Debunking the e-Sports Illusion

Helping build e-Sports ;)

Category: Uncategorized

Popularity, demographic, sponsorship

Today I am not going to blog so much about the illusions we face in the e-sports market but rather going to address something that everyone gets so wrong including myself about 100 times. That is how truly popular a game is, what the games demographic is and how that relates to sponsorship. I am going to break up the blog into sections to try to make myself more clear as we all know that I can get a bit cloudy at times. Here goes.

 

Popularity

One of the most common stats put forth to a potential sponsor is the number of copies of the game sold. This in my eyes and as I have found out from meetings in the past is a mistake. Just because a game sold 4 million copies does not mean you are going to be able to have a reach of 4 million. This stat is irrelevant and amateur and it should stay out of proposals. Alternatively it has also been used in the past to justify the size of something such as “starcraft 2 is so big it sold millions of copies”. Again wrong as it does not represent the reach once again. I don’t have solid figures on log-ins for Starcraft 2 so its hard to give a solid number on how popular a game truly is. We have all bought a game which we no longer play (hello electronic arts, have you fixed sim city yet?) and there is always a game we only play casually and don’t pay attention to for me that game is dota2 but we all have our games.

The true popularity of a game is one of the most important selling points for the e-sports side of the game. How many hours does the average player play? On average how many of these players browse forums or social media for the game?  If you can pull these statistics out you will have a very valuable set of figures even if the figures are low.

 

Demographic

As time moves forward the demographic of gaming is constantly changing. When I was first getting into online gaming (56k was amazing) the demographic would have capped out at 28. So I would argue that the demographic at that time was males aged 13 to 28. This demographic is very specific but also very short lived. E-sports is unique because its a slower moving technological evolution. The players are maturing with the industry and there are always new arrivals to the scene at the lower age groups. However the e-sports scene itself seems to have a higher entry age than the entry age of gaming. As of today I would argue that the e-sports demographic was mostly males (not just males) aged 16 to 38 with a high percentage growth of female participants. Further more the demographic itself is unique in ways that common advertisers may not be used to. The ways the demographic is unique is as follows:

– The participants no longer watch television due to the online media revolution (i.e they download the shows they wish to watch or watch them online via available sources)

– The participants are ‘immune’ to regular advertising (in order to get their attention you have to create the image that you are contributing to the community rather than just flashing ads in their face)

– The participants are skeptical of the ‘new’ and do not respond positively to drastic change

In my research these are the 3 major unique factors of the e-sports demographic. The fact that we, as gamers and online personalities are ‘immune’ to regular advertising is the most hard hitting and game changing factor. It forces people to think outside the box and create new forms of advertising to the demographic (additional costs). One of the things great about e-sports is that you can ‘sponsor’ a team or player to do that for you within its capacity.  Being able to sell based on these facts is the first giant step towards making the e-sports industry profitable. Unfortunately it hasn’t been done properly yet with the exception of a few (Kingston Hyper X and EG etc.)

Sponsorship

 

Recently I have had to prove my knowledge for media and marketing to a few people. Lets get this straight, its not my profession and I have learned ‘on the job’ and I am by no means a professional media expert. I do however possess a large amount of common sense and I could sell poop in a bag if it would make me money. But the old style of business is creeping into the e-sports arena that logically will not work due to the demographic. When seeking a sponsorship you will most likely be directed to generic Mc Secretary the lady or man who is in charge of shredding excess paper sent to their offices or copy pasting rejection emails.  I used to have sponsorship emails forwarded to our finance department which really pissed them off. Your first task will always be getting by Mr/Ms Mc Secretary so that you can present your case.

You have to be armed to the brim with information and ability to sell a sponsorship these days or one hell of a net-worker. I choose the former route as networking is fly by night in my opinion and solid relationships are built on knowledge and ability not friends of friends. Anyway to the point, if you have all the information you need you also need to be reasonable with your information. Lying about how great something is will always blow back into your face and leave scar tissue that will last forever. I have met with a few companies whom have been badly burned from e-sports or gaming before and were not willing to even consider re-entering even with the information. Remember that if you go into a meeting and act a fool you hurt everyone not just yourself.

Sponsorship doesn’t have to be the only means of income for the industry. I have often referred to it as lazy money. You do the same thing you do everyday and get a lump of cash for it. It keeps you alive but does not push you forward. Selling unique advertising opportunities and website hits or even sales is the way to generate buzz around your product and to seal the deal you will probably end up with a sponsorship anyway. It is also a true test of how valuable your demographic is. If you can actually sell a product to the people who follow you you can get any company on board and make an income. If however you just get sponsored and don’t help the product sell you will likely find that sponsor leaving you. Solid sales ability is yet to be shown in the e-sports community and I truly await the day that it does because then everything will change for the better.

 

To gain some data I have set up a survey on this topic. If you could be so kind to take the time to complete the survey I will truly appreciate it. The survey can be found here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/7YNNJB5

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As usual my blog today comes with a disclaimer. Firstly I am not the deity of e-sports. I don’t know everything but am merely promoting the flow of information and ideas. Don’t take what I say as gospel but rather use it for information to prove and or disprove your ideas. I always welcome constructive criticism and respect it. I also appreciate awesome trolling so if you have some good one liners please do post them (the last few troll attempts in the comments section which I deleted were pretty lame. C’mon guys you can do better than that). Ultimately it looks like I won’t be returning to the e-sports space however doing blogs is always a lot of fun.

 

Stay frosty

 

Joshua “Happyboss the serene” Dentrinos

 

You can follow me if you like on twitter: @gosutrading

We are all so talented

Today I am going to put a disclaimer at the top. As this subject could potentially ruffle some feathers.

I appreciate all the effort people have put into developing “e-sports” with Starcraft 2 in my mind as e-sports right now. There is no denying that man hours have been put into trying to create something great.  I mean no ill will towards anyone who I have indirectly offended from this blog I am merely pointing out observations of mine and this is not a personal attack on anyone.

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There are numerous things I have heard throughout my experience with Starcraft 2. Things like “he has done more for e-sports than you ever will” or “he works so hard and does it because of his passion”.  Actually when these things are said I generally want to throw up.

Firstly, if “they have done more than a person ever will in e-sports” e-sports has a pretty freakin’ bleak future. Because up till today, e-sports for sure has not reach its full potential and still is in its infancy. So to even use that as a defense paints a really dark picture over the industry as its far from developed.

No person will ever do something over the long term unless they are getting something out of it. Be it pleasure, money, fulfillment, FRIENDS, popularity or anything else. You can’t sit there and say “I do it and it doesn’t make me feel good, I hate it but I do it for starcraft”.

Alas, this is not the thing I am going to address in this blog. I am going to address the ‘illusion’ that people in e-sports work harder than people in other markets which is a complete fallacy.

People do indeed work hard in e-sports at least compared to some of the staff I had in Malaysia or have seen working in government departments. E-sports is far ahead of these markets. But I am going to point out a few things that will perhaps remove e-sports from the top of your list as the most ‘hard working’ industry.

Firstly, the majority of folk working in e-sports are not qualified to be doing what they are doing. I am going to use myself as an example to lower the peacocks feathers a bit.

I am not qualified to run a tournament or event. I am not qualified to coach or direct a starcraft 2 team even though I hit GM on SEA one season (subtle brag). I am not qualified to do PR for a major organisation.  I should NOT have been put on a position where I had to do those things but I was forced to be in such a position due to lack of budget and the illusion of working hard. Truth be known if I did not have to part take in those sides of the business I might still be plugging FXOpen e-sports all over the internet today. But because of these multiple positions that I was required to fill I was working approximately 18-20 hour days (FX always came first then e-Sports). Sometimes days at a time with no sleep or sleeping in the office. It wasn’t as productive as it should have been but hey I worked hard.

Back to my point, a person who would be qualified to perform the tasks listed above would have easily been able to achieve their targets in a full working day no problem and probably worked as hard as the majority of the 9-5ers out there.

Biting off more than you can chew seems to be a very very common thing in Starcraft 2. There are so many ‘jacks of all trades masters of none’ running around out there.

Extending, my previous blog about WCS saving Korean SC2 I would like to talk about the consolidation of talent within Starcraft 2 that could potentially fix a few problems. Perhaps if some of the talent was consolidated to certain organisations to create a complete ‘team’ of staff whom would compliment each other immensely, popularity and profitability may return. For instance if you have a guy who’s greatest talent is graphics but he is doing graphics, web design, writing, proof reading and PR. Perhaps its time you make him graphics specific or perhaps graphics and web design specific and get a writer in to do the rest. Increasing productivity and being able to achieve more over a shorter period of time leading to more revenue.

Now some of you may be saying “but that would increase the budget and there is no money” and I counter that with writers don’t get paid very much in e-sports generally. Nor do graphics guys. Most of the writers and graphics people I have spoken to in Starcraft have stated they do it in the hope of gaining a job that will help them reach their financial goals. Either by moving up in an organisation or via having a portfolio of work that is displayed to an audience.  They are not the 50k-100k a year writers that you see writing for Newspapers but they are hoping to get there some day. So hire smart.

Next if someone is qualified and applies for a job but your mate wants a job and is not qualified. HIRE THE QUALIFIED GUY FOR PETES SAKE. I have seen it way too often in Starcraft where someone is overlooked because they want to give the job to their mate rather than the guy who could do the job well. Of course your mate is going to need to work hard…. he has no idea what he is doing.

Actually I ran into this problem when I was trying to hire for our sales team at FXOpen. A person had a ‘mate’ he wanted to hire and I had found a qualified candidate but of course the mate was hired. And left like 3 weeks later. The qualified person did not respond to emails or phone calls after that point, who knows what happened to him but we missed a great opportunity to increase revenue. (Staff were hired by a panel of people not just 1 HR manager. I seemed to always lose out on the votes but the ones who won generally hired people who were not good for the company).

Hiring staff can be a really daunting process and settling for whats in front of you is a very strong temptation. But if you are going to succeed as an entrepreneur you will need to hire smart and make your organisation super efficient as well as super strong. Those daily 8 hours of work need to be the same as your competitors 20 hours of work.  Alternatively if you could outsource some of your grunt work at cheaper than Starcraft 2 rates you should do it. An outside perspective is always valuable.

Finally I want to raise a question for an intelligent discussion. Why are some people in Starcraft 2 being paid more for doing almost nothing than those who do so much?

My conclusion to all this going on is that if people restructured into an efficient structure  it might hurt some peoples feelings but Starcraft 2 will last a lot longer than it looks like it will right now and we will be able to see those things that make an event, player or tournament POP or even better created the next big bang.

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Thank you to @tortedelini (twitter) for brain storming with me about this blog and its contents and the angle in which I should take it.

He has since pointed out another flaw in me and that is grammar and punctuation. 

Troll disclaimer

I have highlighted my weaknesses in this blog because they are my weaknesses. The majority of other roles in e-sports I would be suitable to fill from my experience outside of e-sports. Sales, SEO, project development and relationship management etc etc are all things I am qualified and competent in. I welcome trolling towards my failures.

Sorry that todays blog may not be as juicy as you’d hoped my next blog would be. But I am still trying to get some research done on the other things connected to WCS and SC2’s current condition and people are not playing ball. Mostly because they do not wish for me to talk about it. I’ll get it some how 😉

Sincerely,

Joshua Dentrinos

I am on the blue birdy @gosutrading

Starcraft – The Charity (Korea)

The issue of Starcraft 2 (or e-sports but lets focus on SC2) being a charity has come up a lot recently with the downward spiral that its presumably in.  There are a large number of things to blame for it but we won’t go directly into that. Today I am going to address an issue with Korea specifically  that fits under the illusion category that is specific to this blog as well as addresses the act of expecting it to be a charity. That is that “as long as we are pro gamers we will get paid”.

To try to get you into my head and thought process I am going to take you back to a time when things were good.  Personally my fondest memory of Korean SC2 was GSL Season 3. When Moonglade and I made the trek to Korea, him to play and me to check things out. Code A Quals was packed to the rafts, there were 6-8 foreigners trying out and the buzz was great. GSL was hosting shows on non game days (much like regular sports do) and viewership most likely was close to its peak at this time.

We all remember watching the matches, NESTEA, SC, MVP, MC etc. all duking it out for the championship. Times were good and the inflow of money was just before its peak. Korea had made it, Starcraft 2 was on the world stage.

And then……

It appears that multiple sponsorship of the event itself was not occurring. I do not blame GOM at all for this, the Korean business environment and set up is tipped heavily in the KESPA sides favor just by the sheer number of businesses attached to its core. (With a tiny bit of research of companies such as CJ you will see what I mean). They required a non-korean business development team to market the awesome product they had abroad.

At the same time, teams were unable to secure good Sponsorship’s, Viewership numbers of GOMTV were not being released to the team and were not able to be used to obtain sponsorship. They could have been the tipping point on a lot of deals but we will never know.

Players demands increased significantly due to foreign gamer inflation. Personally I feel that this is a very important part of what has gone wrong in Korea. False rumors of mega salaries to sub par gamers caused better gamers to start pushing for more money but at the same time they did not want to do what it takes to be worth that extra money because they were ‘champions’.  (I remember back to when a code B player asked me for 6k a month + travel and then said thats what XYZ foreigner was getting, when they weren’t, I said if you can do X , Y and Z and get your fanbase to Q they could have it. They asked why they should do that when they are better than the other player).

Finally KESPA preventing participation of proleague  from ESF teams was one of the nails in the coffin. The viewership would have boomed for that season of proleague because of the hype, the ‘elephant in the room’ and the fan favorites all molding into one enormous bang. Instead we saw arrogance from the organisation and lack of vision that essentially split an already small community in half.

Whats this got to do with Starcraft 2 being a charity you are asking?

Well my dear friend Choya recently said that WCS is killing or has killed Korean SC2. Which is false in my opinion. Without WCS Korea would most likely have very little money or pretty much nothing for Starcraft 2. They are saying this is the last season of proleague so you can scratch that from the SC2 books, OSL viewership was less than Destiny’s (slight exaggeration) and would have been dumb to continue on, leaving GSL the one which was not marketed properly when it was in the boom. WCS injected clean money into the scene when it needed it most (Korea).  Unfortunately, the Korean gamers are not used to money leaving their game (as with brood war) and are expecting someone to foot the bill. Brood war was of a different time. There was almost nothing competing against it and a bunch of the biggest group of companies in Asia decided to put together a league of which they fully controlled. The money didn’t go away because there was no where for it to go. Nowadays there are plenty of options on where to spend your companies money and Starcraft 2 right now in Korea would be at the bottom of the list. Yet, people are still expecting to get paid because they do their 8-10 hours of game time and show up to their matches. This…. is charity.

Why the bottom of the list Josh? Starcraft is the hardest game and has the highest skill ceiling!!

No company cares what Starcraft 2 is. All they care about is what it can do for them. And right now it can do very little. The Korean players have made very little effort to make themselves a product and they do not try overly hard to reach out to their fan base. (Of course there are exceptions like MC for example, but he is paid well for his work so its case and point). 

League of legends in Korea have at least one thing going for them and that is consistent stable viewership. They have the KESPA backing (access to the majority of significant companies in Korea as well as professional training) and then they have RIOT supporting them as well. The stability is good and its being utilized better (even though I am certainly not a fan).  The numbers alone are enough for a good sales person to walk into a meeting room and get the marketing execs attention, it would be up to their talent to seal the deal.

How can we fix it?

Some would argue its beyond repair but I don’t believe it is. WCS is holding up the ceiling at the moment and its up to teams and organisations to work around that.  GOMTV needs to bring back its variety shows and a subscription model for them. Teams need to some how obtain training to grow their fan base (yes it is still possible) and then GOMTV can use some of the subscriber money to pay appearance fees to popular players for the shows.  Ultimately they need to cater to the foreign audience directly and have the Korean side as the secondary. After that they will need to find a decent agency abroad to find them advertising and sponsorship and keep their product fresh.

They also should probably wait a year or two before giving in to any demands for higher wages as this is a common mistake in the e-sports industry in general. (Of course if someone is working for free they should get paid if this is successful. But those on livable wages should probably not see an increase for 12-24 months).

As viewers, we should not expect to flip the bill of an organisation or team (this means giving them money, not purchasing a product). They need to put on a show professionally, grab our attention, bring us in and sell to us. If they cannot do the simple parts of business they should probably take a step back from whatever they are doing and not spend money that they inevitably will not have.

Finally it would be up to the community to understand that nothing will or should be forever free but the product must be worth paying for and priced correctly.

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I have decided to leave a message after all my blogs that will be below the line that is shown above for the reason of addressing certain things.

Firstly, Choya is an awesome person and I always wish him all the best. My personal and social side never mixes with my business side so harshness or bluntness could create an image that I am not trying to portray. GOMTV has done an awesome job in the past with their events. I still watch occasionally but the production has become some what stale (even with a new studio). I really like the people who are there, Mr Chae is one of the greatest people I have met in e-Sports and again I mean no ill will towards them by writing this blog. I am most certain that GOMTV would be able to highlight some of my own mistakes as well and would not hold it against them.

Finally I want to say that I am only addressing WCS Korea. My opinion of the WCS tournaments in other regions is entirely different so we should not confuse them with Korea.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Joshua Dentrinos

(Ex-FXOBoSs)

 

plug plug plug twitter plug plug plug @gosutrading

 

 

 

 

You’ve been played.

You’ve been played Starcraft 2 community. Your reactions to blogs, such as my past blogs, were all expected reactions to people looking for attention. 

In the past I have always been business focused in my blog posts of course I don’t really know much else. I have played games my whole life but my background is sales, financial planning and business development/project management. I don’t know jack about media, very little about media marketing and I sure as hell don’t know much about advertising outside of the financial industry. But I bet you I could sell it given the resources.

One of the greatest illusions at least in the Starcraft 2 community is that the community as a whole isn’t being baited by drama. You are being baited. It brings in page views and fills the kitty of those of us who look to grow our brand and organisation. Part-taking in that drama even in a trolling fashion will further increase the page views. There is no such thing as bad publicity. Especially in an industry that is desperate for any type of publicity.

When I had originally joined FXOpen in my previous role, they had gotten by and grown immensely due to bad publicity. My original vision for them was to change that image as once you reach a certain size your business cannot thrive on negative media alone. It was turned around very quickly and e-Sports was a great way to remove the bad search results about FXOpen in google (that were severely out dated).  FXOpen is by no means a bad business knowing their systems inside out I know the legitimacy of such a business but the original media work involved is very similar to e-Sports and from a personal point of view…. horrible.

Generally if business is going smoothly and there is no noise you find a way create noise even if that noise is temporary. For every dramatic piece of splurge I spat out on my original blog we or I gained fans. Just like I may gain fans from this blog although I have no means of monetizing them nor do I want to put in the effort to do so. You also gain anti-fans with whom in discussion your fans will argue with and debate against, causing two sides. If there are two sides you gain viewership. People who want you to win and people who want you to fail, overall you get most of the demographic with SC2/e-sports being so small. 

One of the common arguments to Richard Lewis’ articles that just came out about the recent drama is that “he is just writing these for hits”. I do request someone to tell me why someone would write a piece and not want it to get hits? Its really dumb to even say that to begin with. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if the people saying that are the ones who click the link multiple times.

Why does Paris Hilton get paid so much to attend a party? Drama. How many of you actually clicked on a link of destiny’s penis? Thousands…. Drama. You don’t see the hot weather girl or guy getting paid 500k to attend a party and there is almost no drama in weather and they are hot! There is no intrigue or drama surrounding these people. Why do players who have no achievements get followers/viewers? Because at some stage the armies split up and drama occurred.  People follow them because they hate them and people follow them because they love them. Either way they follow them and their voice becomes louder.

A counter argument to this would be EG suppy. Extremely intelligent and polite lad. But the organisation he is part of does follow the rule and generally if you are under the guise of an organisation their package or baggage follows you. 

Every time you comment on drama you refresh it. Crying about the drama won’t make it go away, it will just make it more dramatic. Ignoring it is the only option, but we all know that isn’t going to happen. 

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Recently I have been studying e-Sports again looking to get back in with a non media role (I really don’t like attention) and try to contribute to the industry growth as well as my own wealth by doing the things I know best which ultimately has very little to do with e-Sports but if I can bring money to the industry the world is mine right? One of the things I have noticed and was blind to before due to the ‘inside’ is that the industry does have a ‘toxic’ element to it but its only minor and it was caused by us, the people who have or at some stage had a responsibility to the growth and professionalism of the industry. 

It wasn’t always ‘this’ toxic, but as figureheads of the industry we deserve it from the decisions we have made and its up to us to change it by making better decisions.

 

Sincerely,

 

Ex-BoSs

 

Plug plug plug @gosutrading plug plug plug