The gaming industry continues to gain popularity with both older and younger generations. A 2020 statistic from Statista stated that just last year, there were over two billion gamers globally. Based on a 2018 forecast, worldwide video game sales have amounted to nearly $105 billion in 2017 and are expected to grow to almost $140 billion this year. Additionally, the rise in female gamers grew during the pandemic. In 2020, Statista also calculated that women accounted for nearly 41% of all gamers in the United States, a slight increase over the previous year. As more female gamers arrive on the scene, more resources, like Queens Gaming Collective, are launching to provide guidance, support and allies.
Alisa Jacobs, CEO of Queens Gaming Collective, is on a mission to challenge the diversity and gender equity issues the industry is currently facing. The company, cofounded by Justin Giangrande, is a women-led gaming lifestyle company that elevates its global roster of women creators, streamers and competitors by providing infrastructure, resources and representation. Jacobs and her team recently went after a $1.5 million seed round and oversubscribed at $2.2 million. Additionally, the company secured top-rated investors, including Amy Finnerty, Lauren Jarvis and Rosie O’Neill.
The women on the roster are equity partners in Queens, in addition to being both represented and the stars of the content. At the core, Queens itself is a media merchandising and management company that creates content. It is also building out IP with its esports athletes, cosplayers, streamers, gamers, crossover athletes, musicians, models and designers.
“With quarantine,” Jacobs states, “and with everything that was accelerated and exacerbated with lockdown, gaming became the arms dealer in the war. It opened the floodgates of recruitment and the invitation to what it even means to be a gamer, a casual gamer, a mobile gamer and a PC console. … We are truly dedicated to the cause of equitable gameplay in the most literal sense of being here to play as women, as diverse women; really pushing for not just representation in gender equity at an optical level and an industry level, but shaking the category for economic inclusivity.”
Jacobs started her career in sports as an intern for the then Washington Redskins before transitioning over to the NFL Players Association. After moving to Los Angeles, Jacobs worked in marketing, running sponsorships and events, while building out the sales team. She then spent five years at Diageo, leading culture and partnerships, before launching her agency LOOP.
Initially, the agency was intended to embed big brands more meaningfully in culture and more thoughtfully for the level and perspective of accountability. Also, it helped disruptive startups gain traction in their respective industries. Activision Blizzard became one of Jacobs’ key accounts. She served as the senior strategic advisor and helped launch the Call of Duty League.
Around this time, Jacobs and Giangrande had a conversation about female gamers and the resources available to them. As they built out the business model, they knew they wanted to provide a more profound value to their talent and content creators.
“We really felt that the pay-to-play in salaries was incredibly detrimental to the long-term health of the company for a couple of reasons,” she explains. “In part, there’s no skin in the game. There’s no commitment to the cause. It’s whoever’s going to pay me. We wanted them to make money off of brand deals. … It was important to us that if they’re going to be a part of this thing that’s on such a mission and a vision-driven company, they really bought in and were supported. A lot of these women have not had ownership before. They haven’t even been paid their rates appropriately. And it’s an incredible, not just a wage gap, but just massive disparity for especially black and brown women, but women in the industry. In addition to some of our senior executives, investors and advisors, we also provided equity. What I mean by that is, we have 22 diverse, really powerful women gamers on the roster, and everyone that is official is actually a shareholder.”
This May, Queens announced a new investment and strategic partnership with NFL Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith Schuster and his mother, Sammy Schuster. The mother-son duo is supporting the gaming community through collaboration and amplification, advancing the company’s mission to champion diversity and gender equity.
As Jacobs continues to grow in her career and expand Queens, she focuses on the following essential steps:
- Be curious. Ask why. Being inquisitive and driven will help you compile enough information and meet the right people to make the best decision.
- Develop patience. Starting a company doesn’t happen overnight. Not only do you have to be patient with others but be twice as patient with yourself. Give yourself space to grow.
- Don’t be a jack of all trades. It can hinder your growth. It’s one thing to be a polymath or a multi-hyphenate professional. It’s another thing to be a generalist.
“Authenticity and integrity first, is really important,” Jacobs concludes. “It’s not about even being unique, it’s just being true. If you can show up true, truly, I think that you’re more relatable, you’re more likable, you’re more believable, and you’re more trustworthy. Of the women that we work with, they’re all so different. … So just really encouraging them to lean into their shoes and be their most authentic self is what’s going to both monetize and inspire.”