James Duffield on the need for Teams.gg in the matchmaking market

27 August 2019


If you’ve ever struggled to find suitable teammates to practice with, Teams.gg is looking to change that for you. The platform uses a two-way matching system which utilises a number of factors to identify good player matches.

Less than a week after launch, Teams.gg is thriving. 2,000 listings were created in the first day, representing over 3,000 players, which has led to over 1,000 matches being made already. This means that thousands of people have met their match when it comes to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

To dig more into the reasoning behind the company’s inception and what to expect from it in the coming months, Esports Insider sat down with James Duffield, Co-founder of Teams.gg.

Esports Insider: What inspired you to start Teams.gg?

James Duffield
James Duffield, Co-founder of Teams.gg

James Duffield: The three of us – myself, Stuart [Crouchman], and Tom [Russell] – knew that our combination of skill sets work well together. A front-end developer, back-end developer, and a designer, we knew that we could build anything. We just needed to come up with an idea that we were passionate about and we’re all gamers. We met through gaming, we were all trying to find good teammates.

We love Counter-Strike in particular, Stuart has been playing since 1.6 and he’s played in teams over the years. Counter-Strike was the game that we were all playing so we wanted to figure out something around gaming and esports.

One day, I went onto my old YouTube channel that we had all worked on a little bit. One video in particular on the channel had more views than all the others. It had over 150,000 more views and it was called “How to find a CS:GO team.”

The reason it had the most views was because if you searched “how to find a CS:GO team” on Google, that video came up on the front page. The most interesting thing was that all the comments were people saying, “I’m 17 years old, I’ve got this many thousand hours in Counter-Strike, I play FACEIT every night, please add me on steam.” There were hundreds of comments like this.

I thought that there has to be a better way to do this and now we have Teams.gg!

“Teams.gg has an algorithm behind it that does all the work for the player”

ESI: How long did it take to launch Teams.gg from inception?

JD: It’s been a lot longer than most people would want to spend building an app like this. It has taken two years since we came up with the idea and I’d say about a year of working on it. When I say working on it, that was in our spare time. Life gets in the way sometimes!

I’m glad that we powered through because that was the big thing. There was a few moments there where we could have said “okay, this is just distracting us from all the things we need to do in life and we should just stop it.” There were two big moments where the motivation was dwindling but we realized that we had a really good thing and we wanted to carry on working on it. I’m really glad we persisted now, especially seeing some of the feedback we’re getting from people.

Teams.gg Interview
Image credit: Teams.gg

ESI: What does Teams.gg offer that its competitors don’t?

JD: All of it really stems back to being a data driven system. Teams.gg has an algorithm behind it that does all the work for the player. I would describe the other websites more like catalogs of players where anyone can go in, filter, and find the players that they want based on like search criteria and filters – much like browsing eBay or Amazon.

What that doesn’t do is take into account what the players that you’re finding want, so on our site we have two-way matching. If I sign up and I answer all the questions about myself and what I’m looking for, the algorithm ranks me against every other person on the platform. It not only considers the person that you’re looking for, but are you what they’re looking for? That’s a big distinction.

We’re doing all these checks and balances for the user really early on when they sign up, but also later when they need to connect with the people that they’re potentially going to play with. Both parties need to do that connection request, they both need to agree. We think that’s a much nicer experience.

“We feel like what we’ve built here is perfect for any team-based game”

ESI: What factors are taken into account when matching players?

JD: Really early on in the process of our building the site, we surveyed 1,000 Counter-Strike players and asked them what’s most important to them when they are looking for teammates, why do they want to be in a team, and what frustrates them the most about being in teams. We did this because we wanted to figure out exactly what the problems were that needed solving and how best to do that.

Not only did they want to find people that are available at the same time, they wanted people who had the same kind of ambition as them. This works at both ends of the spectrum because what we were trying to do is cater to players no matter their skill level. We also connect with FACEIT, ESEA, and Steam so we can bring in the in-game stats of the players. 

ESI: What other titles can players expect to see on Teams.gg in the future?

JD: Our ambition is to expand outside of Counter-Strike but I think what is important right now, in the very short term, is that we focus on making it the best for this game and then we can move on to making it best for the next. We feel like what we’ve built here is perfect for any team-based game; any game that includes teams of three-to-six players.

There’s probably six or seven big esports titles that are team-based that you can assume that we would want to be in. Our main aim when we plan to expand is not just choose a new game and go with that, it’s to reevaluate how the back-end of our website works and implement something we’re calling multi-game.

We want this multi-game to be implemented so that when it comes to adding a new game – when, for instance, the next Apex Legends comes out later in the year – we’re able to support it from day one.

Teams.gg Launches

ESI: How does monetisation work if you’re not charging players at all?

JD: We feel like what we’ve built is a basic right of a team-based game. Finding people you enjoy playing with is the bread and butter for us, discovery and team finding will always be free.

I think when we start implementing tools like scheduling for existing teams, strategy databases and trialing dashboards (so that the players in a group can feedback on players that they’re trialing), we’d consider it then.We’d have to gauge how the community reacted to that kind of news, as well.

We’ll talk to the community about whether they think these new features are worth purchasing, but that’s down the road. We’ve thought about all of the options, but we’re not, we’re not a fan of doing these really short-term fixes to make a quick buck. We’re in it for the long run and we’re in it to build cool products for the community. And ultimately we’re trying to build all this stuff without thinking about the monetization because we just want to build stuff that we love.

We’re going into this with the right ambitions where we don’t think too much about monetization but we, of course, want to be a sustainable business one day.

“We want to be talking straight to the community itself”

ESI: How are you marketing Teams.gg to get it in front of players?

JD: We’ve been working with a lot of friends of ours from esports that we’ve met across the years who we’re really lucky to have had help us out and spread the word across social media. The proponent for us since launch has been Reddit; the community itself.

The reception has surpassed our expectations. We want to be talking straight to the community itself because that’s where they all are. They’re our target audience.

We need more critical mass for this to be a real successful thing and allow us to carry on doing it so, when we’re ready to expand our marketing strategy, we’ll do it in a way that targets the community in a place where we know that they hang out. We’ll still be talking to them in the same way but we’ll be able to hopefully gain more of a reach.