A Columbus Company is at the Forefront of Global Esports

esports engine logo with computer equipment control room showing web streaming video game tournament

How Esports Engine cemented themselves as the master of competitive video game production

Video games have never been bigger or more lucrative, and after years of finding its footing, the industry around esports is starting to grow into a juggernaut itself, reaching $1 billion in global revenue last year. At the heart of that growth is Columbus-based Esports Engine. The company helps developers, publishers and others host events, start esports leagues and more, putting the video games we love on the stage they deserve in front of millions of fans.

“Esports Engine is an esports solutions provider based here in Columbus. We do everything under the sun when it comes to esports,” said Chief Production Officer and Co-founder Ryan Thompson. “In a lot of ways, we operate as a production company. We put on live events and live broadcasts, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what we do. We work with the world’s leading stakeholders and game publishers to create experiences for everyone involved.”

While Esports Engine was founded in 2019, the business represents a continuation of a project Thompson and co-founder Adam Apicella began all the way back in the early 2000s, when they were part of the original team of Major League Gaming, one of the original American esports organizations that is now owned by gaming giants Activision Blizzard. Back then, Thompson said the esports world was “a labor of love,” defined by tiny venues and a grassroots effort. And while esports still have plenty of room to mature, watching the industry grow has been one of the highlights of his career.

“By now, most people have heard of esports in some way, but many don’t understand exactly what it is,” he said. “I tell people it has all the parallels of traditional sports — sanctioned leagues, professional broadcasts and players and hundreds of people making a living playing video games. But as recently as 2004, there was no esports. We basically had to invent the term. So it’s really exciting to see this grow from its infancy in hotel ballrooms to some of the biggest stadiums in the world.“

While live events are Esports Engine’s “bread and butter,” they’re more than just a production studio. Unlike traditional sports, where infrastructure and league organizations are entrenched and well established, many of esports’ up-and-coming companies, games and competitions need to establish their platform, rules and more in order to be successful. For Thompson, being able to have some of the largest video game names in the world trust them with that process has been a crucial part of growing the company.

“We view ourselves as more than just a production company or vendor for our partners — it’s not transactional,” he said. “We truly view ourselves as an extension of our partners’ own teams. Most of our clients — often large publishers — have their own internal esports teams and they need help to do more with them. That’s where we enter the fray. We consider ourselves to be a little like Pixar. When you see that our company is involved, you know it’s going to be a good show. It’s going to be sanctioned correctly, a good broadcast and ultimately successful. Authenticity is our biggest asset at Esports Engine.”

That authenticity and expertise allowed the company — at less than a year old in March of 2020 — to not only survive the pandemic with all its employees, but to grow along the way. Since they launched with 25 employees, they’ve grown to about 250, including those in markets like London and Los Angeles, where they have plans to expand their presence. Thompson said it “feels like we’ve done 20 years of programming in the last two years,” and that includes some major new partnerships like the Halo Championship Series, where they’re working directly with Microsoft and developer 343 Industries.

“We not only put on the events and do all the broadcast, we’re also advising Microsoft on where, when and how they should implement their entire esports ecosystem,” Thompson said. “That includes competitive rules, how they should find the best players, how it should be presented, how much and how often and more. That’s the best kind of relationship we create with publishers, where we’re working hand-in-hand as a valued partner.”

On the heels of their already exciting growth, Esports Engine is focused on scaling internationally and building more of those major partnerships. As people continue to feel more comfortable going to live events once again, they’re expecting bigger shows than ever. And they’re doing all of that from their Columbus base, where Thompson, his family and the company as a whole have found a true home.

“I decided to move to Columbus because it was time to find a place I could actually call home,” he said. “In the last three years, I moved here, had a baby and started a company, and I can’t think of a better place to do that than Columbus. I thought it would be tough to convince my Brooklyn wife to come here, but all it took was one trip and we both loved it. And on the business side, the affordability is unmatched. We can build ten studios here for what it would cost in New York or Los Angeles. It feels like home, even for the people we’re relocating from across the country.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: