Fusion CBO Joe Marsh Talks Overcoming The Stereotypes of The Gamer

Jason Fanelli,

March 28, 2019 11:46 AM

With the new Fusion Arena coming to South Philadelphia, we spoke to the Philadelphia Fusion's CBO Joe Marsh about overcoming some of the obstacles of bringing competitive gaming to a new crowd.

The Fusion Arena, announced this week as the brand new home for the Overwatch League’s Philadelphia Fusion, will immediately insert the esports scene into one of the most devoted and raucous fanbases in all of America. As the first of its kind the Fusion Arena will have its work cut out for it, needing to impress not only the OWL faithful but also the Philly community that isn’t well versed in the art of esports. During our interview with the Fusion’s Chief Business Office Joe Marsh we spoke about those challenges and how he and the Fusion plan to make a great first impression.

Breaking the stereotypes

When we asked if there was any resistance from his peers or superiors when plans for an esports arena were being discussed, Marsh gave us a surprising and refreshing answer: not as much as one might expect. “Ultimately we’re a media and technology company,” Marsh responded, “so it’s easy for them to pull up the trends and see all the data that goes with the success of esports.”

That’s not to say there wasn’t any resistance at all, as Marsh referred to the cliche “in your parents’ basement” joke while talking about some of those who didn’t understand the vision, but he and the team did not let those detractors sway them. In his mind, teams like those in the OWL are “legitimizing esports with these $50 million venues,” and as he puts it: “if we were in the basement before, we’re in the penthouse now.”

Unfortunately there are two types of naysayers: those who don’t know about esports and those that do know about the more unsavory followers, harassers, and others who give video games in general a bad name. Marsh acknowledges the branding, but having been a part of OWL he knows those people are fewer than most think. “The stigma is there but it’s a low hanging fruit for people looking to the negative,” Marsh says. ”You of course have those players yelling and trolling on the internet, but for the most part what we’ve seen is a gaming community rallying around each other in favor of a good, positive thing. There is an educational process for some people, but the support has also been there for the most part from the ground up on day one.”

The main theater of the new Fusion Arena's concept looks incredible. (Image: Comcast Spectacor)

Appealing to their new neighbors

We asked Marsh what the Fusion plans to do in order to bring in those that may not know about or understand what esports are, and he was quick to assure me that there are plans to initiate the non-esports community. Those plans start with inspiration from a source we did not expect.

“We would love to do an Open House or something like TED talks focusing on various games and leagues, specifically for the novice viewer,” Marsh explains. “These will introduce the newer players to these games, slowing it down and showing them what’s really going on.” These plans aren’t just limited to Overwatch, as Marsh would like to have guests speak on all kinds of esports games. ”One week we’d talk about Overwatch, another week we’d talk about League of Legends, and so on. We’ve found that when you slow it down, get the laser pointer out, and explain what people are looking at, it allows them to engage more. We’d love to do some educational material about the games going on.”

Speaking of League of Legends, we also asked Marsh what dream event he’d like to host at his brand new facility, and his answer was lightning fast: the LoL Championship Series. “Maybe not the Finals, but hosting a LoL stage would be awesome.” That said he’s got his eye on the entirety of the esports realm, saying he would “like to host all the major games within a calendar year. I’d like DOTA 2, Hearthstone, Arena of Valor, something from every genre.” His grandest vision? A sort of “Olympics of esports”, as he calls it,  which “showcases the best teams in the world in various games at one event, instead of focusing on just one at a time.” That’s an ambitious goal, but certainly one that has not been done before. 

With plans in place that go beyond just the team on the marquee, the new Fusion Arena will not waste any time becoming a major part of the Philly sports landscape., and Marsh is excited for the opportunity to bring esports to the city. The Fusion’s first match in its new home is slated for the 2021 season, and if Marsh has his way “we look forward to a sold-out arena to kick off things off.”

Check out part one of our interview about how the planning and building of the Fusion Arena came together, and for more take a look at our coverage of the official Fusion Arena announcement.


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