Image courtesy Wikimedia.org/Wikipedia/commons
Managing a professional esports team is a lot more difficult than you would think. There are many factors that go into making a team successful, and it’s just as hard to maintain that success once you’ve achieved it. Many people would think that all of the work is on the shoulders of the gamers themselves, but a surprising amount of work is done by the team managers.
Managing an esports team is slowly becoming more popular for big investors and fans of esports. Mark Cuban, NBA team owner and Shark Tank investor, recently invested in an esports betting startup, Unikrn. Three-time NBA champion Rick Fox bought a League of Legends team last year for $1 million. His new team, Echo Fox, formerly known as Gravity Gaming, secured a spot in the LCS 2015’s December season. Fox, an avid gamer himself, says, "The growth [in esports] is incredible to see. It's a $750 million business, and in a couple of years it's going to be a $2 billion industry. It mirrors everything I've experienced in my own professional sport environment, and so after doing enough research and doing my due diligence, I put together a team that's obviously bigger than just myself."
Even though esports is seemingly very different from any other sport, Fox saw many parallels between esports and basketball, and wanted to be a part of it. But regardless of his past experience in sports and his passion for gaming, there is a lot about managing an esports team that Fox will undoubtedly need to learn. The esports industry is quite a bit different from any other sports industry, and managing an esports team takes skills and knowledge you may not learn from playing or managing other sports.
So what are the essential factors when managing some of the highest paid professional esports teams? So much goes on behind the scenes, but here are some of the best ways for a manager to take care of their team.
Team morale and team synergy
Good team morale can work wonders for an esports team in changing their attitude about the game, and boosting their confidence to a point that they are performing at their absolute best. If your team lacks that confidence, the pressure of the game can get to them, and may negatively affect their performance. Legendary League of Legends
player Rekkles dealt with the pressure of loss a lot in his career
, and it is no different for any other player. Team synergy, that is, a team that works well together, and also genuinely enjoys each other’s company, will perform much more effectively. Keeping your team happy and confident will also prevent them from wanting to switch teams, or give up on esports entirely.
The obvious answer for how best to manage any team is having good management skills. You have to be good at managing a group of people while gaining their respect, making sure that everything is running smoothly (both financially and within the team), and ensuring that the team steadily improves.
Coverage, investors, and sponsors
To be successful, you need fans. Social media coverage and marketing can help a lot with acquiring a fanbase, and can even lead to sponsors and investors: two things that help tremendously when managing a team. When asked what it takes to run a successful esports team
, Nicolas Maurer, owner of the esports team Vitality, stated that “To survive, you need supportive partners. Sponsors are a must. The majority of the money at Vitality comes from sponsoring.”
Don’t overwork your team
The amount of practice that goes into being a professional gamer is intense, to say the least. Many pro gamers practice around 50 hours a week, and even when they aren’t specifically practicing as a team, they are often still playing alone. In order to stay on top of their game, the game has to be their life. Team Liquid
, a professional League of Legends
team, has players that practice 12 to 14 hours a day
. This is by choice, but it is still important for the team manager to make sure the players aren’t being pushed too hard.
Practicing too much can take a physical toll on a player, as well. The amount of rapid wrist movements required by some games can result in injuries that can severely impact a player’s performance.
Taking one for the team
In order to be financially successful as an esports team, the team’s managers, coaches, and even owners often have to work for free, or close to it. Most of the money goes to the players (as it should), and this can often lead to team managers having little for themselves. Nicolas Maurer, Vitality’s owner, explains, “It is very hard to earn money as a team at the moment. Team owners are mostly driven by passion.” If you are going to be greedy as an owner or manager, the players may not want to play for you. Putting the players first, and yourself second, is a key to having a thriving esports team.
Is it luck?
Maybe. After all, some teams just have bad seasons. A single game can decide whether or not you make it into the championships. And sometimes no matter how well your team is playing, even when you’ve done everything right, you can still lose. If you lose the wrong game, it can really hurt your team.
As you can see, managing an esports team is very similar to managing any other sports team. One factor that is often overlooked, however, is that esports pros are almost always between the ages of 17 and 24. These pros are still kids in many ways, and the pressure that rests on their shoulders is huge. They need a little help along the way when it comes to finances, sponsors, and being in the public eye. While this is the case in other sports as well, it goes double for esports pros.
The esports industry is still growing, and that makes it a great time to be a part of the action. However, since the industry is still finding it’s footing, there are a lot of challenges that come with managing a team. It can often be a balancing act, and players can easily jump ship if they are unhappy with their team’s mechanics.