Founders of KC Pioneers talk history of esports, investing locally

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KANSAS CITY, Mo — Thousands of esports fans met at the Kansas City Convention Center this weekend to watch professional gamers from around the world compete in the video game Halo.

Kansas City was one of only three North American cities selected by Microsoft to host a “major” Halo Championship series this year.

The event drew in thousands of in-person viewers as well as more than 250,000 audience members through the online streaming platform Twitch.

Sam Kulikov, the chief marketing officer and founder of KC Pioneers, said he hopes the future of esports will be in Kansas City..

“We have the passion, the people and the pride to get the job done,” Kulikov said. “We have some of the fastest internet speeds in the country, one of the fastest growing tech industries in the country, one of the fastest growing entrepreneurial industries in the country.”

Kulikov said the industry itself is fairly new and has rapidly grown over the last few decades.

“Over the last 20 years, as people have been getting ready and acclimating to these games and to the new technology, the new WiFi, all those technological capacities have now allowed pro-gamers to play,” Kulikov said. “10 years ago we didn’t have internet to do this.”

According to Kathy Nelson, president and CEO of Visit KC and the Kansas City Sports Commission, hosting large-scale tournaments will generate nearly $1.8 million in local economic impact.

Truman said expanding the industry in Kansas City will also create more jobs.

“There are people flying in, staying at the hotels, eating at restaurants, coming to the convention center here,” he said. “It is making more of a draw for people to come to Kansas City.”