Bayes Esports is, in many ways, a perfect case study of the esports lateral entrant. Much of the data company’s leadership staff have little to no demonstrable esports experience. Most came from tech; some have software-engineering and data-science backgrounds. A platoon of veteran brainboxes—with little esports experience to speak of.
The question is: does it matter?
“A mix of different expertise is key,” says Juana Bischoff, Vice President of Sales at Bayes, when asked about the importance of fresh perspectives in a young, burgeoning industry. “With that, we hopefully can help the whole ecosystem become more professional.”
It took just seven months for Bayes to make a splash; the company was established in January 2019, and in August that year it announced the acquisition of exclusive data rights for League of Legends esports. “It is unique for sure,” Bischoff said on esports data. “And you need a team of experts that can handle this sort of data.”
Bayes Chief Operations Officer Amir Mirzaee, who has over 15 years of experience in tech including a stint at Google as Global Business Development Lead, spoke on his decision to enter esports: “I’d been working as a founder, heading a family office, and as a strategy consultant for Google, who was a wonderful employer. But at some point I looked inside myself and tried to figure out how I could combine my personal passions with my work.
“Tech has always inspired me, and gaming even since childhood. One of the possibilities for me was Bayes Esports. It was absolutely what I wanted.”
Common advice for young people looking for esports jobs is to offer something aside from a love for esports—existing skills or knowledge that can be applied. By extension, for esports to reach the lofty heights native folk often promise, Bayes believes the input of outsiders is crucial. “Google started a revolution with their search engine and monetisation,” Mirzaee said, “which brought the company into the focus of top investors, managers and talent. Three years later, they brought in Eric Schmidt. This is a good example of how an industry gained momentum and saw the market grow rapidly, with people coming in from outside of the industry itself. Top investors, managers, and talent: these ingredients you also find in esports now.” Mirzaee alludes to an important point: the input of newcomers is key for any proliferating sector. Bayes brings expertise from various disciplines and hopes to be the leader in esports data solutions.
“What has to happen above all is regulation and standardisation,” Mirzaee added, when asked how esports must improve. “Esports lacks a uniform structure and format. The leagues are not standardised, as is the case in [football], for example. What’s needed is game publishers like Riot, that show strong involvement and have a long-term view of the ecosystem.”
Mirzaee mentioned Riot, and indeed the League of Legends publisher has franchised the game’s top domestic leagues worldwide. This levelling of the playing field not only standardises the domestic leagues but also makes international events relatively simple to arrange: each team, whether they’re competing in South Korea, Europe, China, or North America, is aiming for the same international events. Each of these leagues is also ran by Riot. Counter Strike: Global Offensive, on the other hand, is far more scattered than LoL yet still works. Esports titles needn’t be identical to one another—each just needs to work in its own way. Standardisation of competition lies at the heart of any successful title, and fresh perspectives may accelerate the industry’s professionalisation.
“I think esports is one of the most data-driven sports in the world”
Bayes’s outlook is drawn not just from tech and data science but also from traditional sports. “The templates for what data tools and services are meant to look like are passed on from traditional sports,” Mirzaee said. “We see that very clearly through our sister company Shadow, that’s building data visualisation products like the Pro Tool for match analysis, data widgets for media use and visual trading tools for the betting industries.”
Bayes is using its expertise in data to enrich esports. But how does esports data compare to that of traditional sports?
“I think esports is one of the most data-driven sports in the world,” Mirzaee said. “Every aspect of the game is digital. We can trace every action and any aspect of the game down to the millisecond, meaning we have more data to work with than any other sport. Our key service to game publishers and league operators is in fact to make esports data universally accessible, to all kinds of service providers and tool creators.”
He added endearingly: “Most people in the industry are nerds compared to other traditional sports, where particularly the older generation of coaches might struggle using smartphones.”
Sceptics of the esports industry point to the lack of revenue generated by tournament organisers and teams—often for good reason. One challenge the industry faces is the independent verification of revenue data; occasionally, esports numbers are inflated and misrepresented. It should come as no shock then that companies like Bayes are entering the industry aiming to smooth the transaction of data, and tighten a lax industry.
At the level of business (let’s say macro), Bayes’s BEDEX platform facilitates transfers of esports data between teams, tournament organisers, distribution agents and so on. Within specific esports titles (let’s say micro), the company wants to mine and extract new value from every in-game pixel. The company already has access to the mainframe of esports’s showpiece, League of Legends. As Mirzaee alluded to: every aspect of this sport is digital. Theoretically everything in esports is quantifiable, and presumably the more reliable data that is available, the more effectively the industry can monetise; publishers can sell more in-depth stats to teams, who can use the data to improve performance, attract more fans, and so on and so forth.
Striking a balance between insider esports knowledge and the use of specialised outsider knowledge is crucial for the industry’s long-term success. For esports to grow, outsiders must be welcomed—otherwise the highly specialised areas, like data management, may not be squeezed of all their juice. Bayes has assembled a capable team of number crunchers and business-development specialists to help usher the data revolution into esports.