Steve Arhancet: The Ideal Role Model

Steve Arhancet, the co-owner of Team Liquid, is one of if not the best western E-sports general manager. While Team Liquid League of Legends team didn't make it to worlds, Arhancet has made decisions that made him stand out from the rest. He is truly the

Back when League of Legends established the pro circuit, there weren’t as many big-name E-sports clubs as there are now. E-sports clubs such as TSM or CLG started out as players forming their own brands which grew into the organizations they are now. Because of this, the teams did not have someone with a background managing a company, which caused problems here and there. The LCS is now five years old and new aspiring owners are trying to enter the LCS by forming their own team. However, these owners are usually wealthy investors who want to wet their feet in E-sports. Hence, they lack the knowledge of how to properly run an E-sports team. This is exemplified by poor management of challenger teams involved in shady business such as poaching and internal disputes.

The era of when a group of players could band together and form their own company is at an end. As the scene grows and becomes more professional, there is no room for error; a standard needs to be met. A team can go only so far relying on the skills of the players. This is why you need a good general manager (GM for short) to overlook the entire operation.

There are good role models for aspiring GM’s in North America such as Jack Ethienne of Cloud9 and Steve “Liquid112” Arhancet of Team Liquid, formerly Team Curse. While Andy “Reginald” Dinh is a solid candidate, given his history of handling social media outbreaks crosses him off this list. Reginald is a talented GM in his own rights, but there are areas where he could improve as a GM. As for the previous two, they share similar qualities of great GM, but Arhancet would be the definitive role model for any new aspiring GM’s to learn from.

What is the role of a general manager in E-sports? The GM’s role is including but not limited to being the head of the organization. They handle all the paperwork, ensuring that the players and the staff have everything they need (including their pay), expanding out to other games and scouting potential talent. In short, they do everything to make sure the players can focus only on playing the game. Scouters also exist within organizations to do the grunt work, but in the end the GM has the final say in any decisions that a team makes. In Team Liquid, Arhancet is responsible for managing the various teams across E-sports games including League of Legends. What makes Arhancet a good role model for new prospective GM’s? A combination of maturity, an eye for scouting out talent and the ability to read the E-sports market.

Arhancet, out of any other GM in the west, has the most relatable job experience of a GM. From his past employment at American Express, MBO and Curse, Arhancet knows how to operate and manage a business continually expand into new territories. Over ten years of experience has given him the insight and know-how to successfully co-run Team Liquid and keep the reputation of being one of the strongest E-sports brands in the west. Arhancet is also one of the oldest (if you can call 34 old…) out of the GM’s in North America, which translates to more life experiences and maturity. While age does not directly correlate with maturity, it is more reassuring that an adult is managing a team than someone in their 20’s.

While the purpose of any sports team is to win championships and titles, there are other agendas in play. E-sports is a business. Making money is the name of the game. The GM needs to market the brand by acquiring sponsorship and new talent to bolster the current roster of players to gain more popularity. Winning championships and titles help with marketing the brand, but that is only the beginning. Social media presence, fan meetings, sponsorship obligations, and team-branded products and so on; everything is about making money. While the player’s play the game, the GM needs turn a profit. There is a reason behind all of the moves Team Liquid makes and usually they are both for the benefit of Team Liquid’s in-game performance and brand. One method is acquiring a star talent.

The English Premier Football league is home to many great clubs that have been in the league for generations. The club scouts talented players to bolster the team’s strengths but at the same time, they observe how marketable the player will be. Fernando Torres, a world-class Spanish football player, was one of most sought out players by big clubs for his talents. When Chelsea FC, one of the biggest and richest clubs in the league, signed him for fifty million pounds from Liverpool FC, the whole world was talking about the move. What Chelsea FC acquired was a world-class striker with a pedigree and a fan base. This resulted in a huge spike of publicity for Chelsea FC which resulted in a mass increase in supporters, jersey sales and bolstering their line-up.

This would be equivalent to Team Liquid signing Chae “Piget” Gwang-Jin. Piglet is a former world champion and has a pedigree with a big fan base. Arhancet knew that signing Piglet would bolster the Curse team line-up and create the hype to gain publicity for the Curse/Team Liquid brand. The numerous amounts of videos and the drama from signing of Piglet made frequent headlines in the community. People say that there is no such thing as bad publicity and it certainly holds true here. Although Team Liquid did not make it to the World Championship this year, the amount of awareness, hype and publicity garnered through the acquisition of Piglet would be nowhere close to if they kept Juri “KEITHMCBRIEF” Jew as their starting player, making it a worthwhile business move in the grand scheme of things.

Over the years, Arhancet has acquired many talents for the League of Legends team. From acquiring Brandon “SaintVicious” DiMarco, Joedat “Voyboy” Esfahani during the early years of Curse and acquiring “Quas” Ruiz and Alex “Xpecial” Chu to bolster the strength of what is now Team Liquid, Arhancet knew who was available to be signed and acted immediately to acquire the talent he wanted. Arhancet also takes credit for forming the Curse Academy roster, now known as Gravity, who are performing decent in the LCS with notable performances from all the members such as Mchael “Bunny FuFuu” Kurylo and Kevin “Hauntzer” Yamell. Even during unforeseen circumstances of the departure of Voyboy, Arhancet had the foresight to acquire Kim “FeniX” Jae-Hun to the roster and managed find a worthy, if not better, replacement.

EDIT: Arhancet was also responsible for acquiring talent for Curse.EU, team LoLpro and Curse Academy. I apologize for forgetting this information in the original article. 

Doing the necessary research of the players, knowing how to read the player market and predict potential free agents and transfers, recognizing potential talent to be nurtured and having a backup plan in case anything goes wry; these fundamentals are what good GM’s should know how to do. While it sounds simple on paper, there are many GM’s who cannot perform these feats which cost them a lot during the regular season.

There are articles that highlights Arhancet’s accomplishments in the League of Legends scene, but his accomplishments outside of League of Legends goes by unnoticed. Arhancet’s expansion into different E-sports games has garnered much success in the recent years especially in the FGC scene.

While not the first, Curse/ Team Liquid were one of the few E-sports organizations that signed Smash players. Juna “Hungrybox” Debiedma, Kashan “Chillindude” Khan (originally signed by Curse) and recently Nairo were picked up by Liquid and have performed well with Nairo’s championship victory at Paragon 2015 and Hungrybox’s 2nd place finish at EVO 2015 being the recent accomplishments. While it wasn’t Arhancet alone that made the decision to acquire these players, as a GM, his plan to expand Team Liquid’s strength in other parts of E-sports is apparent.

As I have shown my “concern” towards TSM for not acquiring great free agents to their roster to establish themselves in the FGC that is not Smash Bros., Team Liquid, outside of EG, is the only E-sports organization acquired a player in the Street Fighter scene.

Not the greatest of research methods, but it works.

Du “Nuckledu” Dang is one of the youngest rising talents in the Street Fighter scene and is recognized as such. He is able to go toe-to-toe against the veterans and even against the Japanese fighting game Gods which not a lot of players are able to do. For Arhancet to recognize Du’s talent and acquire him, speaks for his ability to scout out talent in a scene that has nowhere but to go up. The viewership numbers for the FGC (incl. Smash Bros.) is growing each year. With the rise of popularity of the FGC, many of the great free agent players became unavailable.

Observing many of the current west E-sports club’s habit of acquiring established talent rather than potential talent, there won’t be many players left for organisations to sign for next year unless they are willing to invest in potential talent. With the insertion of Street Fighter 5 into the tournament roster, 2016 will be a big year for the FGC in terms of viewership and tournaments. Arhancet got a head start out of any other E-sports clubs such as TSM, CLG or C9 and joined EG and MCZ as one of the prominent clubs that signed great players to represent them in the FGC.

Great talent comes and goes and new competitive games are coming in the near future. The age of where making corporate decisions as you progress are over. The E-sports scene is slowly establishing the same foundation of rules and procedures that real sports follow. If you are going to step into this scene, expect to treat it like a real business and have the key roles of your organization filled by the right people.

For all the prospective team owners and GM’s, there are great role models for you to look up. Arhancet is one of many, but he is truly one of the best at what he does in the west right now, making the right decisions for the sake of his company and his players.

Photo credit to:, lolesports, TeamLiquidPro, wallpaper222, jhpark93, nytimes, EVO, redbull, buisnessinsider