When League of Legends started to make headlines all around the world for its international tournaments and big cash prizes, everyone debated whether eSports could be constituted as a real sport or not.
Today, however, that debate is no longer relevant.
A rising industry
The fact is that eSports are becoming increasingly popular and the statistics cannot be denied.
Dota 2’s The International tournament alone had a prize pool of $18M, the vast majority of which was crowdfunded by players.
Newzoo, the premier research expert in eSports, correctly predicted the fact that the industry would generate approximately $500M of revenue in 2016. By 2019, that number is set to rise to $1.1B!
It is no wonder then that many aspiring entrepreneurs are turning their gaze to eSports as a potentially viable financial investment.
Creating an eSports team is harder than most people think but certainly not impossible for those with the right mindset, and the right capital.
Before setting out to create an eSports team or eSports organization, there are several elements that have to be considered carefully.
First of all, you must understand that this is a business like any other. It requires serious investments of time and money and carries with it a financial risk like any other endeavour.
With that in mind, a solid business plan should be the first step in your journey.
That way, you can clearly define your goals and strategies, including your approach to future sales, marketing, and matters of a financial nature. Though you should be flexible in your approach, you should also be certain about the direction you want to take as the ball starts rolling.
One thing you will certainly need to define is what kind of capital you can invest in the eSports team.
A lower-tier organization which will initially compete in local tournaments will still require a considerable capital. Moving further along the top will require serious investments, particularly to compete in international championships in even the lowest of levels.
Establishing your team
Though establishing a strong network is important for any business, people can instantly make or break an eSports team. Several members of your team will have a very hands-on approach in the everyday running of the organization, which means that everything must continuously run smoothly.
The first people you should be looking for are co-owners, co-founders, and your executive board members which can certainly be the same people.
Finding partners which are willing to invest in the team will be extremely challenging, especially if you have to look outside of your own network.
Your eSports team will require a
- Chief Executive Officer,
- a Chief Financial Officer,
- a Chief Marketing Officer,
- and a Chief Gaming Officer.
It’s not just these guys…
As I am sure you can guess, the latter is unique to eSports. They are the people who will be responsible for managing the team itself as well as contacting coaches, ensuring the team’s participation in tournaments, and generally making sure that the players and the team can communicate efficiently and perform at the highest level.
Finding the right team
This can be the most exciting and frustrating part of the entire process.
Before doing anything else, you will most likely have to lower your expectations. The players you should be looking for ought to correspond to the category of the team you are about to create.
If you want players on the same calibre as Fnatic, Team SoloMid, Evil Geniuses, or any of the other top teams across popular eSports games, then you will also need millions in capital. These kinds of players already have an established position in the market and are most likely earning a lot more than you can currently offer.
Instead, considering the amateur rankings where free agents are abundant. Scout university and local teams for talented people that will drive your team further. If you feel like you cannot personally gauge their level, allow one of your partners to take the responsibility.
Ensuring the legality of everything
As they stand right now, eSports are in their very early stages of legal representation. Usually, game companies and championship organizations take it upon themselves to set out rules and dole out appropriate punishments.
Poaching, for instance, is one of the major pitfalls that even major organizations fall into.
In case you are unfamiliar with the term, poaching refers to any attempts to convince a player to join your organization without consulting the team where he is currently contracted to. This practice is not merely looked down on, it also incurs substantial fines and penalties.
Many might try to take advantage of the currently fluid nature of legal terms surrounding eSports but that should never be in your mind.
Teams and organizations in this industry heavily rely on their reputation. The community is the most important driver behind everything in a team and breaking their trust is like a death penalty for a team.
On top of all that, you should keep in mind that your team will most likely have to be registered as a company. Make sure to check the specific laws of your country to avoid costly and lengthy legal battles in the future.
Creating your brand
A strong brand is an absolutely necessity in many industries and a top priority for eSports.
Your brand will drive your team forward in many regards. The community will generate most of the revenue for your team in the long run and creating a dedicated user base of loyal fans is an extremely challenging process.
The fundamentals should be obvious to everyone – choosing a great name, for instance, is a no-brainer. In addition to that, you should strongly consider contacting experts across various areas such as graphic design who will help you create a solid identity.
Every single thing about your brand matters and if you are unfamiliar with such processes then you should definitely get help instead of trying to do it half-heartedly.
Once you have a strong brand, marketing should be the next thing on your mind. Social media is the first and most obvious step. You should consider all the usual suspects and maintain a strong presence in all of them.
However, you should also be aware that the community constantly interacts with team accounts in social media. The content that you push through those platforms should be high quality and targeted to your audience, not impersonal and generic.
This is a very controversial aspect that requires some imagination in this particularly industry. There are so many opportunities that traditional forms can and sometime should be discarded. Advertising, for instance, is an ineffective way of driving revenue and chances are that your team’s website will not have as many visitors as your social media channels anyway.
Instead, try to establish something unique to your team. Curse had its very own sponsored team in League of Legends while driving revenue through its other services. Team SoloMid has its very own website with dedicated guides and unique services.
While you may not always be able to do the same, there are other opportunities that many will not consider initially.
Merchandising, for instance, is huge in the eSports communities. However, it will take a long time until your brand and team are successful enough that this will become a viable source of income.
Starting an eSports team certainly poses a challenge but so does every other entrepreneurial effort. You will need the right mindset, a diverse set of skills, and a decent capital to get things going.
However, if you are passionate about your journey, you will enjoy almost every moment of it. Many of the things that apply to entrepreneurship in general also apply to the creation of an eSports team. The difference, however, is that you will be managing an active, vibrant team in a game that you presumably also enjoy.