Skillshot Media Cuts Ties with Hi-Rez Studios and Plans Esports Media Center in Atlanta


by in General | Jan, 20th 2020

If there’s anything that we at Esports Talk do not agree on, is if Smite or Paladins are esports titles. Regardless, Skillshot Media, formerly a part of Hi-Rez Studios (creators of Smite, Paladins, Tribes: Ascend), are breaking into their own esports center.

This is a very recent announcement, made by a pair of former Hi-Rez Studio executives in Todd Harris and Nabil Ismail. As of today, Hi-Rez Studios no longer has an ownership interest in Skillshot Media, which took me by surprise.

From Subsidiary to Industry Titan

Skillshot Media was founded as a Hi-Rez subsidiary back in 2018, as a studio for various esports. Though it began mostly with Smite and Paladins, they’ve taken care of other esports, from Halo to the Overwatch League’s Atlanta Reign homestand.

Originally, Skillshot Media’s studio was designed to focus more on Smite and Paladins esports. Still, the cumulative prize pools for both games have been on a decline, according to Esports Earnings. This makes me worry because I love both games.

The days of Smite esports may be sinking, but we at Esports Talk certainly hope not. Hi-Rez is working on other titles as well, such as their upcoming team shooter Rogue Company.

Though we have no idea what the terms of this buyout are, we do know that Harris and Ismail both will be serving as CEO and COO, respectively, of Skillshot Media. I can only imagine there will still be a deal in place where Smite and Paladins esports will broadcast courtesy of Skillshot Media, but we’ll have to wait and see.

But here’s the exciting part. Skillshot Media revealed plans to develop an esports operations center and production studio, alongside internet services company Internap (INAP). This Esports Media Center will be within INAP’s Atlanta data center facility in downtown Atlanta. That means the former studio, within walking distance of Hi-Rez Studios, will likely go to Hi-Rez in some capacity.

The Wave of the Future

The Skillshot Media esports center will be within walking distance to the State Farm Arena, home to the Atlanta Hawks, and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium (home of the 2019 NFL Superbowl). Atlanta is quickly becoming a real hub to esports, and it seems like Skillshot Media wants to be at the heart of it.

Todd Harris, CEO of Skillshot Media, spoke about this in a recent press release:

“With 15 years in game development and marketing, we have seen first-hand how a community-driven esports approach delivers results for both the game publisher and brand partners. Players who watch esports are more engaged and spend more money with the game publisher. Those players also have higher spending and goodwill toward partners who authentically support esports events. We believe brands that want to reach the next generation of consumers will discover esports to be the most effective and efficient way to connect with that massive audience, and Skillshot wants to help them do exactly that.”

Todd Harris has a history of sound decision making and work in the online gaming arena. It sounds like he’s ready to take the next step in broadcasting esports to a global audience. My next thought is to wonder if the Smite and Paladins esports casters are going with Skillshot Media at all. Perhaps Drybear (Rory Newborough) and F. (Thom Badinger) will join them in some capacity. That’s just speculation at this point.

Perhaps Skillshot Media is what the esports scene in Atlanta needs for greater growth and development. We’ve heard some negative things about the Overwatch League as of late, so there’s something that needs to happen. If Skillshot Media takes a hand in the production of Overwatch esports, it could be a boon. At the very least, I imagine the Atlanta Reign will broadcast through the Skillshot Media esports center.

Skillshot Media will continue to be an esports service provider, but we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds. TJ Waldorf, CMO at INAP, also discussed this move:

“Gaming and esports is not only the largest entertainment industry but one of the most demanding in terms of performance. INAP is proud to have powered esports communities for over a decade, and this strategic partnership with Skillshot allows us to even better serve the fast-growing gaming and esports industry.”

It’s no big secret that esports is going to be a billion-dollar industry soon enough. INAP isn’t new to the scene, either. It’s a bold move to separate from the game that made Skillshot famous in the first place (Smite). I have faith in their ability to broadcast quality esports, though. We’re curious to see who they wind up broadcasting for in 2020.

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