League of Legends eSports isn’t just a showcase of elite hobbyists anymore – this is the most popular video game in the world and these are the very best players – professionals. Their profession requires them to be at the top of their game on every patch, in every tournament, online or not. Their livelihood depends on their ability to ignore all else – if they don’t, someone else is, and they’ll fall behind. Period.
But many fans and even players don’t understand that being a pro gamer is about more than just winning (gasp). An organization can scrape by for months, even years, if their team has the personality (or good PR) to attract fans and sponsors, regardless of performance. It’s not the preferred route - wins make guaranteed money, wins guarantee fans, wins directly result in hype. Hype is a fluctuating resource, the players and organizations that continue to find success in eSports are not just the winners, but the teams that properly attract fans and sponsors – via hype.
A recent example in LoL eSports news is Quantic Gaming. The Season 3 North American powerhouse, Cloud 9, was originally Quantic Gaming’s team. When TSM’s manager Jack proceeded to buy C9, Quantic fell off most people’s eSports radar. This week, they’ve been talked about on Twitter and Reddit as much as any Worlds-bound team. What changed?
Wednesday it was announced Quantic picked up a team of five veteran, arguably-struggling Korean players - Locodoco, Woong and 3 ex-members of MIG Blitz. With their fancy new eSports visas in hand and several secret months of practice in Korea under their belt, they moved to North America to potentially qualify for one of the four remaining LCS promotion spots.
Locodoco would like you to know he’s still swaggin’
While (silly) arguments questioned the legality/ethicality of the move, the hype was undoubtedly overflowing. By the time Quantic faced NA LCS Summer 7th place Team Coast in the ggLA 5 challenger tournament (within 48 hours of the breaking news), everyone was watching. In fact, Quantic’s NA accounts were so new, they played the tournament with 4 level 21 accounts and limited champion selection. It was a genius win/win PR move on their part, even if it was unintentional. Win, and you’ve beaten an American LCS team with a massive handicap, lose, and the hit to the hype-meter will be mitigated by all the “what-if”s.
(SPOILERS!) As it turned out, Quantic was swept by both LCS teams Team Coast and Velocity, eliminating the Korean gents from the tournament – not the best first impression. But the “what-ifs” have begun and a couple classy tweets from Locodoco can still make it a net-positive, from a brand perspective.
Now, it’s a storyline. Throughout the (long and painful) offseason, we eSports fanatics will sit down to watch Quantic in every challenger match they play, to see how the story develops. Quantic Gaming is back on the radar, and that means potential fans, sponsors – and a pool of influence with which to find subs, replacement and analysts if the need arises. Now it’s up to Locodoco and the rest of the boys to live up to all the talk, if they want to continue being professionals. There can be droughts, those droughts can even be long, but the wins must come eventually.
I’ll end this post with a little thought exercise – how many amateur teams could find their way into a major (for NA standards) challenger tournament to play against LCS teams with four non-ranked, non-30 players (Locodoco has a Gold 5 NA account), two days after their roster is debuted publicly? That’s good hype management.