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XLIVE Interview Series

Tobias Sherman, Foundry IV - Interview (Part 1) (video) - XLIVE Esports Summit 2018

Watch part 1 of our video interview with one of XLIVE’s featured speakers, Tobias Sherman, CEO & Co-Founder of Foundry IV.


[00:00] Here we are with CEO, co founder, commander and chief, El Capitan of Foundry, Tobias Sherman. What’s going on man? So nice to have you here today with us.

Yeah, it’s great to be here. Love coming to LA. Especially now from Vegas being that were based there rather than Miami. So it’s a bit, uh, shorter of a flight and it’s, it’s great to be here and sort of celebrating esports and hearing a lot of people from around the industry just get together and sort of trade ideas. And it’s funny, I think a lot of the deals that you see come to fruition are probably done here in the green room on the side in between panels and some of these things. But uh, you know, XLIVE is always a fun one.

[00:38] Yeah, it’s been pretty amazing, man. I think we’ve all appreciated kind of your efforts in this space and what you’ve been grinding out over the years. Um, I think it goes unsaid that you’d do a lot and certainly hustle a lot man. And I think we’re all excited to hear that you’re in the publisher space now. What’s going on in Vegas?

Yeah, the the publisher space is an interesting space right now. It’s one that I think almost through no fault of their own sort of ignored esports for the longest time. It was something that they had to do, not necessarily something they wanted to do. Um, and certainly we saw that with the community around games like starcraft and they kept the competitive edge alive and even counter strike to an extent before, you know, we saw you know, valve and really get more involved in sort of propping up a lot of the events in helping with establishing the majors and such. But, you know, we’re now we’re in a spot where the, a lot of the corporate types and publishers are looking and going, ‘ha, we’ve got a vertical that can make money here. ‘ We should probably pay attention to this.’ And I think as a publisher ourselves, we’re there now to say, okay, well we need to do right by the culture. We need to do right by the, the media rights and most importantly the players and the fans. And I think a lot of times those last two, the players and the fans are going to start to get overlooked a little bit and we need to make sure that doesn’t happen. We also need to make sure that the history of esports, is preserved and not sort of whitewashed into this whole new media spin because I think that, you know, we could potentially be witnessing a bubble otherwise. And you know, when people get sick of spending money and get sick of the burn, especially in investors we see coming in now, they start to say, well, maybe this esports thing wasn’t what we thought it was. And we all know that’s not the case. The good news is the guardians at the gate are the community and they always shine. So before that ever has a chance I think to occur, you know, their our fail safe in our backstop against that. But, but being a publisher is one part of Foundry IV. It’s certainly not all that we are. I think when you look at esports and competitive gaming, um, the market today requires a more robust solution than just making games.

[02:45] So it’s official, Tobias Sherman is in the business of making a game.

[02:49] A few. Yeah.

[02:52] A few alright! What does that look like? Are we talking MOBAs? What does that look like?

[02:55] Yeah, I mean look, it’s funny, we were joking a little bit on social. It’s like you look at PUBG, and certainly we saw it early on in games like Fortnight of course, which is a little more cartoony, maybe a little more acceptable to sponsors and it’s like in my head I hear every other publisher going, ‘we need a battle royale mode right away’, you know, and I think that’s where we have almost a third mover advantage, fourth mover advantage, where we can survey the market and see what trends are sort of just flavor of the month and what actually are intriguing that you can build a robust game around a team, around players, around, you know, players that can unionize for themselves and ensure that they have a career for a long time. Those are the components that we look at that are long lasting. So for us it is interesting to see, you know, the different genres. I think our first two titles, yes, we will be in the mobile space for sure. And then we are looking at a mixed genre title, um, and I think that the real estate is available to pull it off, you know, for, for those older gamers that can harken back to blades of steel, there’s some really great moments and in those early Nintendo games, these sorts of gems where, you know, play just stills a hockey game in case you know, you don’t know, but there was a great moment where, you know, when you would clash enough, a fight would break out and then it would just zoom into that fight and you know, we look at things like that as inspiration and how can we apply those, those one on one moments we really don’t see in esports, or maybe not featured as well as they could be, and so we really look at everything from the vernacular, inserting a little more common sports vernacular into the games, um, things of that nature to make it easier for new fans to come in. We really look at it from all different areas and challenge people that don’t know esports to come in and say, hey, what would, what would make this more palatable for you? What would make this easier for you to understand? But I think that, um, we also have, we should look at us more like a Netflix, right? We have our original content and the games that we’re creating, but we’re also looking to work with other publishers and having some great discussions around potentially standing up their leagues and their franchise systems, but not from scratch. Literally a turnkey operation that comes in and sort of sets that tone.

[05:09] You’re talking somewhat of evp in what they’re doing with h1z1?

[05:13] No, I think it’s a little different than that. Um, it’s, I think that’s great. Don’t get me wrong. And, and I think that those are the types of innovations we’re seeing. Um, but I would not want to take anything from that. That is theirs, in other words, quick story, NBA All Star game, I think three years ago in Toronto, I was there with Rick Fox, and you know, Rick was selling me on the whole h1z1 thing. And at first I thought ‘I don’t the whole battle royale thing really?’ like, Eh, you know, that old school, esports, I was a little reluctant at first.

[05:48] I thought shame on me. This is, he’s passionate, let’s hear him out. And he had the whole thing mapped out then, right. He was a believer. He knew. He said we could have, you know, fans in stands, and he rattled off, and I’m not going to say it because who knows, they may be implementing those things, but, you know, he had the whole plan then. So I would not, dream to take any type of, uh, I’m not trying to take what they’re doing and just sort of copy that in that regard. This is a little different I think, but, but similar in the sense of publishers working with another party to bring everything togethert hat makes sense. I don’t think every publisher needs to go out and do their own row or even has, you know, sort of the bandwidth nor the desire to want to go out and do their whole entire franchising run, it’s quite exhaustive and you know, it takes a lot of effort and sort of the stars need to align just right to get it, to get it off the ground.

[06:43] So what does the cycle look like for you? What’s the roadmap? Are we talking 12 months out, two years out, three years out, you know, when are we gonna hear more from Tobias?

Oh Man, I love your questions. So I think you’re going to see over the next six to 12 months a big ramp up. You’re gonna see a lot of announcements. Um, you know, we have Simon at Bitball. The guy’s just a genius in this space. He’s sort of, you know, a lot of people don’t know his name, but if you’ve seen a stream in hearthstone, you know, you can rest assured his format was up there and how you’ve seen it and you know, he was one of the first people to actually get competitive hearthstone on Twitch in a way that was digestible, sort of, we could say like, invented the whole cams, if you will. Um, and just, you know, he’s been an innovator. I get a lot of credit for innovation in the space, but it’s only because of Simon and his ability to really dream these things up. And um, and so, you know, I think next six to 12 months you’ll see a few different products coming out that aren’t necessarily on the consumer end for purchase, but more on the b2b end, and just making sense of the space and ensuring that there’s value. We like to say, you know, Foundry IV, we’re forging value whether people like it or not. Because if you know, at some point you have to make money. That’s the bottom line. You know, you’re outlaying so much. There’s these cash burns and we have to find a pathway to that and I think there are a lot of obvious pathways that publishers may not be motivated to take because they’re already making so much money. Um, so, which is okay, that’s great. And, and maybe there’ll be second to this model and think of a better way to do it or so we hope. In terms of the big game, uh, we’ll call it, I think, you know, it’s funny because no matter what Simon tells me on a timeline, I shorten it. So if it was up to me, obviously it’d be next month, but in reality, um, you know, we’re looking at an Alpha to Beta stage about two years out. But there’ll be a lot of fun along the way. I think a lot of ability for community to participate, a lot of the way that we took a lot of lessons from like star citizen and the way they did it right, where it’s like, Hey, the game’s done when it’s done, but, but please be a part of it and give feedback. Um, but again, I think there’s going to be some interesting b2b products along the way to sort of help ensure that there’s value because I think at first a lot of sports teams came in, and it was my fault, for really getting those dominoes started. I didn’t think they would fall as fast as they did. I mean we had Scott O’neil, certainly liquid was doing their thing with golden state and Peter Guber. And then before, you know, it was just, you know, all the dominoes started falling. But I think everyone was kind of placing bets and you know, now it’s time to sort of check where those what paid out what didn’t and how do we do it better.

[09:22] So you’re a south Florida guy, think you’re a beamer guy too. What got you out to Vegas man, and not LA. I mean, what got you to skip over? Is it a capital thing? Some partners you brought in or what?

Well, so we couldn’t ask for a better partner than MGM. I mean obviously I think they are the leaders and entertainment. When you go to Vegas, all of their properties are the best. You’ve got, in my opinion anyway, you’ve got Bellagio, Aria, MGM itself, Luxor now with the esports arena, you know, they, they just have such a robust offering for everybody and this isn’t a commercial for them. It really is the way I feel. I’ve always been sort of enamored with Vegas and um, you know, for us to have them as our, as our lead investor in primary partner was very important because they bring components that nobody else can bring. As a publisher now we have access to not just the gaming side of it, but also we can scale. I mean they’ve got so many different venues that you can utilize and that other publishers can utilize. So, you know, from that standpoint, it was great. Now, good question on the south Florida, coming from south Florida, I’m either flying to New York or LA all the time. If I say, Hey, you want to do a meeting? Sure you want to come to Vegas, we’ll take care of the MGM and twist my arm a little more. So it’s a lot easier to stay put and get meetings into Vegas, right as a 40 minute flight from LA. So I told you I be candid with you. Right. So, so I can’t complain. I think um, you know, Vegas is wonderful. It’s a wonderful city. Um, again, you know, MGM being the leaders in the entertainment, they’re going to be the leaders in esports as well and stuff they do with us and stuff they do on their own and you know, and, and with partners that participate with them. So that’s what got me there.

[10:55] I think they made a lot of moves. Uh, you mentioned one of their properties Aria, I know what esp gaming and Jeff’s doing over there with them building out their studio space, luxor we know what’s going on with ESA. They’re making a lot of big moves. Do you fit into a greater arching esport ecosystem plan for MGM? What do you think? 
So right now, um, we also provide them consultancy services. So we started off on a consultancy basis sort of walking them through what we look to do and where we think the space is going and so we’ll survey opportunities as they come. But what’s great about MBMis their thirst to learn and there they are truly passionate and committed to understanding the space. So I mean you’ve got guys over the guy, you know, Neil and Sid and Lavelle and all of the senior leadership that’s behind this and Rick Arpin has really just been blazing the trail. Um, so when you start to mention those things, it’s no surprise because they put a commitment to the time to learn it. And so I think, you know, it’s collectively getting all of our heads together and just saying, okay, well what will make sense in the city? What wouldn’t? And also I think more importantly, where can we experiment and push the envelope a little bit and you know, where can we go ahead and do some things that nobody’s seen before. And those are going to take a little bit more time. Certainly. But you know, I think that MGM is poised in position to pull all those things off. I mean, they’ve already got the VR experience at level up bar, you know, like you were mentioning a lot of the other different things that they have, but you know, whether it’s a convention, a publisher that wants to do a finals there or their own, you know, new initiatives, they look at all of it. They look at all of it.

Watch Part 2 of XLIVE's Tobias Sherman Interview HERE

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