What does it take to start your own esports team?
Whether you want to build a team around yourself to win tournaments and build your career, or you want to start a successful esports organization, so you can make money in an industry that you’re passionate about, the process of starting can seem complicated.
But while it can seem like a difficult task, it’s really not as complex as you would think; there are really just 5 key aspects to keep in mind as you begin.
And to uncover the important steps of starting and running a successful esports team, I visited the gaming house of a team here in South East Asia.
Unlike most massive organizations, this team is still within its humble beginnings but has found enough success to win a major tournament, move into its own gaming house, support its players with full-time salaries, and make an impact in esports.
By visiting this team and interviewing their manager, I learned first-hand what it takes to start an esports team and what you need to do to make that dream a reality.
Purpose, why, drive, motivation.
Before we get into the details of what it takes to start a team, we need to start with the most important question. Why do you want to start a team?
When things get hard, what purpose will you have for moving forward? What will motivate you to keep going?
Research on motivation shows how having selfless motivation can be far more effective in the long run. In other words, if your reason for starting a team is to make your dream come true, prove to yourself that it’s possible and win a major tournament, this is all great, but it may not be the most sustainable drive. An even more powerful source of motivation would be to help those around you achieve their dreams, to help your players achieve their greatest potential and help them win a major tournament so they can prove to themselves what is possible. When we combine our own self-focused motivation with the desire to serve others, it becomes far more effective.
One thing I loved about this team was that they had an obvious, selfless motivation. In any esports scene, the women’s side is often neglected. In their niche of PUBG mobile esports, women’s prize pools and player salaries have been notoriously low compared to what men make. Their mission is to help talented female players gain better opportunities to achieve their esports dreams. So while they want to win tournaments for the sake of winning, they also want to make a real impact in the esports community beyond themselves.
So take the time to connect with your own ambitions to start a team. Ask yourself the question over and over, “why do I want to start a team?”. Take plenty of time to close your eyes and really think about it, then begin to write down every motivation that comes to mind. After that, ask yourself a few follow-up questions; “how can I serve others through this team?” and “how can I make a positive impact in the esports community?”. Again, take the time to think deeply about this and write down everything that comes to mind.
Funding and finance
Once you’ve connected with your ambition to start the team, you need to start thinking about the biggest obstacle that stops most people before they even get started, and that is the cost. When you think of all the expenses it takes to run a major esports team; it can get a little scary. Fortunately, Nick, the manager of Revenger Esport, provided a motivating perspective on this subject…
- Nick: It’s up to like their budget too you know like. If they have like a lot of budget I think that would like make like something like this or like even better.
You can build a team with like small budget just like supporting them by like registration fee. Or the owner of the team can like support them by paying them like little salary. And like giving them like small amount of money after they win tournaments. Yeah that would be fine by like starting, from small point.
It’s like if you want to start from small budget you can and if like you want to support them and like win big tournament and whatever you can support to as like higher amount of money.
Chances are, if you’re just starting out, you’ll have a relatively small budget. But this is how most teams start. They begin by self-financing the tournament registration costs and continue to work part-time jobs while training. Then once they get in a few high placements at tournaments, sponsorship opportunities and investment opportunities begin to open up. Eventually, they build up to having better player salaries and living together in a gaming house.
So take the time to consider what budget you can start with. Can you immediately get the gaming house and offer impressive salaries to attract big talent? Or will you need to start with less skilled players willing to grind for tournament earnings? How many events will you be able to send your players to? Which ones will be most worth the costs? What other team costs can you help out with and plan for?
Admittedly the highest cost for Revenger Esport and many other teams is their gaming house, but Nick illustrated that as soon as you can afford it, it’s worth it…
- Braeden: What is the value of having like a gaming house rather than everyone living individually?
- Nick: Okay they are pro players right? So then it’s like it means it’s a job for them. The pro player is like an athlete right, it’s a job for them. What they’re gonna do in one day, of course like they need to wake up they need to like practice and practice and practice.
And like talk to each other in front, like face to face. If like face to face we can see the eyes they eat together they drink together they talk together and they laugh together they cry together. That’s what we’re doing in the camphouse
After they get close, the team chemistry is gonna go well. They’re not having drama, of course there might be some drama, but like yeah if like the team chemistry goes well the drama will like not be that strong anymore. They will trust each other and they will love each other.
So Nick alluded to 2 key benefits here. The first is the professionalism of having a gaming house, which makes it feel much more like a job and will help players take their training far more seriously. This level of professionalism can also help attract talent, as many players prefer to work in this kind of environment. And the other side of it is the team chemistry. When players live together, they become much more like a family. Over time, they care more for one another, which can prevent team drama that would otherwise cause teams to disband or play selfishly.
But if you can’t afford a gaming house for your team yet, start to plan for it. What kind of cost will this require, and what kind of sponsorships or investment will you need to make it happen? Having this as a real plan can be motivating for both you and your teammates who want to make this goal a reality.
The third key aspect of starting your team is to start thinking about marketing. While many reserve the idea of a marketing strategy for businesses, it’s also a major key for your team’s long-term success.
- Braeden: How important is it to kind of like market your team and use social media? Like why is that stuff important?
- Nick: The marketing that we’re gonna use for esports thing is like it’s gonna be good for us good for the player and good for the team and also good for sponsor. Three different.
Good for the player; player will like famous, getting famous like a lot of followers it’s better for them to it’s like good for them like they getting followers for free, right. And in the future after like the contract ends or whatever they can do whatever they want with that followers or something.
Second for the team also, the team like uh after the the player gets more followers the team will like also be known you know. The team will be known and like other players want to join us or like sponsor wanna join with us and something like that.
And third thing is like if like we’re getting famous the sponsor of course they want to join us. And also if like we’re getting famous more and more the sponsor also getting famous too, you know.
So if you want your players to become well known and successful, you want to attract greater talent, and you want to get more sponsors and financial support, you need to have a great strategy to market your team.
So how do you market your team? Well, these days, the greatest way to build your fan base is content creation. From Tiktok and Twitter to YouTube and Twitch, creating content that puts eyes on your players will help you build a fan base. The key is to experiment with tons of different content on each major platform until you identify what works the best for you. Maybe it’s funny gaming clips on Tiktok, or perhaps it’s more serious day-in-the-life vlogs on YouTube. Over time the combination of great content and building respect through your team’s achievements will help build a greater fan base. And that fan base will ultimately be your team’s greatest asset.
Once you’ve created the vision behind your team, the financial plan and marketing strategy, the next step is to recruit your players and build the best team.
For this, there are 3 steps:
- Find qualified players.
- Inspire them, so they want to play for you.
- Host interviews & tryouts to see which players are a good fit.
The easiest part is finding good players. Through tournaments, discord groups, Twitter, leaderboards or in-game, finding skilled players is easy. The key is to get their attention and inspire them to join your team. For this, you need a compelling vision for your team and a bit of credibility.
For Revenger Esport, they formed their current team off the success of their previous roster, who won the PUBG Mobile Pro League in 2020. Their vision for the players they reached out to was to form a team that could win again. They wanted to help skilled female players gain an opportunity of a lifetime while helping change the landscape of female esports.
For your team, identify the key tournaments you want to target and win, identify future goals like moving into a gaming house, and begin to communicate these goals when reaching out to players. If possible, share your expertise in esports to show why you’re qualified to make sure this team will succeed and why it’s worth their time and effort to join.
The third step is hosting interviews and tryouts to test the players’ skill level, understand their play style, and recognize if their mindset will fit well in a team environment.
Eventually, through enough time reaching out and hosting tryouts, you’ll have a solid team under your wing… But this is where one of the most important aspects of starting a team comes in…
- Braeden: For someone who doesn’t understand why they should have contracts once they find players, like what is the value of finding- of using contracts and like what is the fear of like, if you don’t use a contract what could happen?
- Nick: It’s the most important thing that you want to do first when you like get a team ready, build a team and like have all your players already.
First thing to do is have a contract for sure right, because in that contract you can have like anything that you want like to be a strict player to not using, abusing some substance to like uh loyalty with us to like respecting us because like if they be with us you know and they’re talking with another team with us, without contact we cannot do anything but with contact we keep them. If they break it they have to pay like some money, you know.
Yeah because like that’s the most important part if like they’re talking with another team and like while staying with us or like they didn’t even respect us, they talking behind us or like they’re using abusing substance and we know but without contract we cannot say anything. But we can but like are they gonna listen? Are they gonna listen to us without contract, right?
That’s the most important part of esports is you should have that contract with your player, yeah, and they will respect you and yeah.
Many people who aren’t involved with business can have a negative view of contracts. You see movies where people use them to take advantage of each other or trick each other into something they don’t want. But in reality, a well-made contract is of massive value to both the player and the team. To start, the contract can secure that player’s employment and salary with the team. If the player has a few bad tournaments, they can still be confident they won’t get suddenly dropped by the team and can focus on working with the team to improve. It also means everyone can be confident that a player won’t suddenly leave right before a tournament.
But as Nick referred to, the contract also allows them to have a far more professional relationship. With a contract, the player is more likely to respect the team and respect the team rules. Without a contract, the players and team have no real commitments and may not take each other seriously.
So as you and your team begin to work together, train together and grow into your goals, you’ll inevitably begin to have difficult and emotional experiences. This brings us to the 5th and final major aspect, which is management, specifically emotional management. In every team environment, you need to create a culture of open communication, help ensure everyone on the team is respectful and comfortable and be the mediator when things go wrong. A major difference between teams that succeed and teams that fail is having that person who can help mediate and manage the players’ behaviour.
And as Nick mentioned in our conversation, this is one of the hardest parts… but if you want your team to stay together long enough to succeed, you need to adopt his mindset and approach…
- Braeden: What do you think is like the hardest part of managing a team?
- Nick: The hardest part is like to keep myself calm and like not get lost in their anger, like not get lost in something like that. If theres like a drama or like fighting in team, I would be the one who stops it, right. So yeah I need to like control myself not to get lost in that anger or something.
- Braeden: Hypothetically if something bad happened with your team, there’s drama, like what can you do to try and make it better?
- Nick: If they get mad like if they fight and drama okay. You need to be calm, you need to be super calm. You should be like careful with your words, be calm and like uh I mean tell them to like talk it out and think carefully ‘what are you gonna say’.
Like if they’re overthinking about like their teammate or like me, like the owner, that’s not gonna be good, right? So if you have any problem or anything, we can sort it out at that moment, at that time, just speak it up. If you’re not okay with me if you’re not okay with anyone yeah just speak it out at that time, yeah. It’s gonna be good for them and everything too.
When emotions are high and things get heated, two major problems can arise. Fights can break out, become personal, and damage the relationship between teammates. Or players can hide their feelings and slowly disconnect from the team. Either way, the team chemistry is affected. So someone needs to prevent this or help rebuild the relationships afterwards. Nick mentions a few keys to this; the first is to adopt a very calm and objective perspective, so you don’t add to the emotions. Then you need to help players cool down and constructively communicate their emotions and problems. Open and constructive communication is the key here. With it, you can help everyone on the team feel heard, help solve problems and turn negative experiences into opportunities to learn and grow together.
– Braeden: If someone’s like trying to start their own team, what kind of advice would like you guys want to give to that person so that they’re more successful or avoid any like obstacles or issues that could come up?
– Nick: I mean any game, that if you want to start your own team, the best thing that I would advise is like, just go for it man! Just just do it, right. If you want to do it just do it.
If you have- if you don’t have budget to do it like high enough, just little it down and just do it. If you want to do it just do it!
And like learn from someone, if like you got a question just ask someone and they will answer. Yeah, if like a guy wants to do it, just do it and like learn by it right.
So lets say you want to start a team. Do you want to build a team around you so you can improve your skills, enter tournaments and advance your career? Or do you want to build a successful organization with multiple teams under one team name? Either way, connect with your motivation and turn the dream into a realistic goal.
Now, this dream isn’t unique. Many players think about starting a team but never do. The thing that holds them back is not knowing where to start. But for you, the first steps are now obvious, your path is clear. So focus on what impact you want to have in esports, start planning the details and start building your team to make your dream a reality!
If you want to learn more about starting your own team or anything about the business side of esports, for a limited time I’ll be open for consulting, just use the link in the description…