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March 18, 2018
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The CEO of esports team Splyce explains the human side of professional play

February 21, 2018 | By Bryant Francis

As the esports business boom continues, organizations both large and small will grapple with the challenges of managing rambunctious teams of players and finding funding to keep those players on their team before someone else snatches them up. 

For developers (or potential team owners) attempting to navigate these choppy waters, there's going to be a session at GDC 2018 that may be of particular interest from Splyce CEO Marty Strenczewilk and Delaware North chief marketing officer Todd Merry. In this session, the two plan to discuss how the esports business can learn from traditional sports organizations, as Splyce has benefitted from their partnership with the Boston Bruins (owned by Delaware North).

To get ready for Strenczewilk & Merry's talk, we invited the former to join us on the Gamasutra Twitch channel today for a conversation about the business side of esports, and to learn what it's like managing players across a variety of games. We've embedded our chat with Strenczewilk up above for your convenience, but in case you're putting together The Bad News Bears of Overwatch right now, here's a few quick takeaways for you. 

You can blunt bad player moments by building trust in less stressful situations

Professional esports players make headlines a lot when, unfortunately, their behavior tips over an edge and they wind up sanctioned by a game developer. If you're interested in preventing these moments from happening, Strenczewilk argued that it's important to work closely with your team's players when they're not caught in surprise stressful situations to help make them aware of potential consequences, and earn their trust to help them navigate through instances where they may make mistakes. 

Strenczewilk brought up a Dallas tournament that was delayed due to two separate bomb threats, and Splyce had to work with the team closely to get them through back-to-back events, something he says was only possible because of the facetime the Splyce organization tried to have with team players beforehand to create a cooperative relationship, not an antagonistic one. 

Recruiting women to play on esports teams benefits from a diverse player base

Recently, several sites noted that the Overwatch League had finally gained its first female player, when the Shanghai Dragons signed Kim “Geguri” Se-Yeon, a highly-skilled Zarya player. The lack of women among the rank of esports athletes has been a recurring topic throughout the industry's recent growth. Strenczewilk shared a lot of thoughts on how esports teams can be more inclusive to women, but one subject he wanted to address was that for team leaders like him, it's easier to recruit skilled female players when there's more women in a game's playerbase, regardless as to whether they're casual or professional.

Strenczewilk didn't go so far as to say it's up to developers to build their playerbase this way if they want more women in the pros, but it's certainly one thing developers of esports-adjacent titles can consider when embarking on their own community efforts. 

If you want to work in esports, bring something to the table

For those looking to join Strenczewilk in the esports industry in a capacity beyond just professional play (like one young commentator in Twitch chat), Strenczewilk's best advice was to make sure they can bring something to the table beyond passion for the sport. Strenczewilk advised our viewers that the best hires he can make are the ones who bring a specific skillset to the table along with an interest in esports. Whether it's a law degree, experience as a travel agent, or some other management/business skill, Strenczewilk argued that aspiring employees of the esports industry should remember that (like game development), companies need people to fulfill specific roles.

For more developer interviews, editor roundtables, and gameplay commentary, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel. 

Gamasutra and GDC are sibling organizations under parent UBM Americas

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