Spectacor Gaming’s FTW Initiative Opens New Doors for Women in Esports

Spectacor Gaming’s women in gaming initiative FTW: For The Women hosted its first-ever all women esports tournament last weekend The first-ever major women’s VALORANT event was then made even more noteworthy when publisher Riot Games made it an official part of its professional tournament series and committed $40,000 USD to its prize pool. This was perhaps the first time in esports history that an all-women tournament was put on par with the male-dominated professional scene.

FTW co-founder and Spectacor Gaming Executive Operations Manager Meredith Weber told Sports Business Journal that the initiative began as a way to connect women throughout the gaming industry. 

“I was talking with my mom about how everyone that I work with is so creative, so amazing, so nice, and so accepting, but I just wish I had access to more women in the gaming space…” Her mother suggested she create something with Comcast, and so Weber pitched the idea to Spectacor Gaming president Tucker Roberts. 

“Right then and there he gave me a budget, he hooked me up with Kelsey [Rowley, communications manager for Spectacor Gaming and co-founder of FTW] and a few other Comcast Spectacor employees at the time, and it kind of kicked off from there,” Weber said.

Its first event was an invitational networking event, which then led to a Women in Gaming panel hosted at the Comcast Tech Center in Philadelphia.

“We always wanted to eventually lead into tournaments,” Weber said, but the initiative focused first on getting off the ground and establishing a brand. “Being a women in gaming initiative organization, there’s really not much room for mistakes because all eyes are on us in a place as sensitive as this…” Rowley said.

The release of VALORANT offered FTW a unique opportunity to kickstart its tournament program. As a newer title, VALORANT’s esports ecosystem is still very much in its infancy. There are no major legacy tournaments, no franchised leagues or official circuits. The closest thing the game has to an official ecosystem is a series of Riot-supported tournaments run by third parties called the Ignition Series. Additionally, VALORANT’s gameplay is very similar to that of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which has the most robust women’s esports structure of any title. This means that women competing in CS:GO at a high level can more easily transition to VALORANT for specific events.

After the FTW Summer Showdown tournament was announced, with just a $10,000 prize pool, Riot Games connected with Weber and her team looking for a way to get involved. “They wanted to be a part of the action, they want to be part of the movement,” Rowley said. After several productive discussions, Riot boosted the prize pool to the same $50,000 total as its other professional competitions and gave FTW’s event the elite status of the other competitions in its Ignition Series.

Weber said that putting an all-women’s tournament on the same level as the pro scene is an important step, but there is more work to be done. Currently in esports, there are very few women competing on professional teams alongside men. “The end goal is the even playing field of mixed teams.”

FTW’s Riot-supported tournament may one day be seen as a historic step toward reaching that goal. Many of the Valorant’s biggest events are primarily invitational in nature, meaning that sports are generally reserved for the biggest organizations or those that have performed well in previous Ignition Series events (which were also generally restricted to big teams). Now that Team MAJKL, an all-women squad, is also considered an official Ignition Series tournament champion, there is a far more compelling argument that they deserve a seat at the table for future pro-level Valorant events. According to Weber, MAJKL has the talent to compete with the best teams in the game. If that is the case, it would be a landmark moment for esports to see a women’s team in the same conversation as the likes of G2 Esports and TSM

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