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Esports is trying to find its own version of Little League

illustration of a golden playstation controller trophy
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The esports industry figured out how to create crossover stars and form partnerships with major leagues. Some organizations are even diving into content. Yet, no one has been able to create the industry's equivalent of Little League Baseball.

The problem: No matter a player's skill level, marketability is just as essential for turning pro. Without it, great players can be overlooked. When great players are overlooked, the industry loses.

  • Put it this way: The Patriots never find Tom Brady without NCAA football. Can you imagine the NFL without Tom Brady?
  • "This is the only competition where that's true," Shawn Smith, CEO of Harena Data tells Axios. "Players have quit esports altogether because of that."

The big picture: The same infrastructure esports is trying to create already exists in traditional sports. The industry just hasn't figured out how to copy it yet.

  • "We need some analog of Little League Baseball. It's really a broader initiative," Cloud9 gaming's president Dan Fiden tells Axios. "In traditional sports, that infrastructure gets folded into schools. In a perfect world, ours might too."

Driving the news: That infrastructure is coming and it's happening right now.

  • Cloud9's "Path to Pro" is taking its first steps with the goal of creating esports communities where gamers can team up and play together under actual coaches.
  • Denmark's Ministry of Culture just developed a plan to build out the grassroots infrastructure that includes a panel tackling issues in seven key areas native to esports.
  • Harena Data created the GyoScore beta system where players are able to register their scores and results from different esports for pro scouts to evaluate.

The bottom line: Esports has been able to build immense value without a proper professional path. Once a true pipeline is built, the industry's growth could skyrocket.

Go deeper: Esports eyes high schools, colleges as talent pipeline