Code Red Esports is a multi-faceted business that not only works in talent management but also has a broad esports consultancy arm.
For Part One of the interview, focusing on the talent management side of the business click here.
In the second part of our wide-ranging interview, we discuss the consultancy side of the business and gather Paul’s thoughts on the influx of investment into the space.
We’ve spoken about the talent agency side, but there’s a whole lot more to Code Red than just that. You have workshops advertised on the website; are they designed for talent that are a part of the Code Red agency or are they part of the business offering?
It’s a mixture of both. We will do workshops to help people that are already a part of Code Red but it is largely a part of our business proposition. We have a number of courses which we’ve designed, some of which we’ve already executed and some which are in the pipeline where we will go out and be hired for a day or two and we create and deliver bespoke workshops depending on the client’s needs.
For instance, last year I was at Oslo University and we did a whole day of workshops for over 20 potential commentators that wanted to come into esports. They wanted to learn things like pacing and intonation in voice and how to control and save your voice. They also wanted to learn how you present on camera and where you should look. It’s very hardcore niche type skills that you can’t necessarily pick up by doing it or watching other people but you can learn from someone that’s done it before.
We also offer things like marketing in esports which Ben and Luke will run and then there’s others like where we’ve been with Telkom in South Africa. They wanted to learn the essence of esports. That was things as seemingly simple as: how you put a tournament together; what works and doesn’t work and the different bracket systems and how they work.
To you and I as hardcore esports people it sounds weird that we would go and train people on how to produce a fair bracket but to people that have never done it before it’s actually a very complicated process. Dual tournament, double elimination GSL tournament format is not something that’s prevalent in the traditional sports world. I am sure if it was just a standard knockout they could probably do it but then you’ve got seeding and how it matches up. So, as you can see, we offer a wide range of skills from our workshops.
The client list on the website is already pretty impressive with several big names there. Is work with those clients ongoing or is that work already compelted?
It’s people we’ve worked with particularly over the last twelve months since we’ve been up and running. We generally work with them when they require us. For example, there’s a few projects coming out with Bethesda in 2017 on a couple of titles that they’re working on. Gfinity has been an ongoing client since I left them; we worked with Valve on The International and Telkom was the whole of last year as well. Ginx we’ve been working with almost non-stop since they launched and now it’s become less consultancy based as simply put, they don’t need as much help anymore.
We may not have launched the limited company and the public side of things until November last year but we were and up and running from March and we’ve worked with all of the clients since then. We’ve only listed ten on the website but there’s probably another half a dozen – some of which we can’t talk about as we signed NDAs. Two of our clients are traditional sports clubs, one is a very large Dota 2 event that’s being planned for later on this year, and two others are investment companies who are working very privately to invest in esports one way or another. Obviously we can’t advertise those companies until they’re done deals and we’ve completed the consultancy. We probably have worked with around 20 companies in the last 10 months.
The investment side is clearly a very busy space – what are you seeing from the Code Red side?
I think we as Code Red have done three bits of consultancy in the last six weeks alone with investment firms, and we’re talking large investment firms. It’s people with billions of dollars under management so I can’t wait to see the results of those consultancies. We’ve married them with league operators, organisers and teams in various formats and we’re waiting to see the results as they’re announced. It’s the same with the football teams, I’ve seen a couple of things come out but the full story isn’t out yet and I’m excited to see the sports element come into it in 2017. If we’re dealing with a lot, I’m sure other people are dealing with sports teams as well and I have no idea how many are currently looking at esports but I imagine it’s dozens.
Whilst on the topic of sports teams, we’ve clearly seen a mixture of different approaches. We’ve seen some of the largest brands enter – how do you see the landscape developing? Will we be watching Real Madrid vs Manchester United in CS:GO come 2020?
By 2020 I couldn’t tell you who will be competing. What excites me about the sports franchises coming in is that esports offers something incredibly unique. We can effectively offer multi-sport operations.
“There is a time I can see in the future where I can legitimately see the LA Lakers playing Manchester United and Real Madrid playing against the LA Dodgers.”
It’s a battle between brand names which are massive in their own rights and their own sports that can never play each other. You would never have the LA Lakers vs Man United, and I don’t think Real Madrid are going to start a baseball team anytime soon and compete against the Dodgers. It’s sure to be an exciting world when these iconic brands are coming into esports and clashing together in big tournaments. If we have LA Lakers vs Man United or dare I say it one of the big Australian Rugby Teams/ South African Cricket team being able to compete against each other in one game; whether it be CS:GO, LoL or Dota really excites me. Maybe I’m just a sports nerd and that’s why it excites me.
Do you think that there’s negatives to the investment or is it all positive?
The downside to it of course is that we may lose a lot of our heritage which I’m keen to ensure that we don’t. We could end up losing the likes of SK Gaming, Fnatic, Virtus Pro and Na’Vi. I mention those as I think they’re the least likely to be taken over. I think Fnatic might, at some point, be taken over by a sports team. The other three are obviously owned by the same people right now and they’ve probably got a plan for that.
I think we’ll keep a few but they’ll be few and far between. I think the majority of entry from sports teams regardless of their current sport will be through taking over an existing franchise. They’re not going to come in and take over whatever’s left, they’re going to come in and take over a professional outfit – which is why we’ve seen the likes of Cloud9, Dignitas and Liquid all get decent investment.
We’ve also seen the other model where PSG can effectively hire people in esports and effectively build a brand for themselves and I think that’s really exciting too.
The FIFA space has been really busy for traditional teams – do you think that more teams are going to go the FC Copenhagen/PSG way and go fully into the more “hardcore” side of esports or will they continue to be cautious?
In terms of game choices, at Code Red we’ve found that when consulting sports teams (particularly football clubs) that they are a little more cautious than PSG and FC Copenhagen when it comes to other games. They can totally understand FIFA, it’s a very easy way in for them – I’ve always maintained it’s the gateway drug to esports. It’s never truer than when you’re sat in front of a company where their associates and directors are very unsure about esports and all they’ve seen is violent video games and the bad press that that gets. Understandably perhaps, some of the sports teams are a little reticent on going full tilt into esports and would rather do it gently with FIFA but I do see a day when most of those barriers will be broken down and they can move forward with it.
“Once they understand that the games are a means of competition rather than killing virtual people in game or killing virtual dragons or casting spells they’ll see it no differently to their own sports, whether it be baseball, football or NFL.”
It just takes a bit of education and a bit of time. It’s also in part down to the generation thing. I think ten years from now no one will care because the next generation of Marketing Directors and Advert Buyers and TV Sellers will be people that are currently in their 20s and their 30s and love esports so will already get it. Part of it is generational and part of it is educational but it will eventually change.