Vantage Sports is the latest traditional sports statistics company to enter the eSports industry. The company has launched a new subscription service designed to help amateur League of Legends players improve their game. The company is also working with professional eSports teams to provide detailed analysis of amateur players through statistics tracking.
Chase Exon, president of Vantage Sports, explains why the company is venturing into League of Legends and what other games are on the horizon in this exclusive interview with [a]listdaily.
What’s your background in traditional sports?
We address the data problem and the analytics problem in sports. The data problem is that there aren’t enough events tracked in most traditional sports. We have the box score stuff. That’s fine for newspapers and understanding the results of what happened, but it’s not very good for understanding how things happened and how to improve and make better decisions as far as player acquisition, trading players and things like that. So we created new data sets. We expanded what is being tracked, so that we’re tracking absolutely everything in a sport. And then we take that data and we can run better analytics on it, we can do deep machine learning.
How does that translate to eSports?
The process in eSports is the exact same. There’s the data problem, which is what events are you actually tracking, what events matter, and it’s actually a lot harder than a lot of people think. It’s not just a matter of, “did something happen at this time?” because you need to know the context. You need to know why it happened, where were the other players, what is the team comp, and all these other contextual elements that actually make that data important and actionable so you can do something about it. What we did in traditional sports is the exact same thing we’re doing in eSports. It’s just a different venue.
What challenges has eSports opened up specifically, since it is a video game sport?
The biggest challenge really is that none of this work has ever been done before. At least in traditional sports—we started in basketball—and we could look at baseball, which was so much more sophisticated analytically. And we looked at what worked in baseball and how that translates into basketball.
With eSports, we’re starting from scratch. And that’s why we have partnered with LCS teams and worked with them on developing this data set. Another big problem in eSports is there’s this big divide between professional eSports and amateur. In League of Legends you get to the pros and it’s an entirely different game. So the challenge for us and for aspiring professional players, or players of any level that want to play organized eSports, is—how do you learn that game, how do you teach that game and what are the data points that you need to track in order to help people get better and to measure how they’re getting better in playing a pro style, or an organized style, of eSports?
What are some of the pro teams you’ve worked with in developing League of Legends?
We’ve worked with Team Liquid a lot. One of the first products we’re launching is called Vantage League and the idea is to do a training league and to base it on how the pros play the game. Mark Zimmerman and Team Liquid have developed a curriculum for our players to learn and to develop. They have been instrumental in developing this data set to analyze players on how well they execute the strategy, the maneuvers and all the rest of it.
Then we take that and apply it to the amateur game and run custom games and put together a four-week round-robin-style league. We put you on the team. You have pre-game meetings and post-game meetings. You use our stats that we run on your game to develop, and you get immersed in the professional style of playing the eSport, which you can’t get anywhere else because it’s not organized and you don’t have the coaches. You don’t have the institutional knowledge that helps you get better and play that way.
Are you working with Riot Games on this?
No, we’re not working with Riot yet. We’re consultants for teams. We’re trying to help them be better. We started to do this organized league based on what we were hearing from teams because they have a huge recruiting problem. How do they analyze who is a really good player that they might want to bring on their Challenger team? Analyzing their solo queue data doesn’t help that much because it’s a totally different style of game, and without watching tons and tons of video, they can’t necessarily make the right determination on this player. We’re trying to get these players to play like the pros so that their stats are actually relevant to what the pros are looking at.
Outside of the Challenger series, is this program designed for a gamer who just wants to get better at League of Legends?
Absolutely. We are initially targeting aspiring pros, but at some level this is for everybody. Everybody wants organized competition in any sport, right? You can go play a basketball game or you can join a rec league. A lot of times people do both because those things are very different. I’m currently a Silver. I would love a bunch of other Silvers in my level to join the league because it’s a much richer experience when you’re developing communication and plays with a team. There are all sorts of things that this organized system builds up and makes possible that wouldn’t be possible in a pick-up game or solo or dynamic queue.
Will there be any prize pools?
No, we’re not doing a prize pool, initially. That might be something we consider down the road, but really this is a training league. Our goal is to make players better. And the way we do that is through our coaching, our curriculum and the stats that we track on each one of these games.
What are some of the specific stats you track in League of Legends?
Some of the interesting stuff we’re doing a lot of is around team comp analysis before and after every single game. We then do a whole tilt analysis, which is one of the more complicated things. We show you how your play style is changing based on deaths and forced recalls. Are you becoming more aggressive, and how can we pinpoint that and make you a little bit better there? We’re tracking everything like ganks, roaming, time management, how many times you’re landing your skilled shots, how you’re using flash or other spells. If you do have a flash engage, are you already getting kills and assists and you’re dying? If you’re flash retreating, are you escaping with your life or are you getting killed most of the time?
From individual champions, we can identify how many times you landed this combo and whether it was effective. Did you get the results that you wanted? When you use your ult, were you able to get some kills? It’s all a little bit contextual champion by champion, but we’re actually able to do that. The idea is to keep iterating and growing each one of these stats so that you can actually play as a team.
What are the costs involved for the consumer?
The membership fee is $15 per month and includes: a competitive experience, pro tools, coaching (from an LCS coach), and if a player is looking to go pro, we can provide and share that data with our LCS partners for recruitment.
Will this type of stat analysis cross over to CS:GO, Dota 2 and the other eSports games?
Absolutely. There are opportunities for organized eSports in every game. League of Legends is obviously one of the more popular ones, and it makes sense for us to start there. But the exact same principle applies to any professional eSport.
Will this work across PC and console games?
Yes. Initially, we’re starting on the PC, but there’s really no reason that we couldn’t do console games as well.