In this edition of the XLIVE Interview Series we had the chance to sit down with Nate Eckman, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Office of Ultimate Media Ventures. We discussed the growing partnerships with esports clubs, the newly released franchise models for various esports titles, and the love of video games.
How did you get into the space? Were you always a gamer or did you see the hype train leave the station and got on board?
Gaming has always been an important part of my life. As I grew up and started working on creative campaigns for publishers in the industry I realized that I could have a professional career in gaming. The game industry has always felt special to me since it feels like a magnet for truly innovative and creative thinkers who are extremely passionate about building amazing experiences and a brighter future. I can still recall sitting in the Staples Center for League of Legends Worlds and thinking how incredible it was that I got to contribute in some small way to that event and how great it felt to be a part of that community. By that time, I had been getting pulled into constant consulting jobs and knew that I had to create a company at some point to focus my work. We founded Ultimate Media Ventures (UMV) just over 2 years ago so that we could lead and contribute to this community in ways we felt could truly add value: content, products and experiences.
Break it down for me, what is Ultimate and how did it come to about?
UMV is an esports lifestyle media company focused on creating content and developing products. We built out a 22,000 square foot esports temple in SoCal to broadcast events and produce original IP. This company came about because my co-founder and I realized we had to create something of our own in order to truly serve this community to the level that we saw necessary.
Can you tell me about the different parts of Ultimate and how they support the various aspects of the esports space?
Being community first is an important philosophical point for UMV. We think of this in the areas of our content, products and experiences. Being able to tell stories that entertain and educate people is something of tremendous value to brands, publishers, leagues, owners and fans of esports. There will be more and more mainstream media outlets and traditional distribution platforms realizing their narrative path relating to competitive gaming culture. We also continue to design and develop lifestyle apparel and technical wear for professional players and fans alike. Our ULT brand product distribution is going to see big box retail and the largest online buyers and partner collaborations on a global scale this year. It is important that we keep challenging products and wearables in this space to be better and help define new models of scale for the whole category to grow and more fans to benefit. Merging our ideas around lifestyle and gaming will continue to evolve this year as we craft more experiences at our own studio and out in the community at summits and residencies like E/AZ.
Ultimate had a pretty big year. Last we talked, Ultimate was only working with EUnited, now you have a handful of other pro teams you are working with. Can you walk me through what the process looks like for choosing new teams to work with?
Choosing new teams is one part strategic and one part passion. We want to work with partners and owners that enable us to continue to challenge ourselves and our industry to be better across the board: brand building, marketing, content storytelling, championing the mindfulness and wellness of the players, elevating product design and the value we offer back to the industry and customers.
There has been a lot of news about the franchising and regionalization of various esports titles. What are your thoughts about the current state of the competitive esports scene and what benefits have your seen from it at Ultimate?
Franchising is an incredible testament to sustainability and critical thinking at the highest level of investment and industry. We are all involved in this incredible journey of what esports will become for future generations and I think competition on and off the stage brings out the best in us as entrepreneurs and creators. UMV is participating in the infrastructure by being a solid partner for teams, leagues and brands alike. This is a wildly creative and complex time in our culture. It is also a lot of fun to collaborate with and be challenged to do our best work.
Over the last few years we have seen a lot of successes in the esports world as it receives more mainstream attention, with many large non-endemic brands and organizations getting involved with the esports scene recently. What do you feel, if anything, is holding esports back from achieving full mainstream notoriety?
Our industry needs to instill confidence and be able to rationalize more mainstream and traditional advertising and marketing spends. We, as a greater community, need to continuously enable more diversity and equality. There is so much excitement in the space so we should all do our best in whatever lanes we are in to keep raising the bar together.
Lightning Round: What was the first game you ever played? What is your all-time favorite game? What is your favorite game to spectate? What game are you playing right now?
First game: Double Dragon. All-time favorite game: Skyrim. Spectate: CS:GO. Playing now: Destiny 2, Shovel Knight, COD Zombies, Mario Odyssey, Clash Royale
Alright last question, What can we expect to see from Ultimate in 2018?
Cool products, content and fun experiences.