Poker Central Launches ESP Gaming eSports Programming

ESP Gaming Livestreaming - Poker Central eSports

Jeff Liboon was head of Amazon’s mobile gaming division before joining ESP Gaming in September.

Poker Central acquired a sister site for eSports this week: ESP Gaming. The competitive gaming company is also a production company for eSports entertainment, but it is spun off from the Poker Central production company.

Launched in 2016, ESP Gaming provides coverage of competitive electronic sports (video game/computer game) events involving popular games like League of Legends, Battlegrounds, and Overwatch.

In recent months, ESP Gaming produced events with CJ Network/Com2Us and Amazon Appstore. Its list of event include the Twitch Charity Poker Tournament, the M2 Mobile Masters Invitational in New York, and the 2017 Summoners War World Championships. Over this weekend, ESP is organizing Amazon’s Champions of Fire Tournament in New York.

Jeff Liboon: ESP Gaming President

The Amazon connection runs deep. Jeff Liboon, the President of ESP Gaming, was Amazon’s Head of Mobile eSports Media and Content until September 2017. Before that, Liboon worked for Doubledown Interactive and Microsoft.

Jeff Liboon told VentureBeat in a recent article that members of the ESP Gaming team did production work on the World Series of Poker for Poker Central. He said that experience gave their team knowledge and inspiration to launch their own eSports production company, though the production crew has worked on a variety of other sporting events, including X-Games, Olympics, and the NFL.

Original eSports Shows in 2019

Throughout 2018, the plan is to partner with top gaming developers on PC, console, and mobile platforms. Starting in 2019, ESP Gaming plans to produce original content. That content will air on Poker Central.

Alongside the production side of the business, ESP Gaming launched ESP Labs, which encourages investments in eSports games, platforms, and other products. The entire business is in an expansion phase. Even though ESP Gaming’s staff includes only 10 people at the time, it plans to grow into a home office of perhaps 25 to 30 people by this time next year.

“Make It Friendly for Larger Audiences”

Jeff Liboon said his company’s plan is to engage already-loyal fans with engaging shows about eSports, while making eSports more accessible to the wider public. He said, “There is a lot of hype around the esports industry. The media coverage. Attention. At its core, competition in games is a big driver of engagement. We have found new ways to get people engaged and make it friendly for larger audiences.”

Liboon noted that television productions and livestreaming productions are much different. For a TV audience, programs need to be shorter and they need to focus on storytelling. When dealing with a livestream audience, productions can be longer, more in-depth, and involving the nuts-and-bolts of eSports games.

ESP Gaming: Documentaries and Video Shorts

Once ESP Gaming begins producing its own original content, the plan is to produce documentaries and video shorts, not unlike what one might find on the NFL Network’s “A Football Life”. Such docu-films tell the story of competitive gamers lives, show how games are designed, or document the evolution of eSports history over the years.

Live events and other eSports shows will air on Poker Central, which is hoping to build an audience from game enthusiasts. While poker players and eSports gamers might not be the same audience, Poker Central expects there to be enough overlap to make programming synergistic. The growing popularity of electronic sports should increase viewership overall. The early reviews from the poker media suggests to Poker Central that it should take a page from the eSports livestreams and make poker programming more engaging.