The esports landscape in 2022 has already gone through sizable shifts in its ecosystem. Ranging from billion-dollar acquisitions to the reinvention of esports ecosystems, many entities are having to adapt to new circumstances.
Given the last few years, adaptation has become a core skillset for esports businesses. One testament to the power of adaptation is the developments that have occurred at esports and gaming apparel firm We Are Nations.
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In 2021, the company bolstered its online store, strengthened its European merchandising operations and secured a range of esports partnerships. Speaking to Esports Insider, We Are Nations Co-Founder Patrick Mahoney detailed how he felt the company has progressed over the last 12 months amidst a prolonged pandemic.
“2021 was very much about reacting to the restrictions caused by the pandemic and navigating these as a company,” Mahoney said. “The happiest day of my life last year was coming back from Romania after we did a site visit for Dota 2. We were going to do something in a stadium, that [was] going to be the industry’s return to live tournament events at scale. It was going to be a big moment.
“Due to Covid, at the last-minute spectators were no longer able to attend the live event, so we had to adapt and seize the new opportunity that came our way. It was no bad thing. Our online sales increased and we began shipping to 83 countries, so from a seeming negative came a big triumph.
“The same happened with the Six Invitational but this became a global online event for us — with stores in Europe, the UK, US and Mexico we could supply demand for event-related products for fans that could not travel.”
The Dota trip that Mahoney mentioned related to We Are Nations’ partnership with Valve and The International. The tournament was originally scheduled to take place in Bucharest in front of live fans, before COVID complications moved the event behind closed doors.
“When we found out spectators were no longer going to be able to attend, we literally called the trucks and said, stop driving to Romania. Do a U-turn and start driving back to where our warehouses are.”
A month later at the CS:GO Major in Stockholm, live audiences came back in high numbers and sales returned to pre-pandemic level. It doesn’t seem that the pandemic has had a prolonged effect on events, which is encouraging to see; and live events for 2022 look set to continue that trend.
Despite the Dota 2 setback, on the spectator front, 2021 still managed to be an eventual period of growth for Nations — developing online activations, reinforcing the Nations brand and strengthening the company’s European operations in particular.
“Opening up a European warehouse just made a lot of strategic sense”, said Mahoney. “It’s always been at least half of our business. That’s what I loved about esports from the very beginning, it was like completely international out of the box.”
Chris Cornell and Patrick Mahoney started the business with the purchase of a company based in Belgium. “That was our original first move. So, we’ve always been big supporters of Europe.”
By establishing a European merchandise stronghold in Holland, We Are Nations looks to create a fast service for fans and partners when it comes to delivering products. However, this move goes deeper than just a logistical advantage — it’s all about providing better experiences for customers.
For the warehouse, this meant creating a better service, an ethos the company also employed in its website redevelopment last year.
Mahoney explained that the new website looks to serve as not just a shop, but as a hub for esports fans. This includes being able to watch tournaments, partake in online fan activations and, of course, check out the latest merchandise on offer.
“The challenge that we have internally — well, it’s both a challenge but also an opportunity — is we literally have to build the market. We have to define what brings people to our site to buy stuff,” Mahoney said.
“I know the market is there. It’s just figuring out how to get there. So what you see with our website is the team trying different things to bring people in.”
As the world opens up and Nations has started to repopulate the ecosystem with LAN+, its fast-growing loyalty programme, the apparel sector has changed and a variety of new players — mainly from the sporting sector — have entered the game.
LAN+ itself offers a series of benefits where fans can get rewards and earn ‘flags’. These flags can be attained when consumers complete an action, such as creating an account and referring a friend. Once these actions have been completed, LAN+ members can earn free shipping, flexible discounts, early-bird discounts, birthday rewards and more.
With all these developments, questions quickly turn to what 2022 has in store for We Are Nations. According to Mahoney, competition isn’t necessarily bad — in fact it’ll help the industry grow as a whole.
“I think it validates the sport and it opens eyes to people who wouldn’t normally see it,” he said. “I’m sure of other brands coming in and I think it’s great.”
Right now the apparel industry is going through a development phase, due to the interest of larger corporations. Yet again, adaptation is key, and it seems that We Are Nations are well aware of this and are looking to utilise the industry changes to benefit the company even further.
After all, We Are Nations’ ambitions go further than being an apparel company. The firm looks to establish itself as a destination retailer providing experiences, as well as high-quality merchandise, in the ever-growing esports industry.
Supported by We Are Nations