Three-time NBA champion Rick Fox has excelled in professional sports. Now he’s found a way to compete at the cutting-edge of sports. Fox owns Echo Fox, a professional eSports team that competes in video games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), League of Legends, Call of Duty, Street Fighter V, Super Smash Bros. and soon H1Z1: King of the Hill.
A lifelong gamer, Fox saw his son hooked on watching competitive gaming and decided to invest in the industry. According to SuperData Research, eSports is forecast to grow from a $750 million business today to a $2 billion business by 2020. So teams like Echo Fox that got in on the ground floor could be worth a lot of money in the future.
Echo Fox is already structured like a traditional sport in that its players earn salaries in addition to sponsorship money and earnings from tournaments and league play. They even live in a gaming house in West Hollywood. Fox talks about the future of eSports in this exclusive interview.
Innovation & Tech Today: What opportunities do you see with Daybreak Games’ H1Z1: King of the Hill as an eSport?
Rick Fox: I’m all in because of my own love for H1Z1 to begin with. So I’m wholeheartedly blinded by that. But you have to have those kinds of blinders on when you’re building an eSport. I really have been impressed with what Daybreak has done by creating this game, and it gives me joy to no end, whether I’m competing in it or watching friends compete.
I want to be there in support of that, but I also want to bring some of my fellow eSport owners along and have them fall in love with the game the way I have. There’s something to be created there that can be just as interesting as we’ve seen from CS:GO. The idea of battle royale, last man standing is interesting to me. That’s King of the Hill. Who doesn’t want to see 150 people go into an arena competitively and you name one as the champion. There’s a lot of interest to see that shaped and formed to even team competitions where you have 5 on 5 H1Z1 teams dropping in and having to all scramble to get their weapons to survive as a collective unit. When you think of traditional eSports, you think of Echo Fox versus Cloud9 and we compete, but how about a group of ten owners who put together five teams that all drop into one landscape at a time. Boy, the thought of that just lights me up.
I&T Today: What potential do you see for mobile eSports, as we see Hearthstone, Vainglory, and Clash Royale finding a following?
RF: One of the individuals in eSports who I have a lot of respect for is Snoopeh. He turned me on to Clash Royale at SXSW and I haven’t put it down in the span of a month now. I’m embarrassed to say.how much money I’ve spent on this game, but it’s all in the attempt of crashing Team Liquid’s clan; I’ve been building my own Echo Fox clan so please spread the word there. The competitive nature in me is one where it’s at its highest level now, and close to having 3,000 trophies. So I’m pretty good, but I’m not the best in the world where there are people with 9,000. But I’m starting to get in the stratosphere with my North American peers. Some of them have 4,000 trophies.
But I agree that the mobile gaming aspects for eSports are no different than what we did with H1Z1. The opportunity to form a partnership with a mobile company to build a professional clan of five professional players to represent Echo Fox globally is something I’m tracking. I’m watching it and at the end of the day once again I want to see a group of owners come together to develop our own expression globally to find a way to have our own mobile game that we all collaborate on, and create, and talk about. There are a lot of creative minds there, and we can bring [that] to our own fan bases and have them compete in the game, as well.
I&T Today: We’re also at the dawn of virtual reality and we’re starting to see games being developed specifically for eSports. What potential do you see when combining eSports and VR in the future?
RF: I was just at PAX East and some of the VR setups there really give you a snapshot into what is coming. If you think playing video games was fun already, the virtual reality side of it is just going to take it to the next level. I’ve been approached by some VR companies. I love where they’re going with things. Right now my hands are full trying to take care of my League of Legends and CS:GO teams and my H1Z1 expansion. But, you’re right, VR is here and it’s going to provide another level of competition and interest for not only fans to enjoy watching, but for us to compete with.
I&T Today: That’s why you just hired Jace Hall as CEO of Echo Fox, right?
RF: Jace is so committed to gamers and eSports athletes as a whole with Twin Galaxies. He believes we’re all eSports athletes – whether we are aware of it or not. And that speaks to the question you asked about just in mobile gaming. I don’t know how many people have sat down next to me every time I get onto a plane to fly across country that’s gaming on their iPad and their phone.
Gaming is everywhere. And those people really may not be thinking about it as eSports. They’re the competitors in that regard, and they’re putting up these scores. They’re proud of them, and at some point they’ll have opportunities to compete to prove that they’re the best in the world at those mobile games.