This is one in a series of stories that highlights each company in the 2019 class of the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars. Visit LIFT Labs to learn more about this world-class program for connectivity, media and entertainment startups, and get information on applications for the next class.
David Sturgeon and Constantine Tsang love gaming. Back when they were next-door neighbors in Boulder, Colorado, they were fierce rivals at classics like Call of Duty and FIFA. Well, not exactly fierce rivals.
"Constantine beats me at every game we play, hands down," Sturgeon said.
With some training, Sturgeon could eventually beat his longtime rival. But for years, that training didn't exist. A basketball player can analyze her shot with video. A baseball player can compare his swing to the professionals, but why a similar method didn't exist for gaming remained a mystery.
Sturgeon didn't have a training solution that used analytics and artificial intelligence to make him better at video games. So he and Tsang built it.
"We are building the digital gym equipment for esports athletes," Sturgeon said.
Unlike traditional sports, you don't need to be tall, fast or strong to play esports. But you do need to refine your skills. In the wildly popular open-world survival game Fortnite, for example, Pivan's technology will analyze a player's "weapon bloom," which is the size of the weapon's crosshairs as they expand and contract. The smaller the crosshair, the more likely a player will hit their target. Pivan compares people's gameplay to thousands of games from professionals and suggests ways gamers can improve — so they'll play more like the pros.
Advanced analytics and training are the logical next steps for esports as it continues exploding in popularity. In 2018, esports captured 400 million viewers worldwide and total revenues reached $869 million. By 2022, revenues are estimated to triple to $2.69 billion. The boom is hardly a surprise. Most people 40 years and under grew up playing video games, and many fantasized about being the best player in their neighborhood, city or country. Now they can compete to find out if they actually are.
"There are hundreds of millions of dollars in prize money at stake and celebrity-level careers available," Sturgeon said. "Amateur and competitive gamers are constantly looking for new ways to improve their play so they can compete at the very highest levels."