Are all esports organizations and teams and built the same?
As esports teams grew from the early days of bedroom organizations to multimillion-dollar franchises, they have now become professional employers. They hire full-time staff on legally-binding contracts, aim to profit, attract investors, and work to acquire sponsorships and develop long-standing infrastructure.
Over the years many different organizations have tried different approaches to how they develop and manage the talent on their rosters. Eventually, a baseline expectation has been developed of all esports organizations in the industry that most participants adhere to. However, are all esports organizations and teams and built the same?
Minimum requirements for a professional esports organization
Common expectations of a significant esports organization in popular games like League of Legends, Dota 2 or CS:GO is a full-time salary, a training facility, a living space, and a coaching staff. While these basic expectations are now the standard, there is still much variance in the quality of resources provided.
Training facilities and a coaching staff are the bare minimum for any sports or esports organization. At this time they are already a given for any esports organization even at the amateur or collegiate level.
Player contracts while standard, are an aspect rarely publicly disclosed and discussed. Over the years a huge variance in benefits and contracting regulations have been developed for aspiring esports athletes. However, each esports organization has pretty much free reign over individual player contracts with very little transparency over what players are signing up for.
Finally, living spaces, gaming houses and health and dental plans are yet to be standardized across the board. Some of the larger gaming organizations are keen on providing this benefits for their athletes, but these are not yet uniformly provided for all players. They should however in my opinion become the standard.
Who has the best workspace?
Esports organizations still have a long way to go before there is a consistent workspace across all organizations. Many esports clubs do not have the resources to provide players expected perks like a full-time coaching staff or, as mentioned, personal living space.
Generally, the best workspaces come from the largest organizations in major esports titles with significant investment and popularity. For the full perks of being a professional player, it generally requires being in the top ten teams in a continental region for that game.
The ten franchised teams in the League of Legends European Championship (LEC), will provide salaries and living spaces for their teams. For the European Regional Leagues beneath the LEC and the European Masters teams, will generally give a salary but not housing. The competition is online and not in-person in a single city.
To some extent the perks are commensurate to an athletes performance and ambition. The better the player the better the organization that signs him and as a result, the better the perks.
Comparing resources provided by notable teams
At the highest level, many teams develop state-of-the-art training facilities to provide a specific workplace location for their teams to practice and train.
Examples include the Team Liquid Alienware Training Facilities, the G2 Esports LVL headquarters, and T1’s in-development new esports facility. These teams also provide additional lifestyle resources such as dietitians and personal trainers to maintain and improve player health.
Notable teams will also provide or require sponsorships and publicity activities such as a partnership on streaming sites like Twitch or required appearances in content like weekly video series. These types of opportunities and resources are still not standard at all levels and are only the norm for teams competing at the highest level of competition for their game.
Players on smaller teams may struggle to receive benefits beyond simple salary. Part of esports growth will be standardizing player resources at all levels to include benefits like healthcare or housing.
Individual athlete benefits
One of the forgotten aspects and differentiating factor for esports organizations is the opportunity for players to build a personal brand. Much like traditional sports athletes can leverage their playing career into celebrity status. Many esports players have made a marketable image with individual fame and accompanying fortune.
An example is the three-time League of Legends World Champion Sang-hyeok “Faker” Lee, who became the face for international conglomerate Lotte’s signature World Cone ice cream brand in April. Much like how traditional sports athletes become the face of food products, esports players can earn the same opportunities.
A big portion of how successful a player can get, and how much they can leverage their own brand comes down the organizations themselves.
Lets take Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek as an example. His personal commitment to the One Plus partnership with Fnatic has turned into a perpetual meme, but has also elevated his personal brand as a result. At this stage even if he leaves the organization, One Plus can personally feature Nemesis as their promotional poster boy due to the interactions he earned and created.
In the end, there must be a standardized bare minimum esports teams provide for their athletes. But, as in all sports, the devil is in the details and part of the attractiveness of an organization to an athletes are the individual benefits one can get from signing to an organization.