Several companies have referred to their esports efforts not as profit centers, but as marketing expenses. Hi-Rez Studios is no different. Despite the massive success of Smite and Paladins, CEO Todd Harris is cognizant of both games’ futures as spectator sports — and thinks the newer game will surpass the older one.
In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Harris acknowledges the lack of profit from esports (“some events are getting closer to cost-neutral, but it’s certainly not a revenue center”). But Hi-Rez is playing the long game; expensive missteps such as Global Agenda and Tribes: Ascend provided the foundation that Hi-Rez needed for its later success stories.
Even some of Smite’s rockier moments aided Paladins, especially when it came to translating the latter game to consoles. Smite was a PC-first title, and it wasn’t the smoothest of transitions to bring it to consoles.
“but with Paladins, specifically when it came to the user interface design, we were thinking PC and console from the very beginning of the cycle. In that case, Paladins benefitted from our Smite experience of knowing that console players also can enjoy a free-to-play competitive game if it’s done right.”
The most interesting tidbit from the interview is probably Harris’ assessment of his company’s two big games: the older MOBA (with FPS elements) Smite and the newer FPS (with MOBA elements) Paladins. In the short term, at least, Harris sees a brighter future for Paladins:
“I expect both games to continue to grow very well, but I certainly expect a year from now there will likely be more Paladins players on all platforms than Smite, and part of that is because the game is a bit more accessible.”
The rest of the interview covers topics like VR (which Hi-Rez isn’t into right now, though which it thinks demands a long-term plan) and the proper application of free-to-play gaming on consoles. You can read the full piece here.