After a year in which global esports organization Cloud9 became one of only two organizations to snag a slot in the Overwatch League and League of Legends’ NA LCS, secured a $25 million round of Series A funding from the likes of World Wrestling Entertainment and locked in sponsors such as T-Mobile, team co-founder and CEO Jack Etienne now opens 2018 with the UK in tow as the London Spitfire begin play today in OWL against Florida Mayhem. As the team prepares for takeoff, Cynopsis spoke with Etienne about the League, London and how his job has evolved.
Etienne on the announcement of Overwatch League: At that time, there wasn’t really any franchise like it that had been announced yet. It was something that I had wanted to a long time, a long-term partnership with a publisher in a league that had revenue-sharing where we were building something together on a large scale. When it was first presented to me, I was like ‘this is what I’ve been working toward for years.’ I just knew that I needed to be part of this thing.
On selecting London: London was one of the top cities I was looking at right from the get-go. I wanted a really large market that could get support. There were only two cities in the world where I wanted Cloud9 to host a team and London was one of them.
On the evolution of the game: If you look at the finished product from 2016 and how it progressed into 2017, the game is much easier to watch, the action is easier to follow. So – in a really short period of time – they really improved the quality of being a fan in the game. You don’t really see, from the top down, publishers who are really interested in making a really good esports league and I feel that Overwatch is one of the most watchable FPSs on the market now.
On how Overwatch League changed the conversation with sponsors: It was really interesting that around a year ago, after this was announced, sponsors were interested, but now they are full-on wanting to be a part of this. What’s really special about this FPS is that sometimes there are concerns with some of the other shooters out there that they may be too violent and that some sponsors may not want to get behind them. Overwatch doesn’t have any of those concerns. It is very family friendly. What’s really cool is that you are seeing young fans and players coming, where both generations play the game together. I think that when the brands see the demographic of these fans, it gets them very excited about what they can do with it.
On how his role has changed: As time goes by, I find myself now delegating more responsibilities to other people we’ve brought into Cloud 9, which allows me to focus on a) what I am really passionate about and b) what I think is the lifeline of this company which I think is a good player experience and that our players are being taken care of. I used to be much more involved in account management, etc. but I can now focus on recruitment, talking to investors and our players.