This week sees us come to the conclusion of our series with Aperture Gaming proprietor Theuns ‘Alpha-Renji’ Louw. Where better to end off than to get an MGO owner’s perspective on the rollercoaster that has been 2016 for South African esports and what he is expecting from next year.
The very first article we posted after launching this website was titled ‘Is this the year esports take off in South Africa?’. While some might argue that it took off a long while ago, it’s just taken this long for everyone else to notice, 2016 has undoubtedly seen a leap forward in many areas of our beloved industry.
One of the big plusses of 2016 for Theuns as an MGO owner has been the number of tournaments that have happened this year. We’re talking outside the Telkom DGL calendar, in events like the Evetech Champions League, Orena hosting ESWC at EGE, WESG qualifiers, and those are just the higher profile events. It’s not even over yet. Now we have the Mega8 Dota tournament coming up too.
“The activity was great. Showing sponsors and investors that’s it’s more than just the MGO, that the industry as a whole is invested, that’s pushing to grow the reach of what we do at the end of the day.
We’re trying to reach a bigger market and get eSports out there. And that’s not going to be done by one MGO or two or three or four. It’s going to be done by a whole collective of MGOs, the whole community, together with event organisers.
And that’s what we’ve seen, it’s everyone trying to push the bar from multiple different places to what it ended up being this year, which was a lot more events.”
We all know South African esports tournaments are not the ESL, yet, but there have been a lot of fantastic tournaments this year and Theuns believes every single one brought something special to the table.
“You can fault a lot of events on a lot of things, but each tournament had something very unique that the others didn’t have.
If you compare it with international tournaments, obviously it’s not apples to apples – they’re years ahead of us – but each organisation and each event host had something the other didn’t have, which is good, because they will learn from each other.
I don’t believe if we just had DGL we would have had the year that we did. None of it would have been that good, so the healthy competition between the event organisers is good.
Then as an MGO owner, like I mentioned, it’s great for our sponsors, it makes everything so much easier – reporting on the exposure and all of that.”
That is the crux of the matter for any MGO owner – what to tell the suits – and after the year we’ve just had Theuns had a lot to tell them. Two things in particular stood out for him.
“I think it would be purely the advertisement and the exposure we got at the big events like ECL and DGL being on stage.
The added features that go with that, the interviews, the streams. A good example would be when DGL brought out Carte Blanche to do interviews with teams and players, we got a spotlight there as well.
I think those things help a lot. It goes together, whatever helps the industry helps the MGOs and the growth.
It comes down to events and adding value to the events. Apart from just playing the game and hosting the tournament, there’s the advertising that goes with it and MGOs piggyback off that a lot.”
The opportunities for MGOs to grow and attract sponsors is clearly something that has improved in 2016. Hopefully it allows some of our local MGOs to grow into full-time businesses.
But enough looking back. Let’s talk about the future.
As we are reminded every time someone throws ink at us in a game of Mario Kart, one of the most important parts about moving forward successfully is vision and Theuns has some pretty exciting ideas about where he wants to take his MGO.
“I want to get to a point where I can send the team overseas, regardless of whether they place first or not at an event. Like for EGE, where there is an ESWC qualifier and the team that places first qualifies. We can talk to the ESWC organisers and be like, ‘If I pay for my team to come over, could you qualify two teams?’
Things like that are always possible. It’s an extreme example, but you know what I’m saying.
Right now it’s unheard of for an MGO to pay for a team to go overseas, but if we can get to that point next year it will be pretty cool. It’s not unrealistic. It’s just a matter of meeting our sponsors halfway.
And if we have a revenue stream from a third party store, like Aperture PC, supporting it, I’d like to think that could be a stepping stone to get our team overseas. Regardless of whether they place first, or second, or third.”
While the prospect of more teams going overseas is incredibly exciting, we haven’t really seen a local side make any waves outside of our shores just yet, but Theuns has a plan for that too.
“What I’d like to do, and I haven’t really spoken to anyone about (Editor’s note: Good Luck Have Fun exclusive, heyo!) is do what I did with Battlefield for the year we won. And that is get a coach. At that time it was an international and I would look at that again. An international coach with professional experience.
Our coach for Battlefield played for Dignitas Battlefield at the time and the value he added throughout the year was insane. We didn’t have a sponsor or anything, he paid for his own ticket to come down and support us and coach us at rAge.
We’ve gotten to a point where we can physically pay a coach to coach us. So that’s something that I’m looking at. So you could probably look out for a coach for APG. Put us down for a coach.”
MGOs sending their teams overseas, professional coaches, millionaire tournaments, it’s almost like esports is a thing in this country now.
“At EGE people even asked Thulani and some of the Bravado players if they could sign their shirts. They just came up to them and asked them that. I think that’s when it hits home, you’re like, ‘Okay, this is really becoming a thing.’”
Well that settles it, esports is now a thing in South Africa.