How A.I. Can Unify Sports Leagues: An eSports Case Study

What if LeBron James couldn’t play in game one of the 2018 finals because he couldn’t arrange a flight to California? Although eSports athletes have the chance earn big bucks at international gaming competitions, this is the reality of the situation that many competitors find themselves in, even ones that represent their country on the biggest stage there is. We take a look at how a new business travel management platform, powered by Artificial Intelligence, can bring the world’s top competition together as efficiently as possible, and how small businesses can make use of this technology for their travel teams.

Virtual Assistants in Video Games

With such a strong representation of virtual assistants within video game culture – Halo has Cortana, Overwatch has Athena – it seems natural for millennials to also gravitate towards a trusted A.I travel assistant in the real world as well. A.I is typically incorporated within video games in order to guide the player throughout the story. It only makes sense that a community of people who spend such a great amount of time competing in a virtual world will naturally transition to relying on a virtual travel assistant in the real world.

The Intersection of Artificial Intelligence and Travel Management

A heavy toll comes with competitive gaming at the lucrative level. Team Liquid has earned over $18 million in prize money, and it took over a thousand games around the world. With DotA 2 tournament prize pools hovering around $20 million, top players can earn upwards of $2 million in prize earnings. With such a wide array of games to get into at a professional level, comes a wide variety of tournaments that want to display these games—and an increasingly wider audience that want to watch the action from stadium seating. In order to garner attention towards these tournaments, eSports organizers need the most optimal method of unification. They need the best talent and the best venues to make an audience feel engaged, welcomed, and familiar with what they’re watching. This will inevitably require proper travel management. With the eSports industry skyrocketing into pop-culture, it’s meeting at the intersection between artificial intelligence and travel management. Built for corporate travel teams, 30SecondstoFly’s virtual travel assistant Claire can create the smoothest transition for eSports organizers and players—and there are a number of issues that Claire can remedy.

Attracting Top Talent

ESL (Electronic Sports League) is the biggest eSports company on Twitch, an Amazon-owned platform for live-streaming, that is referred to by many “as the ESPN of eSports.” ESL produces some of the most popular video game competitions in the world. Anna Rozwandowicz, 2015’s head of communications at ESL, states that the company paid over $40,000 “for team travels and hotels.” The community has even resorted to crowdfunding in order to see their favorite players compete at the bigger competitions. No competition should have to exclude the highest caliber of gameplay from their tournament because of geographic immobility. This does an injustice to both the tournament and the fans. Not only do many eSports competitors face this issue, but there are even more who aspire to compete at the competitive level. However, they are often times discouraged by the magnitude of travel that is required to appear at relevant tournaments—and make a return of investment in their travel.

Intuitive Travel Management

30SecondsToFly has developed a powerful tool to assist with corporate travel planning as intuitively as Jarvis inside Iron man’s helmet with its virtual travel assistant named Claire. Claire’s answer to this issue comes with the elimination of as many obstacles as possible for the client. The magnitude of travel itself is intimidating, let alone traveling with money on the line. Claire makes traveling as easy as possible by allowing the user to set travel policies based on the collective data of the individual. Just as an eSports player takes time to customize their keyboard to maneuver efficiently, the user can customize Claire to learn all of their travel preferences.

eSports and SME’s

It’s easy to see the connection between an eSports team and an SME’s business travel team. They should both operate tactically and strategically, like one cohesive unit. Claire’s versatility can be utilized in various circumstances in order to correct many of the problems that eSports organizers and growing companies face. The most important issue being—finance. There’s no reason that a company should worry about not having the best talent, which is why it is so convenient to have Claire optimize player travel by analyzing saving constraints. Scheduling, being another increasingly important factor that companies must take into consideration, is also covered by Claire’s ability to keep track of schedules and itineraries in an easy to access dashboard.

No Time for the Traveler

Tournament money is an extremely valuable source of income for a professional gamer. For eSports athletes who don’t play team-based video games, travel can be especially important. Fighting games have their own value in national competition. A 17-year-old Dominique “SonicFox” Mclean earned $150,000 in two weeks in 2015—granting the champion more than enough money to put himself through college. In 2018, SonicFox still makes his presence known across the world. Japanese players such as Goichi “Go1” Kishida have traveled from Japan in order to personally take him on (and take part in the American eSports prize pools.)

Nomadic Lifestyle

Hectic schedules will hinder the player’s ability to practice and prepare for a tournament. In a profession where routine and consistency is key, eSports professionals seek to limit the amount of influencing factors—such as stress, jet-lag and time preparation—as much as possible. This is because the nomadic player is at a major disadvantage. Players can’t afford to waste time looking for the best deal on flights. This is time that could be used for training and practice. For the typical weekend tournament, a player will come in on a Thursday, jet-lagged, and behind schedule because of the lack of practice. After the competition, the player recycles the same process for the next tournament.

Similarly, a business traveler needs to be efficient with their time. They want to avoid taking hours to compare rates on different flight aggregators, and even more time worried about arranging ground transportation and connections.

Millennial Business Travelers Want More

These issues are practically indistinguishable from the typical business traveler. ESports athletes and the typical millennial business traveler actually reflect one another quite vividly. According to a 2016 MMGY Global business travelers survey, it was found that each following generation puts more and more value on business trips. It was found that in a one year period, millennials took an average of almost eight business trips (while the next year was projected to increase by 11%.) This is because companies have decided to raise their traveling budget. The study also found that around 75% of the survey respondents reported that the traveling had “a positive impact on their job satisfaction.” Where this survey seems to make a clear correlation between business travelers and nomadic eSports players, is that “business travelers prioritize tech over tradition.” Some facts that MMGY Global found were that millennials chose hotels with free internet rather than hotels with better location, and preferred using “their phone as a room key” instead of speaking to the front desk. Conclusively, the study found that 40% of the travelers had an interest in “staying in shared lodging.” This is particularly relevant because of how eSports travelers currently travel. They’re typically sharing hotels and rides with other players, commentators, or close friends that plan to be at the tournament. What this tells us is that younger generations are trying to find ways to cut out what’s unnecessary, so that they can focus on what is necessary. This is the essence of Claire’s function.

Global Market Success

Location is everything when comparing local success in contrast to global success. Much like any of the other popular sport around the world, global (or at least national) success is necessary—and with the Olympic committee considering the incorporation of video games as early as 2024, travel is becoming increasingly more invaluable to the community. Being able to compete with foreign play styles is essential for the success of the player and the viewership of the eSports organizer. Sam “Kane” Morrissette (competitive Starcraft player) emphasizes the importance of travel in a Redbull article, in which he mentions his experience in being able to practice in different settings. “Changing my setting was huge, as the Korean server is completely different from the North American and European server. On the North American server I was always ranked one. European, I was top ten. Korean server, you lose a lot…it’s completely different training with Koreans.” With Blizzard signing a multiyear deal to air Blizzard’s Overwatch on broadcast networks such as ESPN, ABC and Disney channel, it’s clear that eSports is being marketed to a broad spectrum of audiences, including children and those who are possibly looking to jump into a new competitive atmosphere.

The Conscious Workflow

The focus of Claire and 30SecondsToFly is to balance workflow and leave the least amount of work for the traveler as possible. Booking one’s self can be 24% more expensive, and wastes valuable time on travel management. Professional Starcraft player Dan “Artosis” Stemkoski warns venturing players that travel can cost “valuable practice time” when shifting focus away from gaming. Fortunately, Claire’s purpose is to economically and time consciously optimize travel for frequent flyers. Claire doesn’t only take into account saving constraints—which invites up and coming competitive players, and SME’s to compete nationally or even globally. Claire also analyzes travel spending, booking behaviors, and travel patterns in order to carve out the most optimal path for the player, or business traveler—leaving them with the most amount of time to carry out the goal of their trip, be that winning a head to head eSports battle, or a face to face deal negotiation.