Owning an esports team. Why don’t we all just do it? You get to hang out with some of the best gamers around, going to esports events and playing games is literally your job, and you feel like a total baller because gamers all over the country want to play for you.
Damn, that sounds nice. Put us down for two top quality esports teams please, with some pro-gamers wanting to hang out with us and a Telkom DGL Masters invite to go with them. Why didn’t we think about starting an MGO sooner, it’s all fun and games right?
Well during our time with Aperture Gaming at the Telkom DGL Masters finals at rAge we got the chance to ask MGO owner Theuns “Alpha-Renji” Louw all about it. Actually, we kept trying to find time to ask him all about it, but running an MGO keeps you really busy at events, so we had to reschedule for another time.
Thanks to the miracle of internet phoning, we got the interview a couple of weeks later. Here’s the TL:DR if you’re short on time.
“It’s pretty hectic, let’s put it that way.”
To be clear, that’s not hectic like a Lil’ Wayne party with champagne showers. It’s hectic like a real life job with overtime work and no overtime pay. It’s not hashtag ezmoney unfortunately.
So what’s running an MGO really like?
“It’s difficult. It’s sometimes being a parent and sometimes being a manager. You deal with, I wouldn’t say children – they are grown ups – but most of them are very volatile, usually in the pre-studies or post-studies part of their life where they are trying to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives, while at the same time pursuing a hobby that at this current point in time does not provide a salary for you in South Africa.
It’s really based on the players you deal with. What is their situation? Do they study 9-5? Do they have a fulltime job? Do they have structure in their life? Those kind of factors determine whether it’s easy or difficult to work with certain players. And that determines how easy it is to run an MGO.”
That makes sense. All companies, businesses and teams, esports teams included, are about the people, and the culture that develops among them. Those who fit the culture tend to do well. People who don’t, well they give their bosses grey hairs.
But it’s not just about personalities, you also have to take talent into account. Some players might be worth accumulating a few grey hairs for. If they’re good enough they could help take your team further than it’s ever been. The question is: Are you willing to pay the price?
MGO owners obviously can’t be involved in all their player’s lives 24/7. At the very least for a Masters MGO that means dealing with 10 players from two different titles. Obviously if things need your attention you’ll deal with them, but what does an MGO owner do day to day? You know, when they’re not being Dr. Phil.
“Looking at the bigger picture. That’s really where I am at now, managing people more than managing players in a game. Just making sure the general team is happy and healthy. You just manage their expectations, keep them on the same page as what your sponsors want, so they don’t feel like they’re under performing or feel like they’re over performing compared to what they’re getting out of it.
It’s really just transparency. Keeping the team mentally happy I would say. There’s nothing worse than sending a team into a tournament when things aren’t good at home.
Sometimes you have to play the psychiatrist role. Just speaking to the players and saying the things that they aren’t saying, because those guys play with each other 24/7 and somehow they still miss some very open conversations that they need to be having going into tournaments.
That’s pretty much the responsibilities right now. And then further than that: Working with sponsors, getting exposure.
We’ve reached a point where I can confidently say there are more things for me to do than I can physically take on. This year I took on everything from interviews, to running around with my camera like a mad person trying to get good exposure. It’s reached a point where I literally need to get an ad hoc person per event to help me capture exposure and build reports for events.
That’s where my thoughts are on managing an MGO and where I would like to get to.”
Theuns’ days of dreaming about winning DGL titles as a player are behind him. So what does he dream of now?
If you’re just starting out building an MGO, or you’re thinking about doing it, know this going in: If you want to make it to the top, it’s going to be all consuming. You will be stretched thin until you’re able to get to a point where you can bring in coaches and managers to help you with your various teams.
A lot of people, your boys at Good Luck Have Fun included, get into esports hoping they can turn their projects into full time jobs that will allow them to play more games than if they had a regular 9-5. Real talk: That ain’t going to happen. In fact, you often end up working in the time you’d usually be gaming.
“Right now I don’t believe it’s worth making it a full time job for anyone. It’s not possible yet. I’d be able to go out and get an entry level job, and I’d be paid more working in that field than running an MGO.
And you’d rather take the money you make as an MGO and put it back into the organisation, instead of trying to take a salary out of it. It’s counterproductive at this point. It’s taking off, it hasn’t taken off yet.”
Oh, did we forget to mention you need to get another job to be able to afford owning an esports team? That’s our bad. If you don’t have a sponsor, and even some Masters teams don’t, then the money to pay for gear, apparel, travel and anything else your team might need is coming out of your own pocket.
When you’re working a job 9-5 your weekdays are full. Which means you’re going to constantly be putting in time after hours to take care of your teams and run your organisation. Because regular job bosses aren’t particularly accepting of lines like, “I’ll get those documents to you soon, I’m just dealing with an issue between deviaNt and konvict. They’re not criminals I swear.”
Look, it might work, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Oh, you can work on weekends too. So that’s a bonus.
The point we’re trying to make here is that running an MGO isn’t all fun and games. In fact, there are far less games than you’d like. It’s like any business startup, the early days are tough and you work hard.
“You need to ask yourself what you want from it. For me it’s an investment into the direction we are heading. It’s obviously nice to support a community I am passionate about (gaming), but for sustainability and the long run you need to have an end goal and mine is to transform ApG into a lucrative business, which it isn’t yet.
Building connections and learning valuable lessons about the industry and the partners makes it worth it for me.”
So if you think you’d make a good secretary, travel agent, psychiatrist, human resources manager, photographer, videographer, editor, journalist, social media manager and marketer all at the same time, after you’ve done a full day of whatever ever else it is you do for money, then you’ve got what it takes to run run a Masters level MGO.
The choice is yours, said the guys working late nights to become esports journalists.