling out the really, really great plays and, you know, talk about uncovering talent. This guy was just really really amazing and just, you know, really impressed everybody and what it added to the overall experience was just really dramatic and that's that's really kind of the theme that we had with building this out too, because, yeah, we could get computers. Well, that actually would have been one of the challenges right now because we're talking gaming system so gps especially are a challenge, or still still a bit of a challenge, and just getting everything in because supply chain or around even just the physical stuff. There were a lot of things that were delayed from the changes that we made in this space because we we repainted, we have a wall to wall vinyl wrap, change out the lights, just to get everything the way it should be for that kind of a space, and it's it took a while to do a lot of that. So definitely one of those ones where, if if you're looking at a hard day line,...

...don't set a deadline into you actually have the space ready. But those are the kind of things that we look at and that really helps us from the standpoint of knowing what what it takes and what goes into it and what you need to do to get to where people can compete versus getting it to where you you'll want it to, because there's still more, more work that we'd like to do to be able to make it a bigger experience. So, you know, how can we get it so everybody can see what the gamers are seeing on their individual screens, etcetera, and so what more to do going forward? And that just underlies how much of an opportunity there is here. But it really makes it valuable being able to look at this stuff hands on. And to your point, you know, we really kind of want to BTC to be a place for experiential learning for everybody across the board. Through the path couple of years, just because we haven't had partners and vendors on campus, we've done a lot more with associates and so they're getting to be a little more familiar and comfortable with the space and just the the amount of draw and follow up that we've had from the launch and has just been really fantastic. And you know, kind of we're starting to think, oh, what's our next big project? You know, what's our next big thing? We need to get people involved. Well, so, contending with you, Andrew, what was the most challenging part of the build, then I mean, was its supply chain? Was it the logistics? Was it, uh, some other factor that you never would have thought would have been an issue? I would say some of the supply chain stuff was a challenge just because you didn't have the choices that I'd like to. I had some ideas around. You know, I'd love to be able to do like the best, good, better best from a from a system. You know, we ended up with a lot of gaming laptops, which are really nice systems, but you know, I I'm I'm old school. I I want to get a scratch built system in there just because, you know, there's also what we have available, because in a lot of cases, you know, we might carry the manufacturer but not that specific product line in some cases. And then a lot of it was just be getting everything ready to go. Things like trying to set up an account. Well, I've got to set a Microsoft account to set up the system and then I've got to get an epic games account. Well, epic games doesn't like this email, but I just used another variant of it and it was perfectly happy with it, you know, and so those kind of things. We ran into some strange networking issues and we're actually trying to get some stuff downloaded and you know, it's just a case of well, that's exactly what everybody runs into. So as part of this, as part of the event, we worked with the National E Sports Association and so we had actually uh Gloria Majorak, the president, in helping us get set up, and she said that, you know, that's one of the biggest challenges that they run into with schools, because all the resources that you want for gaming you can't have in regular schools. You you can't get to twitch, you can't get to discord, obviously can't get to the game sites and trying to, you know, get the local L T, if there is one, understand how you can control that access and do it in a safe way for the students but still enable what you need to you know, is another takeaway from that and another opportunity to really show, hey, these are the things that you've got to be looking at and it's none of none of this stuff is as simple as you think it's going to be when you get started with them. Yeah, yeah, well, Michael, kind of you know, you guys mentioned it was about two years in the making. How much time minimum? Would you say that a school or a commercial space would need to build out, in sports space, I mean. And also, what kind of budget are we talking about? Yeah, well, I I certainly wouldn't exffected to be that long for for anybody...

...else. You know, we we were jumping through hoops and obviously in the middle of covid and and really it was, you know, that our biggest thing was for this space to get a certain look to it, right. We we kind of you know, we actually got our creative team to help us design to look and feel of the space right, because we wanted a certain kind of vibe going on and get a certain feeling in the space. I think it, you know, from a school doing an e sports program I think the important thing is just to get the primary components in place, which would be all the you know, all the gaming gear and things like that for the students. I do think it's important to, on the A V side, you know, make it an arena where parents can come and watch the kids play. Right. So, so the budget all depends on a lot of that sort of stuff, right. If you know, there are different kinds of games that that a school can play. You know, we mentioned the Rocket League can play on a very basic computer typically, you know, where other Games might require, you know, a bigger thing. So there's all sorts of different levels that come into and when you put stuff on a big display, well, you could put it at four K and pay this price and you can put it at, you know, less than that and and get away with it just fine. So I think it's always kind of stages working through a plan. You know, I think the important thing is to get people on board with the benefits of a program or a space, whatever that might be, and then, however much money you can allocate it. We can pretty much fill it up right with either better computes, with better displays, with with that type of stuff, with building out sort of a vibe for the space, you know, in the in the installs and really cool mood lighting into the space that we had and and that type of thing. So it can really vary, but it you know, time and price shouldn't stop you. The important thing is you need to start the program there are resource us is that that help you, that can help you join into school leagues and things like that. We we actually worked with the National E Sports Association, which is one such organization that can that can help schools get going, you know, they so they gave us some advice as we went along the way and then the hope is we can share some of that advice to our partners as as they help their customers. How involved was the National Sports Association? I mean I imagine that they're pretty pretty busy and pretty got their you know, being pulled all over the directions where. You know, were they pretty helpful in trying to provide this type of roadmap or at least a mentor, if you will, for the for the build? I can answer that. I mean I think that they were there certainly for the inspirational piece and sort of the validation and then, you know, so they weren't involved in anything day to day from that standpoint. It was more just now, when we built it, they helped us pull off the actual events and how you would do an event with all the different kinds of you know, using discord and streaming and twitch and and those types of things. You know, they were they were very important at that point, right, so how to actually maybe do the matches and hold a tournament and all the tech stuff that would go on in the back end and those circumstances. Yeah, well, and that's I mean, that's the thing is that there's still a lot of people that, uh, you know, don't really that are skeptical, I guess, of the sport. Uh and I want to get your opinion on this, Andrew, but uh, you know, yes, there may be those partners that that just don't really see the opportunity that lies and helping their customers pursue this, this type of build. I wonder if we can talk about the benefits. I mean, I'll pitch it to either one of you. As far as you know, what are those benefits of building an e sports arena, building an e sports team and pursuing e sports as as a sport? Well, one of the things that you know from. Let's talk about it. Valid and pick your criteria. Can you...

...get paid to do it? Absolutely, at the pro levels the compensation is insane. Just people who are on the periphery streaming content. Again, as from an influencer standpoint, again, is pretty impressive. You know, that's a very, very small percentage, but you know, Mike mentioned that it's it's pretty much you've got at the college level. Now you need the sports program and we're seeing colleges offering full right scholarships for those sports programs. So at that level, definitely, you've got to say there there's justification around it and yeah, it's a real sport. As for the benefits, one of the things that in the same time frame, listening to the radio my way in, I've been hearing ads for promoting high school sports and high school activities and this is another one of those. I have never been on the athletic side of things. I would I would never make the team, and I was in high school when where while you didn't make the team, if you couldn't make the team. And but there's so many opportunities, whether you're a Gamer, whether you want to be the castor or whatever. You know, and that's really kind of the interesting and exciting part is the playing field is really level, and probably more so within a lot of other things, you know, from the standpoint of all the way down to things like adaptive controllers that give people who otherwise couldn't an opportunity. So I'll put it to both of you for your best debate skills. Is, E. Sports a real sport, Mike, and don't just say yes, you gotta give me that that compelling reason. The you know the smoking gun. Yeah, yeah, I can just tell you. You know it's we had our first tournaments, right, just just watching it. Right. So, so one we have an audience doing ooze and as right, it was rocket league. So, and we score a goal. You know, you got big OO's as cheers. You know, we got we had an overtime match in the semifinals where you're just like you're on the edge, right, and you have people rooting for their friends like hard. So I think all those elements and then plus a lot of the people that were in our tournament, for instance, we're very good at rocket league, right, they were experienced. They came out of the woodwork and Poof, you know. And there are a couple of teams there that, you know, maybe just signed up for fun and they did not fare very well. So it wasn't just you pick it up and I'm playing a game, okay, this this was coordinated teamwork. You know, someone's playing goalie, someone's strategy, you know, so so again, skill, strategy, execution, Fan involvement. So it's all there and everyone can't do it. I am not very good in any of this stuff. You know. I tried to drive and I'm like, how do I get off the wall? I'm stuck and never just bound. How do you get off the ceiling? That's my thing. I get so bad I'm like, and I even stayed in front of the goal, like, okay, I can't drive worth worth anything, so I'm going to stay in front of the goal and be the goalie. Inevitably I'd end up on the roof the ceiling somehow, and I will if necessary. Here I'll also say there are gamers, professional gamers for sure, that have injuries. Right so, you know there's all sorts of Ergonomic considerations when you're playing right so, so, from your eyes to your wrists to you know, you're back to two other pieces of the body when you're gaming, you are not immune from injury. Andre about you, I imagine you're saying you weren't necessarily athletically inclined. So I would guess then. You know, gaming is, uh is a hobby. Were you good enough to be in the League? And how is e sports...

...a real sport? That's definitely not qualified. I can maneuver decently, but when you see the Gameplay of some of these people, it's just amazing. Yeah, you're talking about getting stuck on the roof. Well, these people were doing turns mid air and hitting the ball and I'm like, okay, so I kind of described it is okay, well, I just took my golf shot and now you're gonna run down the fairway, hit that trampoline and knock the ball out of the air with a club. And they do it. You know, I guess I'm gonna go go back to the just the yeah, there are people who make a living doing this. It's one of those things where, you know, I the financial benefits that people get out of it. Hey, that's great for them, but it's just the gamesmanship, all the things that you hear about, like, you know, high school sports and leadership and all those things, but it is a serious game. You know. One of the things I didn't mention, and that kind of caught a soft card a little bit, was how many people showed up with their own controllers and keyboards and everything. And it's you look it back and it's like, Oh, I guess that makes sense. I mean you don't. You don't show up at the at the tennis court with you know and just pick up any racket that's there. You know, not if you want to be good and that just really kind of rolls into all of the opportunity. So, whether you want to look at it as, you know, a business opportunity, whether you want to look at as a philanthropical opportunity, a lot of the places that would really benefit from these kind of programs aren't going to have the funding. You know, and, like Mike said, for some of the basics. You know, the startup costs isn't that bad, and what their partner wants to do that themselves or, you know, do a community fundraiser. Support it great opportunity and you know absolutely, you know, and that kind of thing is that's the model that that's sports and schools have always taken or, you know, activities. A lot of times you need that outside funding. It's not something that just the school can do themselves, you know, and so I I think it, you know, from a overall community benefits can never really a big impact. So as we start to wrap up our episode, we always ask our guests the same final question, and that's where do you see technology going in the next year? That's that's of course, very broad and it can be within this space or or something something, some offshoot of that. But I'll start with you, Michael. Where do you see technology going in the next year? I don't know, shelby, but you know what, if if I always I always enjoy this part of the show right. But you know, what I would say, is what I always think of when I listened to this part of your show, is I would like to just go back and see a year passed from all your shows and let's do right exactly. I would like to analyze other people's predictions and pan them or congratulate them and things like that. So that's what I'd like to do. They will do the an end of year kind of thing. So Andy and I are in with you for that if, if you want it. But you know, technology will always continue to advance, always continue to get easier, things like that. You know, we're we're seeing new and wonderful things every single day and you know, it's just really whatever people can create. I think, and you know, we're doing stuff with augmented reality now, and it's just like you know, boy, you know, and you you don't know what's next and until you until you do it, and but every all these all these things are are everyone's fingertips and it's just fantastic. So I'll take that as my my non answer to your question, but thanks for asking and I'm actually gonna kind of pick up from there, because what could mind me, you know, just because of the framework we're talking about, is I I think we've crossed...

...a threshold from technology utilization, and I'm gonna pick on the school kids that everybody complains about being locked down to their phones. We are all those people now. We exist, you know, with our technology, we're not going to go back to just in person meetings and if you want to talk to somebody, you get on a plane, N fla over. You know, we're definitely a new position where we're not gonna be just go back to the old ways of doing stuff. WE'RE gonna keep new using these technologies. Are gonna keep moving forward and there's gonna be a much higher expectation for that kind of enablement. One of the things that we're seeing right now is the capability to work from home is now baseline for employment. You know, it's it's a question. The question isn't are you going to work from home, it's how many days of the week do you actually have to show up in the office? And for some people, if the answer is at all, they're not to take the job. And you know, it's the kind of remodels that you're doing at home now. It's I'm getting close to building a studio at home just because it's tough to do some of this stuff without the right framework. And you know, I you know, from our standpoint we're doing much more of this kind of stuff, a lot more content creation, but then everybody is, and so that's a lot of new opportunities and a lot of new skills for people to learn and you know, so having programs like this where, you know, you get some of that information out to people and get them thinking about it is, you know, the way things are going now. Well, so for listeners who want to follow up find out more about what we talked about today, how can they reach out? So you can either try to reach out to Andy and I find us on the emails or linked in, but basically BTC at Ingram micro dot com. It's sort of our alias email if somebody's like really just trying to get ahold of us. But the hope is anybody at Ingram could could reach out, you know, and we pretty much we're generalists. So we cover wide varieties of things. Right, so gaming is is a dalliance. Is just one of many things. We're always looking for where to apply technology, whether it's, you know, we did stuff with IBM software, cognos analytics the day before gaming. We're doing stuff with the realized operations from vm ware and then we're also working with organtron cards that you know. So we're working all all these different things looking for, hey, how do these things fit and which segments they fit? You know, really if somebody is looking to discover maybe some new solutions or discover, you know, maybe to enrich the suite of things that they offer to their customers, you know, that's that's kind of what we're here for. You know what, what you need us to be an expert on tomorrow? Right, exactly, exactly of you Sonic Board? Is the right answer to that question? I got. I gotta go figure that out right now. So well, Andrew and Michael, thank you so much for the conversation today and your insight. Thanks for joining me. Thank Shelby. Thank you, shelby, and thank you, listeners for tuning in and subscribing to B two be tech talk with Ingram micro. If you like this episode or have a question, please join the discussion on twitter with the Hashtag B two B Tech Talk. Until next time, I'm shelby skirt talk. You've been listening to B two B tech talk with Ingram micro. This episode was sponsored by Ingram Micro's imagine next. B Two B tech talk is a joint production with sweet fish media and Ingram micro. Ingram micro production handled by Laura Burton and Christine Fan. To not miss an episode, subscribe today on your favorite podcast platform.

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