The Top 10 Traits in an esports Title

We get requests all the time for new teams to be sponsored through LAN Mob and Rome Revolution. I'll often hear "When is the X team starting?" or "LAN Mob should sponsor Y game." At one point we were all-in, preparing to spawn teams in every game that had even the slightest interest (looking at you, Civ 5 esports team).

In the end we had to slow down and even go in reverse on some of the teams, bringing us to our current point of just two teams: League of Legends and Overwatch. There are a myriad of reasons for this so I wanted to break out a blog post explaining the top 10 things that have helped bring Rome Revolution esports teams to fruition, or likewise prevented teams from becoming a reality. This post is a deep dive into my own thinking on esports which has evolved over the past three years of running the LAN and promoting/TOing numerous tournaments. This thinking is a main driver of the Rome Revolution esports roadmap and some of the things I say below may be personal opinions or in the future prove to be off the mark - I’m not Nostradamus - but it’s my best guess at where this monster known as esports is heading.

  1. A Well Developed Professional League - This to me is perhaps the single most important trait in a game to be considered as a legitimate esport. I’ve heard industry experts comment and spectate on what the “next big esport” will be, but as the poker player Doyle Brunson says “It’s better to make your own luck”, and this is true of most of the major esports leagues. Two examples: League of Legends and Overwatch. Riot and Blizzard respectively took the time to make significant investment in their LCS and OWL leagues including things like production quality, shoutcasting, storytelling, franchising and more. They built arenas and careers around the promotion and love of their games. Both leagues keep a regularly streamed Twitch presence of constant content coming at viewers. This has a self-fulfilling impact on the games themselves as they’re creating and maintaining the “dream” - I have no doubts these leagues and games will be successful for decades to come. Likewise for our tiny little esports organization in Rome, NY - I have a dream to grow to the point where we can enter into these leagues someday, and that drives my work daily.
  2. Game Popularity (Players) - Perhaps this could have been #1, but certainly if a game is not popular enough we’ll have a hard time recruiting players for it. This goes doubly for us being in a small town in Upstate NY - our player pool locally is limited. We had a good laugh with a Rome Revolution Facebook promotion this spring, where a local player flamed us for not carrying Gears and Halo teams. Although once thriving communities, a quick glimpse at Twitch shows that these scenes are completely dead and have little to no attention going to them. This can always change with a new game release but as a modern esports organization we have to change with the times and not be tied down to the past.
  3. Coaching - The next biggest obstacle to overcome for a team’s success is having good coaching in place. Myself, Cody, Mike, and now Zachary all went into this extremely green and have grown a great deal. Resolving conflicts, tweaking players, motivating, inspiring, recruiting, creating player development plans, and doing the grind of watching and documenting games are all skills we’ve grown better at. This is all preparing us for the next step and we’re excited for what’s ahead. But beyond Overwatch and League of Legends, when looking at new games to add to our esports roster a solid adult coach is a must. 
  4. Depth of Game - A game needs to have some depth and dimension to it, otherwise players (and spectators) will grow bored with it, or worse the game will get dwarfed by a new fork. Look at how quickly the Royale genre matured, moving from ARMA to H1Z1 to PUBG to Fortnite in barely 2 years. The games just became increasingly more fun to play and to watch. It’s almost unthinkable now that a royale game can overcome Fortnite, but going back to point #1 above - this largely depends on how quickly and effectively the Fortnite publishers can grow out a professional esports League. If something on the level of OWL or LCS emerges from Epic Games, Fortnite will have completely secured the Battle Royale genre for years to come. If another royale beats them to it they may have some trouble on their hands.
  5. Maturity - We can get a good idea of the maturity of a game’s community through the tournaments we’ve run. Certainly games like Call of Duty and Rainbow Six Siege enjoy wide popularity, but the community can at times prove very young and immature. These communities are wild and unruly, and pulling together a responsible coach to keep players in line - with some of these players having zero past sports background - is a bit like herding cats.
  6. Player Responsibility - Along the same lines of maturity, how responsible do the players act? Are they relatively friendly or typing profanity at one another? How do they act outwardly towards other orgs? What friends do they run with, and how do their friends behave? Given in any game you can have very toxic players, some communities can be better than others in this respect. But as an organization, if I want to invest in a player to get really good at a game and represent the Rome Revolution brand, I want to be sure that player will act right and reflect well on the brand.
  7. Profitability - At the end of the day we’re executing a new business model in a small town and trying to earn a buck. When our esports teams play at the shop they still pay, but earn deep discounts depending on their performance, all the way up to free. We’ve had players in the past complain that they should always play for free or even moreso that we should be paying them. While it’s definitely a long-term goal to get the best players funded and sponsored, we’re working within the reality of where we are. Until we start landing larger sponsors there is no magical money tree I can visit to shower wealth on players for just playing video games. The players have been told they’ll have to grow at the pace we’re growing at as a business, and some wanting an easy ride haven’t stuck with it for that reason, but those that accept this and have put in the work every week will reap the rewards.
  8. Marketability - Along the same lines of profitability is how marketable the team and its players are to sponsors. Is the performance of players something sponsors see value in? This is slowly getting easier as gaming grows more widespread but there are still plenty of sponsors who can’t see beyond the face value of people playing video games. This for us is a longer-term goal but definitely a consideration.
  9. Game Genres - In the past we’ve had some messiness in crosses between genres. For example - carrying both an Overwach team and a PUBG team, both shooters in some sense, led to a lot of people doubling up on both teams and splitting their focus. To truly get good at a game it needs to be your primary devotion, so this is a consideration for us. We could in theory launch Call of Duty, CSGo, and Rainbow Six Siege Teams simultaneously, but the overlap in players between all three shooters would devalue eaches performance and ultimately lead to burnout, as well as cause a drag on the current Overwatch team.
  10. Devotion - We’ve passed on forming teams in the past due to doubts in how devoted they would be to our organization. This in particular is what has made the “home grown” nature of our teams so great, is that we can build our teams from the ground up on our home turf. We’ve been approached by numerous teams already in existence - some of these highly skilled - asking for sponsorship or a Rome Revolution team. Some of these are players who have loosely visited the shop on and off, but they still carry their own brands and identities, which can often create confusion with players of where loyalties are. Players who have shown they’re all-in on Rome Revolution have received our full support, and this will always be the case as we continue to grow our rosters and skill.

In closing I wanted to talk a bit to the growth and future of our organization. We make no illusions to where we're at presently both skillwise and regionally - we're an esports team in tiny Rome, NY made up of players across the skill spectrum. Much like our LAN Center, we're nowhere near the size of the big boys in this industry. We're often working under the profit line and at great cost to continue our growth. It's not easy, but nothing worth doing in life ever is.

Like everything we've done here in Rome it's been built from the ground up. I don't come from wealth and have worked a great deal to grow to the point we're at now, and will continue grinding away to make our LAN, esports team, and everything else I work at the best it can be. If you're all-in on us we're happy to have you along for the ride.

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League of Legends - Monday, Wednesday | 6 - 12 pm
Overwatch - Tuesday | 6-12pm

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