Gamers are by their very nature competitive. They have a constant desire to prove that they’re the best at their game of choice. Even little kids throwing angry birds at pigs, that for some reason are green and have no bodies, compete against one another to prove who the most effective helpless green pig killer is.
As we get older that competitive spirit doesn’t go away. If anything it intensifies, and we need to find an outlet for it. Enter the rise of eSports. And the rise of online platforms that give gamers a chance to test their skills against one another.
“It’s an abbreviation for online arena. You know, taking ‘arena’ and putting an ‘O’ in place of the ‘A’.”
It’s a wonderfully simple concept, laughably so. Luca literally laughs when telling you how he came up with the name. But he wants it to be more than just an online arena. He wants it to be a platform for local gamers to grow their skills, as well as their own reputations and personal brands.
“When we launched in 2013 the idea was to release a site, pretty much what you see now, giving people the ability to play in a ranked ladder system, have accurate rankings for players and teams to build a profile of what they have been doing, the work they’ve put into the game, so they can distribute that to sponsors or keep track of their own development.
We want to try and build profiles for players and local gaming personalities to actually be able to market themselves. And obviously for us to be able to make a return on what they add to our events. At the end of the day we don’t watch the major events overseas because it’s the event, we watch it because the top players are there and competing for the big money. That’s what makes us watch and that’s what we’re trying to create.”
If you’ve been reading our recent articles, and based on how attractive and intelligent you are we’re sure you have been, you’ll remember Miles Regenass talking about the same thing that Luca is trying to achieve with Orena – the need for gamers and teams to grow their profiles in order to get brands to invest in them and the local scene.
From a marketing perspective brands are looking to sell their products. If gamers can give them an audience to sell to then they’ll happily invest in them. But Luca’s interest is more personal than that. He’s played in the local pro-gaming scene and found that the effort he put in didn’t match what he got out. He wants to change that for future South African gamers.
“I joined Bravado late 2011. I played Call of Duty with them until late 2013. After that I just decided, we’re practising, we’re playing, we’re spending so much time on these games every day to compete at the end of the year to win a tournament, we won it twice, and only winning R25k. That’s once a year. The benefit wasn’t really coming back to me and to my players. The amount of time the guys put into it and what their getting in return, it’s not worth it to them.
I look at all my teammates who I was playing with back then and they’ve moved on, they’re not involved in the scene at all. So that was my decision, to start hosting events and try and create some competition to what we had available in South Africa. To hopefully try and increase the standard and consistency of events.
Up until last year it’s been good in terms of hosting events. We’ve had prizes and offered some nifty stuff on a consistent basis, so starting to get guys at least earning something monthly to bi-monthly that they can take home.
That got things changing in terms of the quality of broadcasting. We started offering really high quality, getting the guys in studio to cast in front of the camera, which made our Twitch channel grow and made it a lot easier for us to attain a little bit of attention.”
By a little bit of attention he means over 1.5million views on their Twitch channel. That’s like saying Nkandla cost South African’s a little bit of money.
He credits a lot of their success purely to the fact that they have been able to stream their tournaments, thanks to having fibre. That’s allowed them to get some sponsors involved and actually get the platform off the ground. What he doesn’t give enough credit to is himself. It’s only through his perseverance, and great personal expense, that Orena was able to get to a place where there was anything to stream.
“I started off with my partner Christopher Schafer. We started off as a partnership and he helped me out for the first two years, mostly with graphic work and development work on the website. With that I was able to focus on the other things, like attaining sponsorship, creating tournament formats, sorting out all the broadcasting, and all the logistics around hosting the events.
Then from early this year we got to a position where Chris was getting extremely busy with his 8-5. He was getting way too busy to cater to what Orena needed. We got to a point where we were looking for someone to either help out with that work, or me moving on with another partner. Or actually, I’ll be honest with you, scrapping everything, because the company wasn’t making anything for the first three years.
It was purely just self-expense. Every trip, every sponsorship meeting up in Joburg, flying up from Cape Town, was all self-expense. Everything was paid for ourselves. All that we got was sponsorship for prizes. Advertising, marketing material, stuff like that, was all paid for by ourselves. It was becoming a huge expense to me.”
So what kept Luca from giving it all up and going to find himself a regular 9-5 job? Would you believe us if we told you that he listened to his mother, ate his vegetables like a good boy, and that saved his business? Well that’s not exactly what happened.
“So we actually got really lucky at the beginning of the year, where Travis Coppin, one of the high-ups at Food Lover’s Market, came on as a director. He is very interested in gaming in a personal capacity, he’s a gamer himself. He got involved at the beginning of the year. He actually bought Christopher out completely and invested into the company.
The website we released the other day, we had previously tried to develop over three years, was done in three months. So that’s been a huge help. In terms of advertising, it’s allowed me to market the company a bit better. And being able to announce ESWC was hugely a part of that, being able to confirm funding and things like that from our side. (We’ll be telling you more about that soon.)
It’s been fun. It’s been a road, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
So next time your mother tells you to eat your vegetables, you tell her you only eat vegetables from Food Lover’s Market.
At the end of the day, just like all of us gamers, Luca just wants to play games as much as possible. And if he can make playing games, or at least being involved with games, his fulltime job, well then he’s living the dream.
“It’s such a passion, personally for the two of us who are involved as directors. We love games. We play ourselves actually in a team we’ve put together, Area 52. We’re playing in ESEA, we’ve paid the subscriptions. We play in DGL, which would be considered our competition, but we don’t feel that. We’re gamers at heart, so at the end of the day we just want to be involved in as much as we can. And at the end of the day give a return to the gamers, and hopefully that turns into a return for ourselves as well.
I work from about 8 to 4pm, and from then on we’re either streaming, or rendering videos, recording content and stuff in the evening. And then hopefully we get some casual game time in until early in the morning. We’re still in that gamer schedule, wake up at 7:30am, go to bed at 1am. Unhealthy, but productive.
It’s a full day, but it’s games. So it’s wicked. It’s really cool.
That’s when you realise you’re doing the right thing. You’re not making any kind of return currently financially, but you’re still having a good time.”
Speaking from personal experience, we couldn’t agree more. Next week we’ll be bringing you Luca’s thoughts on the state of the local gaming scene and the growth of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.