Lessons Learned from TwitchCon 2016

This is the type of thing I usually take notes on, internalize, and apply to my life/business/etc. But I figured there were a few lessons learned that would be of value to others and that it was worth sharing. So here are a few of the lessons I learned from attending TwitchCon 2016.

1. Esports is very, very, small in the grand scheme of Twitch

I knew that esports wasn't the majority of viewership eyes, ears, and hours on Twitch. What I didn't realize was that it's not even close-- I'm talking a small fraction of what even I thought it was. There was an esports lounge that sat maybe 100 people at max, and it was never more than 50 people deep. 

There were professional players from a variety of different games that were walking around the venue by themselves, and completely unrecognized by any of the thousands of passing people. Players that would be SWARMED elsewhere just strolling by, enjoying (or hating?) their brief  anonymity as they went. 

It wasn't only the professional players that were able to walk as if in the shadows-- there were professional MMA fighters including Rampage Jackson and Demetrious Mighty Mouse Johnson walking around, again, relatively peacefully. It blew my mind. It was pretty cool to meet and shake Rampage's hand though-- super cool dude, and I've watched him fight since I first got into MMA many years ago. Not relevant, but wanted to share anyways. 

The sessions, panels, content, exhibit booths, and so on reinforced this through and through. Esports are great, and we love them dearly. That being said, there are substantially more eyes elsewhere, and that was surprising to me. 

2. Twitch & Amazon are amazing companies 

Nothing too much to elaborate on here. Just stating what I believe to be true.

3. There are 17,000 partners out of over 2,000,000 streamers (in 2016)

I knew being a Twitch partner had value, but I didn't realize how "special" it made me. Because of my partnership status, I was able to access "VIP Lounge" type of areas, despite clearly being one of the smallest fish in the Twitch ocean at the event itself.

It took my a while to wrap my head around that. 

4. While the band has many members, only a few are actual rock stars

Most of the time I personally spend on Twitch is watching competition, with the occasional casual stream purely for entertainment value. So when someone I was with would point out one of these "rock stars", my response almost every time was "Who?".

But more surprising than that was the size of the gap between the "rock stars" and the "popular band members"; it's MASSIVE.

People who I thought had big streams and branding (from my point of view, coming from a CS:GO background) like mOE had a total of 2 people come up to him in the 3-4 times I met up with him to chat (for 5-10 minutes each time, roughly). That blew my mind. 

On the other hand, streamers that I had never even heard of had gigantic lines of people waiting to meet them, take pictures with them, get their autographs, etc. It showed me just how "out of the loop" on the rock stars I was, and how those who I thought would be in that group of people, truly weren't. 

I'm applying this lesson by learning who some of these big names are, and attempting to reverse engineering their rise to current status-- as I'm sure it has almost nothing to do with competitive greatness, but rather more along the lines of pure entertainment value and variety.

5. Most streamers don't know what they're doing when it comes to finances and taxes

One of the rare GOOD sessions I attended was on the topic of tax write-offs for professional streamers. There was more information in the session than I could summarize here, but if you are a streamer or someone who makes a significant portion of your money through streaming (or are hoping to, anyways), I'd strongly advise you to do your diligence and even consider the services of a tax professional. Email me if you want a few names. 

6. The Ecosystem around Twitch is growing rapidly, the business opportunities are plentiful 

I didn't get to attend the event last year, so i couldn't "eyeball" the growth from one exhibit hall of sponsors to this year's, but I did spend a lot of time walking around and interacting with the various "supporting" ecosystem players. 

Most of the messaging was around improving overall viewership engagement and stream production value/quality. There were companies there with audio products like streamer-targeted microphones, some with "viewer benefit" programs and software, and some that even blended my previous career into the current one-- which were "cloud based" streaming solutions. Or something like that. 

I have an expansive technology skill set, but the one skill set that I don't have is that of a developer. I mention that because if I did have those skills, I'd be exploring nearly endless opportunities in the world of Twitch, the streamers/broadcasters, the viewer analytics and engagement service options, and so on. 

In closing, it was a good event. I wouldn't go as far as to say it was a great event, as many of the sessions I attended were dismal and not valuable/informative to me. However, as is the case with almost any experience in life, there were lessons to be learned, and maybe some of the ones listed here are of value to you. 

If TwitchCon doesn't overlap any events next year, I'll probably be back. 

-Ryu

 

Selfless Stream Team Assemble!

After quite some time, we have decided to begin on-boarding of streamers to help us continue our growth, and the reach and visibility of our brand. I believe this is a natural evolution of what we do here at Selfless Gaming, and believe that our abilities to market, promote, and grow brands will be invaluable to the motivated streamers that are also looking to grow their streams and personal brands. 

Right out of the gate, we've picked up two well known members of the CS:GO and streaming communities, and I'm pleased to introduce:

Over the course of the next few days, we will be announcing the rest of our initial stream team members, and I will be having conversations with additional streamers and entertainers throughout the weekend at TwitchCon. Then, after TwitchCon, we'll be updating the site to include our stream team members, and continue onward from there.

In the meantime, if you are an aspiring streamer or know someone who is, you can apply to join our stream team by following this link directly and filling out the form.

For purposes of quality control, we won't be linking this elsewhere on the website for the time being. 

-Ryu

 

AutoDM Spam - Fail Marketing in Esports

This is going to be a short post and a slight departure from what I normally publish here, but I think it's valuable information that the space can benefit from.

Recently, I was Twitter-spammed via an AutoDM Bot that one of our peers in the space apparently uses for "marketing". One of the many things that makes esports such a great place for marketers and advertisers to participate in, aside from the rapidly growing audience (and subsequent eyes and ears of an ideal demo for most), is how active and direct the interaction is between fans and players. There's a feeling of being "connected" that exists.

It's even more direct than what we've seen in traditional sports over the years, because the power of the Internet allows fans to build relationships with players before, during, and after their careers. And I'm not just talking about via social media here. 

To get a better idea of this, think of someone you know that brags about having gone to High School with a famous athlete. Now imagine that High School has the reach of the Internet, where you may have met, played with, and "hung out" with someone who is now a pro player. It's a wide-reaching connection, but yet still remains personal. It's also something that's great to leverage for marketing purposes. 

This is something that some of the bigger, more established brands are doing well, and something the other brands are failing miserably at, especially those using bots to spam my Twitter inbox. 

If you're looking for a surefire way to de-personalize that engagement level and work backwards with your brand, feel free to spam people with super generic "FOLLOW MY LINK" type of Direct Messages. But if you're interested in developing your brand in a positive, engaging way, I'd suggest leveraging your player-assets. 

So please, don't have your bots spam me. I'm not going to click your link, and I'm going to think less of you.

-Ryu

 

Selfless Female CS:GO Team Wins ESWC Qualifier!

Without dropping a single map, the ladies of the Selfless Female CS:GO team have won the ESWC Women's Qualifiers, and will be traveling to Paris later on in the year to compete for a chance at a world title.

Despite being onsite for Fragadelphia 9 (an offline event which saw the ladies finish in 7th-8th place out of 20 teams, making it out of their group successfully), the team was able to work with the event organizers to take time away from their LAN matches to compete in the ESWC Qualifier. Playing in three best of 3 series for the qualifier itself, the ladies secured convincing 2-0 victories in each match-up, with the stats from the final match located here.

I'm very proud of our team, and can't wait to see us compete in France! Great job, ladies!

-Ryu

PEA - Hope, Concern, & Question Marks

I like the idea of PEA-- I really do. To take into consideration the organizations, the players thoughts/opinions/desires, share the success across the board, and to build and operate a league from that starting place is a great idea to me. That said, I have a lot of concerns. I know it's still early and some of them will be addressed soon. I'm trying to remain hopeful. 

When PEA announced this week, my immediate reaction was "Damn, why wouldn't we included in this?", but quickly grew into, "Wait... what is this exactly, and how will it work?". I've read through the press release, as well as the interview that Jason Katz did afterwards. None if it really made me feel better about the future of PEA. I'm going to keep the faith and remain hopeful, because again, I really do like the premise... All of that said, here are some of my concerns. 

NOTE: I recorded a video-based rant covering mostly the same content here if that's your preferred content format. 

1. The timing is awful and I don't know if they really understand why

If this league was announced the same time LAST year, it would've been a home run. But to announce it now, when we already have ESL Pro League, FACEIT's ECS, Turner's ELEAGUE (in my opinion the current gold standard of how things should be done), Starladder, Dreamhack, the Valve Minors, Major Qualifiers, and Majors.... there's A LOT of CS:GO being played right now. The problem isn't just that the players are having to deal with an abundance of events, online and offline. Well, that's part of the problem. But that was the only thing Katz mentioned in his interview-- and I think he's missing the most important consideration entirely. 

The players will play in leagues-- they may gripe and hate not having an extra day or two off, but for 10 weeks, they'll trooper on through it as they always have, especially if they like the league, the competition, the prize money, and so on. (This also assumes there won't be an overlapping league/event in which they DECLINE to participate in, which would open up a whole different can of worms that I'm not going to touch on today.)

But the FANS and VIEWERSHIP-- that's where the focus needs to be. We're already seeing a bit of a lull (decline, really) in viewership for the online matches and leagues, especially in North America. The cause of said decline I'm sure will be mostly directed towards the elimination of betting/CSGO Lounge, but should also include the general over-saturation of the space right now. It's fun to watch your favorite team play... but to watch them play 2-4 maps a night, every night for a week? 

At the end of the day, we're in the entertainment business. If you're averaging 5,000-15,000 viewers, I'd bet you'll have a hard time generating over $1,000,000 to be a profitable organization, which is the next point.

2. The organizations themselves are funding everything, making up the initial $500,000 prize pot (with at least $1,000,000 for the first year, as per their press release), and covering all operating costs. So... um.... profit?

$1,000,000 is the LOWEST number required for PEA to generate a profit in 2017 (it's actually much higher than that, but we'll keep it simple for now). How are they planning to do it? I have a few ideas how, and a few concerns to along with them. 

  • Sell the broadcast rights 
  • A huge buy-in for new organizations to join 
  • Sponsors, as per the norm (can also read this as 'advertisers')

My concerns with the first item, the sale of the broadcast rights, are multiple. First, if viewership isn't great and growing, they're going to have a hard time getting huge $$ out of the organizations that would be vying for the rights. Second, Katz, the commissioner for PEA, is (was?) also the COO for Azubu, a struggling but still semi-relevant streaming platform that most people view as inferior to Twitch, the market leader. Third, they haven't figured this out yet. I'm sure (read: hopeful) they've at least had initial conversations with the broadcast groups that could be vying for the rights, but the fact that they didn't come out of the gate with a named partner tells me they haven't gone far enough to pencil in a deal.

The next point, having a huge buy-in for additional organizations would limit the ability for organizations that are the size of Selfless, Splyce, and a handful of others that are currently competing in the Pro League from having a shot at the league. This boxing out of the competition is, I believe, in alignment with the desires of some of the folks represented in the PEA today. Maybe I'm wrong. But the point is that if part of the PEA's "revenue model" (how it generates money) is a buy-in for the teams that it did NOT include in the "organic process" Katz claimed determined the initial organizations, then I think we'll see groups get prevented from participating. Guess what that can cause? Segmentation of teams... and as a result, reduced viewership. Repeat cycle. 

Third-- sponsors. I love sponsors. We all should love sponsors, because without their products, services, and money, a lot of us wouldn't be able to do the wonderful things we get to do in the world of esports. But guess what sponsors like? Money. Market share. Market awareness. Eyes and ears-- attention. And those are things that require viewership of their targeted demo (among many other key things in the traditional marketing world, which.... don't even get met started on marketing in esports today).

Okay, enough rambling; my concern on this front is that with any kind of sizable effort like this, you almost always see the announcement INCLUDE the bigger, name sponsors right out of the gate. Look at something like the Sadokist/HenryG show "Drop the bomb"-- they announced with 4 brands. So how is it that a $1,000,000 league, that's been in talks for 6 months now, hasn't brought any names to the table? I don't know, but I'm sure hoping someone over there has the answers. Which hooks well into the next point....

3. We have no answers, and in 2016, transparency is key.

I read the Jason Katz interview, and it was a very good interview if you like reading answers that don't provide any information. How will new teams be added? Who will the broadcast partner(s) be? Who are the sponsors? How will the matches be played? Is it online? On LAN? A mix? What's the team limit, assuming more will be added? What's required of those teams to help run the league?

We don't know yet, and some of that is because they don't know yet either as per Katz's own words. But one of the videos covering the PEA announcement quoted one of their members saying they will have industry leading transparency. I'm hopeful we'll see it, but I don't think we have seen it yet. Possibly unintentionally, so keep that in mind. 

4. Who will be running things, and do they have enough time? 

We've seen how things in esports often run-- and it's not pretty. But that said, when the right people are in charge, it obviously makes a huge difference, and operating a league is no easy task. So who will actually be running the league?

It couldn't be the orgs, because they wouldn't have enough time/resources, right? Hell, TSM couldn't even spend the time to win a vote to get their CS:GO team into Pro League (which they deserved to be in, no doubt). Seems like a pretty sizable effort for something that kicks off in 3 months-- so again, that word.... HOPEFUL they're on the path here already. We know there's a commissioner, but we don't know who will manage the schedules, the servers, the AC client (are there any?), the social media, and so on. 

I'd honestly love it if they announce that they were hiring a bunch of staff to help run the league itself, because I still don't think most current players realize that even if they don't go pro, there's a lot of jobs and opportunity in esports. However, if they did that, I'd be really worried about the increased operational costs involved, which goes back up to second point. 

Closing thoughts

Unlike some of my peers, I really don't think this is that close to what WESA is/was trying to do. WESA, as per my sources, WESA is meant to be a "governing body" that gets used in the pitch to future partners and sponsors. Meaning: ESL can go to Company X and say "We're governed and regulated by a body of top organizations (WESA), which is another reason to trust us with your money."

PEA isn't that. So while there are some similarities, I don't know if they're as abundant as others have made it sound. PEA definitely came off as more positive, upbeat, and potentially awesome than WESA did (which was leaked, making it even worse). I'm just genuinely concerned that we may all be told to celebrate esports history" that may end up becoming nothing more than history before we know it. 

I'm hopeful that's not the case. Ideally, PEA would become the best, most profitable league on the planet, Selfless would be invited to participate (at a small fee, if any), and we'd all live happily ever after. Until we get some more information and answers, I'm going to remain cautiously optimistic (while still concerned), and would advise all to do the same. 

 

-Ryu

Selfless Signs MomentumRL for Rocket League

Despite pretty solid results from last season and coming close to qualifying into the RLCS, two of the players from our former Rocket League chose to pursue their education and other outside the game opportunities that wouldn't allow them to continue competing full time. 

Working with AMONEY, the captain of the former roster, we were introduced to the members of MomentumRL, currently the #3 ranked team in the Rocket-League.com Power Rankings and today I am proud to announce that we have signed them to represent Selfless Rocket League. 

Our new Rocket League team is now:

AMONEY will remain with the organization as we explore some opportunities and options with him as a streamer, entertainer, musician, and sleeveless fitness model. 

We're excited to see this team in action on the journey to the RLCS. Be sure to give the new members of the #SelflessPride your love, support, and follow, and thank you, as always.

-Ryu

Selfless Completes Transfer of Relyks to TSM

We were very fortunate to have been a part of Skyler's growth and development as a player and as a person, and together we accomplished many things. We were also very lucky to have witnessed the true power of his mustache when in full bloom-- and I hope no one ever forgets that. 

Now, after a period of negotiation, we have completed the sale and transfer of Skyler "Relyks" Weaver to Team Solo Mid. We'd like to thank Skyler for his long period of service and all that he brought to the team, and wish him the best of luck in the future. 

In his place on the starting lineup, we have promoted Jacob "Kaboose" McDonald from the backup position, and are extremely excited to watch him realize his potential in the Pro League. 

We now represent one of the only all American rosters in North American CS:GO, as well as one of the youngest-- and with the team now in the gaming house together, we are expecting great progress through lots of hard work. We secured our first win in the ESL Pro League this past week using this new starting 5, and have our first upcoming LAN event coming up at the end of this week. 

Thank you all for your continued love and support!

-Ryu

Selfless CS:GO - Roster News, Apologies, & A Goodbye

I've been wrong many times in my life... in fact, I've been wrong more times today alone than I can remember. But I don't know if I've ever been more PUBLICLY WRONG than I was about this one particular issue. So I'd like to start this out with a sincere apology, and to a lot of people. If you don't care to read it, the TLDR for this whole post will be at the bottom. 

After going through A LOT of demos in the past few weeks while scouting talent for this coming season (including a bunch recently on stream), I realized how wrong I was about the player "Brehze", whom I felt cheated against us in the ECS Qualifiers last season. I made a big deal about it, I argued (though respectfully) with the ECS admins, people on the forums, on my stream, etc. and was told how wrong I was over and over again. I refused to believe it. 

Quickly moving on from ECS, people would ask me if I thought Brehze cheated, and I'd answer the same every time; "I don't know, I hope not because if not, he's the type of player NA needs, but I haven't watched their matches this season". Well, after going back and watching the guy play, I can say confidently that he does not cheat. He's actually pretty insane, and I was wrong. 

So first and foremost, I'd like to apologize to Brehze himself-- it's not uncommon for players of your level to have to go through the "cheating accusation" phase, and I hope we can put all that behind us. 

Secondly, I'd like to issue formal apologies to FACEIT and the ECS staff, namely Roald and his boss Mik. I hope I was respectful while disagreeing with you before, but you guys were right and I'm glad you stuck by your guns, despite my pressuring. Hopefully we do well in the qualifiers this time around, and we get to work with you two throughout the 2nd ECS season. 

To everyone who told me I was an idiot and was wrong at the time, I apologize. You guys were right. And last but never least, to all of our fans, I'm sorry for carrying on the way I did after that qualifier. You guys deserved better than that. 

Now, on to some more cheerful and exciting news. Today I'm hyped to announce the 5 we will be kicking off this season ESL's Pro League with:

  • Skyler "Relyks" Weaver
  • Noah "Nifty" Francis
  • Mitch "mitch" Semago
  • Vincent "Brehze" Cayonte
  • Matthew "no_one" Congdon 

I believe this to be the strongest, highest skilled 5 player grouping we've ever fielded in CS:GO, and I can't wait to put in the work and build this team up. 

Additionally, we are adding Jacob "Kaboose" Macdonald to the roster as a backup player. 

Today we also say goodbye to Michael "Mainline" Jaber, who had been a part of our amazing growth and improvement, season after season. Mainline intends to continue competing, and we have released him from his contract to allow him to do so. Mike, it was a pleasure competing with you, working with you, and laughing with you, and I wish you nothing but the best. 

With that, I'd like to say thank you to all of the fans for your continued love and support, and i hope we do you proud this season of Pro League. <3

-Ryu

Selfless Partners with Clutch Chairz!

I'm excited today to announce our partnership with Clutch Chairz! If you've followed us for a while you know how much we preach putting in the hours and working hard. If you're following our advice, you better make sure you're sitting in something comfortable, ergonomic, and built to withstand the longest of gaming marathons-- and that's where Clutch Chairz delivers. 

Stay tuned for our coupon code for an exclusive discount when you order your Clutch chairz!

About Clutch Chairz:

Professional gamers place extremely high demands on their chairs. To withstand the abuse, our chairs are built to endure marathon gaming sessions, epic battles, monster naps and whatever else pro gamers can throw at it. Core strength is key with our internal steel frame... the massive lumbar cushion and ergonomic neck pillow are just the cherries on top.

We love everything auto―from cutting edge design and the latest tech―to nitro fueled racing and exotic super cars. This love is the driving force behind every aspect of our designs. It inspires us to conceive innovative new ideas like our exclusive heavy-duty base that uses design cues from premium alloy wheels and is forged from high grade aluminum.

Sports fans of all creeds understand what it means to perform in the clutch. Performing at your best when it really counts is the philosophy that Clutch Chairz was founded on. From Soccer to Basketball, from Football to Hockey, from e-Sports to Motor Sports, from a bedroom office to the boardroom table―we all have opportunities to Perform in the Clutch.

To find out more and to order yourself one, check out their website at

http://usa.clutchchairz.com/