Eric Hartness is the Vice President of Esports at Learfield IMG College. His career in the video game industry spans over two decades, during which time he helped create the Tekken World Tour, provided consultation to companies like ReKT Global and Allied Esports, and watched esports grow into a global phenomenon.
NGame: How did you get involved in esports?
Eric Hartness: I got involved in gaming first. Way back in 2000, I joined Electronic Arts as its Director of Database Marketing for EA.com, which, at that time, was the company’s initiative to create online experiences. I was there for nine years and then worked for different startups, but the first time I got involved in esports was as the Head of Marketing for Amazon Game Studios in 2014 when Amazon acquired Twitch.
Although I’d been in gaming for 14 years at that point, Twitch was still kind of new, and [the Amazon acquisition] really took it over the top. That’s when I really got involved and began understanding the power of Twitch, which led to people consuming esports on [the platform].
I joined Bandai Namco in 2015 and got involved in Tekken, SoulCalibur and Dragon Ball FighterZ. Our team, in partnership with Harada-San [Katsuhiro Harada], the father of Tekken, and Twitch, created the Tekken World Tour. Twitch helped us get it off the ground. We went from local tournaments in the U.S. to international tournaments with finals in the United States, Amsterdam, Japan, and Singapore. That’s really where I learned about esports and the passion its fans have.
NGame: What are your responsibilities in your current position?
Eric Hartness: I just joined Learfield IMG College as Vice President of Esports a month ago. So, I’m still figuring it out (laughs). On paper, my job is to help lead the esports initiative, so one thing I’m doing a lot of is educating people on esports. We have people who are embedded in the colleges and universities across the land — we have partnerships with over 200 colleges — and they know traditional college sports inside and out, but a lot of them don’t know anything about esports. It’s all new to them. Younger people on the team and those who have children in esports know, but for the most part, they don’t.
I’ve been spending a lot of time on video conferences, phone calls and others creating decks explaining esports and trying to describe the passion that fans have. College students might like esports a lot more than they like football, basketball or baseball, and that’s blowing people’s minds.
NGame: What advice would you give someone looking to get started in esports?
Eric Hartness: Keep an open mind. I say that because “esports” is a lot of different things. I wouldn’t compartmentalize esports — I would say “video game industry” because esports starts with content, right? You have to create great video games, and there are lots of great opportunities on the creative and business sides.
On the creative side, you’ve got software engineering, graphics, sound, and other production opportunities. There’s project management, voice and design, and even writing — you need copywriters and storytellers, and creative thinkers to develop a video game. It’s a massive production. I know little teams of five that create great games, and I know teams of 200. “It takes a village,” right? There are a lot of opportunities.
If you’re passionate about one thing, start there. In business, there’s sales, marketing, production, HR, accounting … the things that must take place to help the team make the video game and market it.
Esports is the same way and has several career opportunities around it, like marketing, production, and shoutcasting. There are many broadcast journalists out there in college — this is a way to make a breakthrough. You can start out in esports and someday you’re calling the Super Bowl. There’s a lot behind the camera, like audio engineers and social marketing people, too. Then there are coaches, team management, team logistics, etc..
Whatever your passion is, find your lane and pursue your dreams!
Written by HB Duran