When Out of the Blue revealed their roster on Sunday, it quickly drew the ire of the online community. And no wonder: the all-female lineup doesn’t have a single player with a ranking on par with the professionals. But Airbus’s dubious esports dabblings could yet be made into something more than merely a costly marketing mistake.
Reddit and Twitter exploded with ridicule and disbelief on Sunday after the Out of the Blue roster was announced to include five players between the ranks of Diamond 5 and Diamond 3 – or roughly the top 2 to 0.25% of the playerbase. To the casual reader that might not seem unusual, but players deemed to be of a professional calibre are expected to be in the ‘Master’ or ‘Challenger’ divisions, which comprise the top 0.06%. That’s quite the jump, when you’re looking at a difference formed of literally thousands of higher-ranked players.
But you don’t see the internet getting out the pitchforks every time a semi-pro team is put together. The main issue here is a result of bad marketing communications between Airbus and the community: the organisation should have come out earlier and explained that they were not aiming to conquer the LCS and the world with this team – that they had different (and unusual) goals, rather than just wanting to compete for a place among Europe’s elite.
“You don’t see the internet getting out the pitchforks every time a semi-pro team is put together”
In fact, Airbus did the opposite, presumably by fault of some miscommunication. The first news that many heard of the team came via a video that surfaced on the YouTube channel of French production company Master Films, which included the caption “Master Films plays the game for AIRBUS entering League of Legends (LCS EU) sponsoring”.
“One of the players, streaming yesterday on Twitch, admitted that the team had no plans for competing in any particular tournaments as yet”
That lead to many outlets – ourselves included – speculating whether Airbus had purchased an existing team’s slot in the premiere European competition, or whether they were trying to put together a lineup that could challenge for a place via promotion. Given the company’s financial clout (earning a reported £56.6 billion in revenue in 2016), neither option seemed unlikely. However, it now appears that the team will have nothing to do with the LCS whatsoever.
One of the players, streaming yesterday on Twitch, admitted that the team had no plans for competing in any particular tournaments as yet. Instead, ‘Valynora’ was quite transparent in her evaluation of the team, and said that they were simply aiming to “see where we’re going to get with hard work and dedication”. She described the team as “a project to see what you can make out of relatively low elo players”.
The comment carries a refreshingly realistic approach which is a far cry from the cringe-worthy, overproduced content that the infamous all-girl Team Siren put out, and were subsequently slaughtered online for. It is especially important that Out of the Blue distance themselves from that stigma now, given that there are already plenty of comparisons being made between the two. In the words of an ancient and obscure American wordsmith: “Be humble”.
— The Shotcaller (@TheShotcallerGG) November 20, 2017
Airbus’s esports investment doesn’t have to suffer the same ignominious end that befell Team Siren. They have a likeable, community-recognised figure in their coach, ex-player Etienne ‘Steve’ Michels, and a platform to reach out to the prodigious player base of League of Legends. What they choose to do with this opportunity is key.
“Airbus’s esports investment doesn’t have to suffer the same ignominious end that befell Team Siren”
If Out of the Blue can continue to build their own brand, and put out plenty of videos that provides an honest and rare insight into building a team – even rarer for featuring the female esports dynamic – there’s no reason that Airbus can’t still turn this into a successful marketing exercise. But the content has to be there, and it has to be genuine; it can’t be suffering from delusions of grandeur which don’t match the players’ rankings.
As they look towards the future, there are plenty of questions for the new organisation to answer. Will Airbus move past the derision surrounding their lacklustre team roster announcement? Can Out of the Blue cement itself as a team with personality, and a story worth following? Or will this be another Team Siren – as another organisation fails to understand the esports community?