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A Look Into Atlanta’s Newest Global Gaming Production Studio

by Muriel Vega

The break room was buzzing at Skillshot Media. The new eSports production company, a subsidiary of video game developer Hi-Rez Studios, is already hosting its second tournament since opening in early May. The break room’s vending machines are filled with snacks and energy drinks to keep up players’ stamina; a large television playing a live stream catches their attention as they refuel. Skillshot is hosting the best players from around the world at the newly-launched 1,600 square foot space for both a one-day and weekend-long Paladins tournament.

This group is part of the 200 professional eSports players traveling from across North America, Europe, South America, Southeast Asia and Australia for weekly LAN competitions — and that’s just in the month of May. Skillshot Media began to nurture Hi-Rez Studios’ rapidly expanding eSports community, over 45 million strong, that generates over one billion views for both multiplayer online battle arena game SMITE and team shooter game Paladins.

“We’ve been operating eSports leagues for some time now — about five years,” co-founder and Skillshot president Todd Harris tells Hypepotamus. “We’ve built up a ton of experience and the initial thought was that with dedicated focus, leadership and a new facility, we could level up the eSports for our own games — SMITE and Paladins. Once we had a dedicated group and facility, we could also expand and go after new business opportunities, doing eSports for other titles as well.”

The state-of-the-art studio has multiple practice team rooms equipped with live stream televisions, computer setups and brightly-colored gaming chairs to keep the players comfortable during competitions. A four-stage studio is equipped with production equipment for broadcasters to go live with their commentary.

Harris shares that the feature that’s made the most difference is facility-wide sound-proofing to encourage competition integrity, something the player’s value — a lot.

“The level of support for competitive integrity means a lot to these players,” says Harris. “They are competing, not because of the money, but because they want to be the best in the world.”

Skillshot Media is also helping serve the viewing audience by stepping up production capabilities. “We have a dedicated press interview room and more audio and visual camera equipment. Before and after each match now we can conduct interviews with the players and present that to the viewing audience. They can now see what the players are thinking about before and after the match, which is a type of content that we couldn’t do before. As we survey our viewers, they really like it,” says Harris.

The eSports-focused content machine is powered by 35 Skillshot employees on-site that include casters, community managers, live and post-production, tournament admin, league ops and more.

Following past successful collaborations in Europe and the U.S., Skillshot Media and Hi-Rez Studios will be partnering for the first time with global digital gaming festival DreamHack, held in Atlanta this November, to host SMITE and Paladins world championships. The event will also include a 24-hour LAN party, panels, a cosplay competition and more.

“They are very grassroots community-oriented in the way they approach gaming, similar to us. The focus on community has been a good culture fit and why the partnership makes sense. They are also focusing a lot of resources in Atlanta,” says Harris.

“By combining forces, I think that eSports and gaming in Atlanta will grow faster. We want to make Atlanta huge for the eSports industry.” Harris shares that Skillshot will also continue tapping into the local university talent, including Georgia State and SCAD, to help grow Atlanta’s industry and help with eSports workforce development as well as gaming development.

While Skillshot will be mainly concentrating on producing up 75 hours of content each week within its two title games for the rest of the calendar year, the production company hopes to add future Hi-Rez titles and other outside titles to its tournament roster as they expand.

All photos courtesy of Skillshot Media

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