Recently renowned Oceanic organisation Legacy Esports was acquired by the Adelaide Crows, an AFL club. The move is a bold one for Australia, signalling a change in how esports are seen in the country, especially of the back of IEM Sydney.
I sat down with Tim “Carbon” Wendel, team Jungler and owner of Legacy Esports, fresh back from their bootcamp in Korea, to discuss the acquisition.
“We’re all pretty excited. It’s a pretty big deal for us – We’ve always kind of run the club ourselves and that’s been getting more and more difficult as the industry grows,” he explained. “It’s really cool to have someone so well versed in sports management behind us now.”
After the AFL announced their interest in holding their very own esports event, this sort of move was a clear next step. It’s not just a quick cash in or attempt to diversify a brand though – according to Carbon they’d “done a lot of research”.
“I have to say I was impressed. I’d been speaking to a lot of other groups who didn’t really know what esports was, they just had heard the buzzword,” he continued. “So I went and met with the Crows and a lot of their goals aligned with what I wanted to do – things around performance and getting the best out of OCE players.”
At this point traditional sports organisations like the Crows are Australian institutions. These brands that have a large and diverse audience, as well as established systems for their athletes and teams – bonuses that will never be a bad thing for the developing Oceania ecosystem.
“I think there’s a lot of things they have to offer that’ll benefit esports; a lot of things on the back end like admin, sponsorships, media and content creation” said Carbon. “Those are things they’d been doing for years and they have experts in those roles. We were doing all that ourselves as amateurs, and that’s going to be a huge boost for us as a brand.”
“The growth of the brand is one thing, but building players and teams that succeed is infinitely more important. Be it under the Crows or as a grassroots organisation, the way your players compete is everything. A shake up in the tried-and-true esports way of training athletes could be key to an edge in play. “In terms of performance, they [the Crows] know a lot about how to get the best out of athletes, and that’s knowledge that’s easily applied to esports,” said Carbon. “Esports athletes face a lot of the challenges regular athletes face in terms of mentality and looking out for themselves.”
While some saw the involvement of traditional sports in esports as a point of contention, Carbon saw it as a positive. “I don’t see a difference between traditional sports models and what we do,” he explained. “The aim is on field performance, and the best way to do this is to build a strong platform for your team to succeed. That takes money and so it’s about finding partners or creating your own revenue in order to do that. As long as the aim is to perform, not just to make money, I think there isn’t much to be concerned about.”
All this is stuff to consider for Legacy and the Crows as the transitionary period closes. For now, in the direct lead up to split two, Legacy is focussed on the game and Oceania. “In the very near future I wouldn’t expect that much to change. The roster, house and the set up is staying the same. But certainly, we’ll be planning a lot more for 2018,” he noted. I never got into esports to make money, I got in to win games and to represent OCE well. That’s what I plan to do going forward.”
What will be worth watching is how both other League of Legends organisations act this split, and how external organisations choose to get involved. This is surely not the last announcement like this we’ll see – it’s just a matter of time, and this extra attention can only help.
“The more clubs that get involved the higher the level of professionalism, the more other brands are going to be happy to partner with OCE organisations,” said Carbon. “The recent success of IEM also shows that there is a market for esports here in Australia, so I think the attention can only be positive.”
After all this, what meant most to Carbon was what the acquisition could do for Legacy going forward. After building the brand and working with his team to get Legacy where they are in League of Legends and beyond, this move means he can start providing more opportunities and avenues for success.
“I’ve been playing for four years now and when I was a bit younger and totally into it there were a lot of things I wished I could have done; a lot of cases where I thought ‘if only I had this opportunity I’m sure I could make it’. I’m excited to be able to provide the next generation of players with those opportunities and see if someone from OCE can really make it – can the be the real deal,” he closed. “That’s the part that excites me the most.”