The organization already has a footprint in multiple games, with teams in Call of Duty, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, Heroes of Newerth and Heroes of the Storm, as well as players in Hearthstone and StarCraft 2.
Blizzard Entertainment has yet to provide details on how it plans to organize the Overwatch esports scene, and it’s still trying to figure out the structure for some of its existing games.
At Blizzcon 2015, the company announced a global circuit for Heroes of the Storm, with a $500,000 tournament in Spring, Summer, and Autumn leading up to the world championships. If the spring 2016 competition goes well, it’s possible that Overwatch esports will be designed in a similar way. With Overwatch planned for release on or before June 21 next year, Lake says it’s important for an esports organization not to rush in and pick up people just because they’re the best players in the beta because they might not be the most skilled people in the game after its release.
The Daily Dot met with Lake at the esports industry brand summit in New York to talk about compLexity’s plans for 2016, the Heroes of the Storm global circuit, and Overwatch.
What are your thoughts on the esports scene at the moment?
Jason Lake: For a lot of us who have been in this industry for a long time we’ve been screaming from the mountaintops, ‘Look, this is going to be huge,’ but nobody has been listening. Now everyone seems to be listening and it’s both exciting and a bit overwhelming. I couldn’t be more excited for next year.
What do you think of Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm global circuit announcement?
It’s great to see Blizzard pushing their Heroes plans forward and I think having more than one big event a year is a great idea.
Blizzard is such a solid company and they have such a rich history in esports. We’re optimistic they will continue to support the game in the years to come and confident that Heroes is going to have a very strong run.
How do you decide whether to get into a game or not?
First of all, we look just to see if it’s a good game. A lot of times a game might take off and get a quick following and be one of the top streamed games on Twitch, and an amateur might look at that and be like “Oh, I’ve got to get into that game.”
Games will peak early after release, identifying a good esports title has a lot more to do with understanding the demographic, who is developing the games, what tools have they put into the game, and are they going to support the game and integrate it with their overall user base.
For many years Counter-Strike was a top esport despite the fact that Valve didn’t even support it at all. Now you look at Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, if there’s a tournament and you turn on Steam it’s right there on the front page when you load up the game. That kind of participation from the developer—getting the casual player interested in the esport aspect—goes a long ways. So if we’re confident a developer is going to develop the game and market the game as an esport, that’s very attractive to us.
Are you looking at getting into Overwatch then?
Oh absolutely, Overwatch looks like a blast. But if you grab the first few people that are good at the game—they’re called beta all-stars—they might be really good and once the more talented gamers adopt the game and start training they’re no good anymore. So it’s always a balancing act and it’s much more an art form than science.
We’ve got our eye on some people, mainly from the Team Fortress 2 community, that we think are probably going to be really solid at this game. We’re speaking with different players who we believe will be top contenders, but as of this time we have not signed anyone. We’ll probably start from there and continue to build as the talent pool increases.
How important is it to get in really early once a game has been released?
Some people would argue that it’s very important, I don’t know that it’s that important. I think identifying the right players and securing a team that can be successful is more important.
Perhaps you get lucky and find those players right away when the game is brand new, but, like I said, a lot of the time you have a beta all-star situation where the people that are good at the game initially aren’t necessarily going to be the ones that are winning tournaments once the prizes are handed out. We’re by no means perfect at it, we’re still trying to learn and do our best to build champions.
The compLexity Dota 2 team is in a house, what is that like?
Yeah we have a team house in Miami, right down on the water with jet skis. These guys live like rockstars. It’s like nicer than my house, I’ve got to go back to practicing the game, these guys live better than I do.
What is compLexity’s focus for the next year?
Really, we’ve focused a lot of our energy on business development, we signed with [talent management company] WME|IMG. As the industry continues to expand everything is going to get bigger—player salaries are going to get bigger, venture capital is going to get bigger.
What does focusing on the business side look like?
The roots of the team business side are corporate partners, sponsors. They provide the base level of operations for everything we do—from flying people around the world to play, gamer salaries, staff salaries, and all the other associated expenses.