Wouter Sleijffers is the CEO of Fnatic, arguably the most established organisation in esports. 2016 has been a major year for esports and no less so for Fnatic which launched its Fnatic Gear, shook up its rosters and opened the first esports concept store in London in the form of the Bunkr (there until Christmas).
We caught up with Wouter to discuss the year gone by, the 2017 Esports BAR to which he’s an advisor, and why esports players need team psychologists.
Esports Insider: Hi Wouter, so quite a year for Fnatic and esports in general. Give us an overview of how you believe 2016 went for Fnatic, both as a brand and the various teams themselves.
Wouter: If we were to describe 2016 in one word for Fnatic, it would be ‘transformation’.
In 2016 we’ve had our challenges but at the same time, if we look back to the start of the year, we’ve achieved something we could only dream of a few years ago. From a brand perspective I believe we’re now undoubtedly the leading global brand in esports. The launch of our concept store (Bunkr) is evidence of that, a place where esports fans can buy Fnatic products, play games and meet their heroes in a pretty cool store in the heart of London.
“From a brand perspective I believe we’re now undoubtedly the leading global brand in esports.”
In 2016 we’ve also enjoyed some memorable successes of our CSGO, Dota, Heroes of Storm and Overwatch teams, and we also launched our CSGO Academy team that has become a fierce contestant of some well-established teams. All teams have gone through some changes and shakeups. Sure, we were expecting a better result for our LCS team this year, but all-in-all we’ve performed very well whilst 2015 was an exceptional year across the board.
Esports Insider: Fnatic led the way in terms of major esports orgs connecting with bookies via the Dafabet deal, and more recently with GG.Bet. Now we’ve seen a few more crop up across teams and leagues.
Do you see 2017 as the year the gambling world will ‘properly’ enter the space, to the extent it exists in some traditional sports? And what form will this take?
Wouter: To be honest, I had expected more bookmakers to enter esports through sponsorships than is the case today.
On the other hand, of course it takes time to understand the esports landscape and properly provide a product, pricing, content, marketing etc. Esports is not just another book; it’s a complete new vertical with 24/7 matches so it needs a serious and complex operation behind it. Sponsorship is then just one piece of the puzzle.
I do think however, if done well, there’s a first-mover advantage, such as Bet365 being seen amongst the market leaders in in-game betting.
Esports Insider: So you’re in the market for a team psychologist….
Wouter: Yes! This might sounds awkward to some but professional esports is competition at a level that is comparable to traditional sports.
“It’s a psychological game as much as a skill-based game and we want to support our player with preparations to our best abilities.”
Hours of training and strategy sessions go into preparation. The stakes are high, the audience is in the millions and small mistakes can have a major impact. It’s a psychological game as much as a skill-based game and we want to support our player with preparations to our best abilities.
Esports Insider: In November the cool looking Bunkr was opened as a temporary pop-up store in London’s Shoreditch. Why Shoreditch, why temporary and is it more brand marketing ploy than revenue stream?
Wouter: The Bunkr is a big step forward in our vision for Fnatic and esports and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“It’s (the Bunkr) based in Shoreditch because Shoreditch itself is on the intersection of tech, fashion and innovation.”
It’s based in Shoreditch because Shoreditch itself is on the intersection of tech, fashion and innovation. We ran into this place and we like it a lot, so temporary could well become permanent whilst we’re looking to relocate our office the same building where Bunkr is located.
Other esports businesses have shown an interest to join and that would provide for a unique ‘esports collective’ in one of world’s most international cities.
Esports Insider: ‘Home city’ teams appears to be on the agenda for 2017, with the Overwatch League and in Vainglory too. Thoughts on this?
Wouter: Yes, but it’s still too early to share and discuss this in full! There remains a fair bit of yet to be released information to understand the exact plans.
From our end however, it is something which could provide a great opportunity to build stronger relationships with our fans and build on our global footprint.
“As far as I know, this (the Esports BAR) is the first market-place event for esports purely focused on deal-making, rather than just ‘sharing stories and networking’”
Esports Insider: Why did you decide to join the board for the Esports BAR, and what will the event bring to the industry?
Wouter: I decided to join the board for the Esports BAR since I believe they have something very valuable to bring to the esports industry.
As far as I know, this is the first market-place event for esports purely focused on deal-making, rather than just ‘sharing stories and networking’. It has a specific focus on IP rightholders (sponsorship, content) and buyers supported by professional matchmaking.
With monetisation and revenue development one of the key issues for the industry, I felt compelled to make a contribution in ensuring the event is a success.
Disclaimer: We are a media partner of the Esports BAR