Dreamleague Gaming, host of amateur video game tournaments, opening New Orleans studio
By: Jennifer Larino | NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | 6/7/2019
Dreamleague Gaming, a California-based company that hosts live amateur video gaming tournaments, is opening a New Orleans studio, which will serve as a Southern hub for its events. The studio is expected to employ 25 people.
Dreamleague CEO Nathaniel Tsai said the company’s move to New Orleans is part of its push to expand its presence in college-level and amateur gaming. The company puts on about 20 to 30 gaming events a year. It looks to double that next year, including adding five to six tournaments hosted in New Orleans, Tsai said.
The New Orleans studio will produce new video content for its leagues in addition to handling ticketing and marketing for live gaming events in the region. Tsai noted the city already has big appeal with travelers seeking music, food and sporting experiences. He thinks that can follow through to gaming.
“It’s a natural fit here,” Tsai said.
The electronic sports, or esports, market is growing fast, expected to top $1 billion in global revenues in coming years. Competitive tournaments for games like Call of Duty, Halo and Overwatch, as well as sports titles like FIFA and Madden NFL, are booming, ranging from novice to pro level. Gamers compete, but also participate as spectators, including through live streaming platforms like Twitch.
Dreamleague Gaming, founded in 2016, is among those vying for a slice of the market. The company’s niche is hosting events at the amateur and college level, including tournaments on college campuses. In addition to hosting events, the company consults universities looking to host their own gaming tournaments.
The company is the latest win for state and local economic development officials, who have been working to position Louisiana as a welcoming — and affordable — landing pad for digital industries, including gaming.
The list of gaming companies with local offices includes InXile Entertainment and High Voltage Software. Not all have lasted. Game developer Gameloft, one of the city’s first big gaming wins, closed its New Orleans studio in 2018, part of broader job cuts and restructuring in its U.S. branch.
In a news release, Greater New Orleans Inc. President and CEO Michael Hecht said Dreamleague’s opening is further proof New Orleans is well positioned to attract companies that fall within “the trinity” of sports, entertainment and technology.
“New Orleans has always been a leader in sports and entertainment, and in recent years we have become a leader in tech,” Hecht said.
Dreamleague had been in talks with Louisiana Economic Development and state and local officials for about a year. Tsai said Louisiana was attractive for a range of reasons. It has a diverse demographic of gamers and a central location ideal for hosting events and managing events across the South, Tsai said. The company hopes to partner with Louisiana State University and University of Louisiana at Lafayette among others to gather gamers across the state.
“All parts of Louisiana have gaming communities that could be activated,” Tsai said.
Dreamleague Gaming plans to use payroll tax credits through the state’s Entertainment Job Creation Program to help launch the New Orleans office. The office is expected to support 25 jobs, with an average annual salary of $52,600.
In addition, the company secured a $1.5 million investment from the NOLA Angel Network, a group of local investors that targets high-growth startups.
Mike Eckert, chairman of NOLA Angel Network, told The Advocate the group was “amazed” at the potential for esports in general as well as Dreamleague’s push to build a community for amateur college players.
Tsai said Dreamleague looks to host multiple gaming tournaments and conventions in New Orleans in coming years. It’s in the process of hiring for roles in operations management as well as video production, including YouTube and Twitch streaming, Tsai said.
As for the studio itself, the company is currently looking for a starter space in the Central Business District. The company plans to open a larger center in the future, though it hasn’t singled out a location yet, he said.
The studio will open in late June.
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