Public School’s Maxwell Osborne has a new game — creative director of consumer products for Andbox, the multifranchise esports organization.
Launched two months ago by Sterling VC, Andbox owns and operates the Overwatch League team NYXL and the professional New York Call of Duty team. It hosts local gaming events and other experiences in the five boroughs. Sterling VC’s parent company, Sterling Equities, is the principal owner of the New York Mets, as well as the SportsNet New York network.
Osborne isn’t giving up his day job, but understanding the world of gaming took some exploring. A year in the making, the project came together through Andbox’s vice president of consumer products and merchandising Collete Gangemi, whom Osborne got to know 14-plus years ago. With 300 million active gamers worldwide, Andbox is keen to tap into that market with “something that is more fashionable than just a gaming T-shirt that has a juvenile graphic around their favorite game. That’s really what most gaming apparel is right now,” she said. “There is a massive market opportunity with a huge consumer base of fans of e-sports and set regular games that did not have an apparel brand to really grasp onto, unlike with action sports or traditional sports.”
Osborne’s deep dive into gaming was appealing in different dimensions. He said, “As a creative, you don’t want to be locked into anything too long. You want to keep challenging yourself. If something interests you, of course, you want to keep doing things. A creative just wants to create, whether it’s in the gaming space, music, movies, clothing — some people just have the need and urge to create in different fields. It’s definitely exciting.”
This weekend’s Andbox pop-up shop at Casey Neistat’s “368,” a studio at 368 Broadway was timed to coincide with the Fortnite World Cup Finals in Queens, N.Y., where the prize is $30 million. Forty million players competed for the chance to play, leading to a final number of 100. Following Thursday’s launch event at 368, the temporary shop will welcome shoppers Friday through Wednesday. It is also available now online. Gangemi said, “We felt it was a really important time to engage consumers — many of whom are flying in or are coming in from other areas of the East Coast.”
Instead of going the men’s-only or unisex route — as other gaming-geared apparel is — the Andbox inaugural collection consists of 14 styles for women and 14 for men. The streetwear-inspired gaming collection features a face mask, hoodies, T-shirts and other easy looks. Prices range from $35 for a T-shirt to $120 for a rip-stop windbreaker, and shoppers will have to act fast since only 150 to 300 units of each style are being offered. The second season will ship in October or November and prices will be upped from between $35 to $300.
Hooking up with Andbox required a crash course in gaming, since Osborne’s video game experience was more of the arcade, Nintendo and PlayStation era. His younger self met up with friends on St. Mark’s Place or Brooklyn to play video games. “This age of gamers is so new to me with online and everything else that is happening. I felt like a new student learning about it,” he said. “What was most startling is the amount of time that kids spend playing indoors.”
On average, people spend close to seven hours playing video games each week, according to Limelight Networks’ 2019 State of Online Gaming report.
Osborne was floored by how the leading players “are treated as well as LeBron James or any sports figure in their city or culture,” Osborne said. “They are treated like gods and superstars, which I didn’t understand at first. We have influencers in gamers right now and they are a beast in their own right. There’s this whole marketing world that people want to get behind, which I didn’t know about.”
His personal and professional ties to New York were in line with the New York-rooted Andbox. The learning curve was a selling point for Osborne, who was awarded the top prize for this year’s CFDA/Lexus Fashion Initiative with his Public School cofounder Dao-Yi Chow. Osborne said, “It was more about learning the process of gaming, and this whole new market that has risen that we feel so far behind because it is so far progressed. That was more interesting than taking on a position, which is actually generic.”
As for the violence aspect of it, Osborne didn’t have any reservations about. “To me, it’s just a video game and I enjoy it. That doesn’t bother me at all. There are many other things in the world that encourage violence.”
With his first Andbox effort ready to go, the esports company is eyeing more apparel ventures. Andbox’s aim is to be the streetwear and fashion brand for all gamers, according to Gangemi. “We will participate in activations and supporting influencers in many game titles — not just Call of Duty and Overwatch,” she said.