Philadelphia Fusion Marketing Specialist Evan Frasca on evolution of gaming, future of esports — Interview Part 2

Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Philadelphia Fusion Marketing Specialist Evan Frasca on evolution of gaming, future of esports — Interview Part 2

The following is Part 2 of a two-part interview with Evan Frasca, Marketing Specialist for the Philadelphia Fusion. In case you haven’t checked out Part 1, you can give it a read here.

JY: Now, gaming is evolving at a rapid pace. Where do you think we’ll end up eventually? Will we see something like Ready Player One?

EF: One thing people gloss over is the fact that while esports is huge and it’s still growing, it’s still in the early stages of its life cycle. Obviously, regulation is a huge pillar that I think people tend not to think about and how that’s going to end up happening whether the trend of franchise leagues continues to be the future or not.

What I would love to see is more availability in terms of esports frameworks. Right now, there’s a path being crafted for how you become a professional gamer. What I think will be interesting is how more normalized approaches to that start to appear.

Co-ops or internships that allow you to develop professional skills relating to being a competitive gamer.

Philadelphia Fusion Marketing Specialist Evan Frasca (Photo credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment)

JY: Things like going to school for statistical analytics and then branch off as a specialist in MOBA analytics or FPS analytics?

EF: All kinds of diversification like that. That’s probably the first example most people will think of in terms of tying a traditional education into gaming.

Even more casual than that, though, it could be more specific things that you could take to become a pro. Classes that help augment a player’s perspective on being a pro. All of that is super interesting to me.

JY: With how quick gaming and culture evolves, and we see that reflected in what’s popular in games, is that good or bad for the industry and how does it affect you in terms of building the brand and engagement?

EF: I think it’s definitely a good thing. There are changes that are happening in terms of the culture that may not be as favorable as others — that being said, what I love about what’s happening currently is we're kind of at the point where much of traditional audiences are absorbing it at the same time and at an accelerated rate.

People are experiencing what it’s like to blend aspects of pop culture with gaming and esports at a really fast rate. Music, fashion, food, and anime. All of the changes are really hard to take in as they come because they’re so massive, but the really cool thing is that they’re all happening at once.

JY: A couple of questions about the World Health Organization gaming disorder classification. As kids are more and more influenced by pro players and streamers, how do we draw that line between passion and obsession?

EF: It is exactly as you said. Drawing that line and finding the balance. It is exceptionally important for parents to identify digital trends that their kids are becoming aware of. Whether it’s gaming, Snapchat, or Tic Tok.

I’m not saying parents need to moderate and take charge of every single thing, but when you identify something your kids are passionate about, that’s when you need to step in and ask: How do we harness this passion? How do create a healthy environment to develop this passion? The parents need to be able to take a moment and ask why their kid loves this or that. They need to engage with them and understand and learn about it. That will shape the path for them to keep their kids safe and healthy.

JY: That speaks a lot to the responsibility of a parent, but what about players, teams, and organizations? Do they have a responsibility to be a good role model?

EF: Absolutely. For the Fusion, we pride ourselves on being a super diverse team. A team that is available for anyone of any given background to resonate with.

When it comes down to expressing priorities around mental health or physical health — there was an initiative on Twitter about spreading mental health awareness. It takes two seconds for us to write that tweet and put out that hashtag. That might not mean anything to a typical viewer, but to someone who is experiencing issues like that it can really resonate with them.

Going back to the gaming disorder, which obviously there’s a massive buzz around that, for me, I would not go out of my way to say that’s a legitimate disorder or something that you need to be careful of. What you do need to be careful of is letting your child or family take something and run with it to the point that you can’t control or be there for them anymore.

As long as the people in your family care about you and care to learn about the things you love, that’s what we want to spread as a team. We want to say: these kids are doing this and your kids can, too. It’s up to you and the teams to set the standard for which you can follow that path.

JY: Any final thoughts for readers and Fusion fans out there?

EF: Thanks to our sponsors and our amazing fans.  We’re really excited for the second half of the season and really excited for the grand finals, and we’re even more excited to get to Philly real soon.

'We were on break!' Fusion Neptuno discusses the effectiveness of a mid-season break

Robert Hall for Blizzard Entertainment

'We were on break!' Fusion Neptuno discusses the effectiveness of a mid-season break

Player burnout is one of the hottest topics in esports, with many esport pros retiring with less than five years on the circuit. It’s a tough job, a mentally intensive job, and with metas changing constantly across all titles, it’s a very hard job at which to stay proficient.

In order to help combat this, the Overwatch League has lightened the load on its players this year. Along with the decrease of scheduled games per stage from 10 to seven, OWL also scheduled a sizable mid season break, giving many players time to recoup and reset.

In order to get a sense for the effectiveness of the mid-season break, I met with Neptuno at the Philadelphia Fusion house hoping he could give me some insight.

The following Interview has been edited for length and clarity

Adam: We've come to the mid-season point, how did you like having a big break instead of just a week like last year?

Neptuno: Personally I don't like it, but I know it's good for a lot of people. For some people, it refreshes their minds, but I don't like it since it keeps me from going to Spain in Summer, and Spain is really cool in the Summer. I'd really like to be there with my friends hanging out on the beach and doing whatever. That's part of a professional life though, you have to give up things you never thought you'd give up.

Adam: Tell me a bit about what you did on break.

Neptuno: Well I've played a bit of Soccer, playing some video games, and I've been reading which I didn't do a lot before. I've been watching Game of Thrones and Chernobyl and just hanging around the house.  I haven't really gone out that much, just a few days, overall it's just been chilling. This week I've been playing a lot of Overwatch, about 12 hours every day.

I also went to Blizzard HQ, and we got to see the World of Warcraft Department. We also got to meet with Jeff Kaplan and some of the other devs, but they didn't let us go into the offices since they were working on something they didn't want to show. I guess they thought I'd spoil it (laughs). We talked for a bit and I gave them feedback on the game, some troll feedback, but some actual feedback as well.

I know they care a lot about the game, but I do feel like the changes come a little too slowly. Then again, I don't know how much work, or how long it takes to make changes, but I think it takes too long. They may be scared of making changes that might make someone OP, but I don't think it's all that bad. I would like to see them make big changes, there are so many characters that could have been drastically changed.

Adam: During the break, we were also introduced to your new series, "Neptuno's World." How did that come about?

Neptuno: So I make a lot of sarcastic comments to people. Like the other day, people were talking about going out, and I started going off on them like, "Why would you want to go out, you're such a nerd, why would you want to go outside? A car is gonna kill you or something, stay inside always." I was just being sarcastic or funny you know, and they thought it was fun, so they told me to do a video about those things.

They just gave me topics and told me to talk about things like, tell me why reading is boring, or why watching a movie is better, just stuff that doesn't make sense if you actually think about it. Going outside is stupid, dancing is dangerous, working is a waste of time, it all just came with a flow. I didn't even know what to say at the beginning, and they had to help me, it took a long time to make it.

Adam: So apart from the recreational aspect, how has the break affected your preparation for stage three?

Neptuno: So basically I think we have been pretty lazy with the scrim blocks, well maybe not lazy, but last year at some point we started to only scrim two blocks because we knew the meta. We understood a lot of the important stuff, so two blocks made sense, and we would play solo queue with the extra time. Now people don't like solo queue as much, you can't really replicate GOATS in solo, so you can’t really practice what you need to practice.

We need to figure out way more stuff than before, so it makes sense to scrim three blocks a day, and try to and work on every possible detail down to a single cooldown. The ult economy and the big stuff everyone has figured out, so now in order to figure out how to win, you have to focus on all the small things. That's how you'll figure out how to win in a completely even or equal situation when it comes to ults and abilities. How to build grav first, hot to build trance faster, how to pressure and control the map for extra damage, are all the techniques you need to win.

Everyone knows that if you get hit with a grav you need to counter grav, and every D.va knows the counter grav is coming, so they need to try to eat that grav. Sequences like that are common knowledge, so the important thing now is all the small details. If everything is even, it all comes down to who can build the next ult faster, who is getting that extra bit of damage, or who is being more efficient with their heals and cooldown management.

Adam: Considering how much easier your schedule is this stage compared to your stacked schedule in stage 2, where is your confidence going into the rest of the season?

Neptuno: I think right now it's not about confidence. At least for me, it's more about trying to get the best that we can out of the GOATS comp. If we can do that, we shouldn't be afraid of any other team that we face. I just hope we can figure out how to play on stage. Last year, I never really took the stage and felt like we weren't performing as well as we did in scrims, except once or twice, but you talk about it and you fix it. This year, it feels like on stage, we are not able to perform the way we know we can.

That's my goal as a player, I can't fix what other people do, but I can try to be the player that brings stability and consistency to their team. I need to make sure that I always play the same way. Normally I am super consistent on stage with my comms, reminding people of small things. That's what I want to regain this stage, consistent comms, and controlling the tempo of the game. I'm the Lucio player, so I need to understand what my team needs, and make them understand what I want to do.

They need to know if I have the speed or not, if we need to go back or push forward if people are hurt and we need to back up, all of that is important for me to communicate. That's how I control the tempo, and if I do that we will play with confidence and win. When people read about the Fusion, they may get the impression that I don't talk, that I don't communicate, which is not the case. I actually very vocal, but I just need to be consistent with my calls. It was never a problem when I was playing Mercy, now with GOATS it's so easy to feel overwhelmed by the enemy team, and it can be harder to stay on the same page.

Philadelphia Fusion Marketing Specialist Evan Frasca on esports brand development — interview part 1

Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Philadelphia Fusion Marketing Specialist Evan Frasca on esports brand development — interview part 1

The Philadelphia Fusion has been able to stand out amongst the other 19 teams in the Overwatch League through careful branding efforts. One man leading that effort is Evan Frasca, Marketing Specialist with the Philadelphia Fusion. His job revolves around creating consumer-facing experiences in digital marketing and media. In layman's terms, anything from events, to merchandise, to social media.

At the 2019 Inven Global Esports Conference, I had the chance to sit down with Evan to further discuss what teams and individuals need to do in order to stand out, the pace of which gaming evolves, and his thoughts on what the World Health Organization gaming disorder classification means.

Evan Frasca, Marketing Specialist of the Philadelphia Fusion. Photo credit: PHL Fusion

The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Jeff Yabumoto: Part of the evolution of gaming is the branding on the team and personal side. How do you differentiate yourself on the team side when you have 19 other teams in the exact same space trying to do the same thing?

Evan Frasca: Honestly, whenever I get a question like this about how we differentiate, it really goes back to your fan base. One of the best things teams have to their advantage is their given fan base. That’s both growable and already existing.

You have to account for how to grow that fan base and how to cater to that fan base, but at the end of the day, understanding your fan base is what allows you to differentiate. You’re creating a situation where you create a space that your fans can gravitate towards things they like and reject things they don’t like.

Gritty, the official mascot for the NHL Philadelphia Flyers, made a special appearance at the Overwatch League. Photo credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

For us, we try to focus on harnessing the nature of a Philly native: rowdy, loud, colorful, and proud. Really just gritty, and that’s not a pun. They’re all embedded in the Philly scene and fan base. It’s something we’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with and creating new experiences for them to enjoy.

JY: How do you do that when you’re not in the actual city?

EF: For us, it revolves around having a voice and a tone. Lindsey, our social media manager, has created one of the most reputable voices in social media in terms of the Overwatch League solely through identifying the things I’m talking about.

It’s hard because, while we’re looking forward to taking advantage of our local space and market when we geolocate, it’s been a really fun challenge. Just staying true to the Philly brand and harnessing as much of the hometown feel as we can and giving that to the fans in LA.

JY: As far as engaging with fans and distinguishing yourselves, will it become more important for organizations to pick up personalities instead of the most skilled player?

EF: I definitely think there are huge advantages to having both top-level pros known for solely for their gameplay while there are a lot of benefits to having a top-level influencer with a huge following.

It is absolutely a solid approach, in terms of balance, but as an org, specifically a team in esports and gaming, you need to evaluate what your frameworks are that you’re trying to push forward and grow.

If you’re not trying to be a team that revolves around pushing out content, pushing out more lifestyle content, and you want to be the team that focuses on the top team, signing a prospective influencer doesn’t appeal as much.

Photo credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Now if you’re a team like 100 Thieves, that’s a completely different story. When you have someone with a massive audience able to promote all these different revenue streams that you’re proud of that might not be directly aligned with gaming, that’s an argument for a more influencer related approach.

We want to continue to pride ourselves on Overwatch and the influencer space is really weird. We’re proud to have Kabaji and Emongg, who are two of the most viewed streamers in the Overwatch vertical. That’s something that we really wanted to accomplish when the game was getting popular and the league was first developing.

We asked ourselves what goes on outside the Overwatch League? How do you continue growing your presence and establish a foothold? They are fantastic at that and harnessed the elements of a pro player and an influencer. They continue to evolve their game.

Identifying opportunities like that is what allows teams to differentiate the best.

JY: What about for solo players and streamers who are up against a much larger scale of competition?

EF: It’s great that you ask this. One of the things we pride ourselves on at the Philadelphia Fusion is creating futures for our players and for our staff. We want to give them a future in esports and competitive gaming.

It’s hard to differentiate yourself when everyone is playing a lot of the same high viewership games. Everyone brands themselves in similar ways.

For us, it’s about making sure we stay communicative with our players and learning what they want to push about themselves outside of Overwatch. A lot of the times those goals intersect with the goals of the Fusion.

Elk loves doing analytic content, that’s no secret. Why would we not enable him? Stuff like that is what we tend to pride ourselves on and help our players with.

If you enjoyed this interview, keep an eye out for Part 2. where we discuss the evolution of esports and the potential future of this emerging industry.