Rivals of Aether fills me with a unique sense of hope. We are seeing a small, indie developer jump head first into the competitive Platform Fighter scene and encourage its growth beyond Smash. Yesterday’s announcement of the RCS season 2 got me super hyped for a number of reasons we can go into another time. I have high hopes for this scene and game, and have been keeping a close eye on how things have progressed since Genesis.
Recently, we’ve seen a few top Rivals players get picked up by esports organizations. This is obviously exciting, and a big step for the community and the game as a whole. That said, Rivals is a small game in an already niche community. From my experience in Smash, I find that many in the Platform Fighter community are not fully aware of the inner workings of the esports industry.
I began my esports career working for Riot Games and have watched many major esports organizations grow out of League of Legends, and expand into other games. I also worked as a coach for VexX Gaming, who just sponsored Dolphinbrick. Between contract negotiations, revenue models, marketing, and competition I have either been directly involved or interviewed leaders in every aspect of the industry. Today, I want to share a little bit of that expertise with the Rivals community to better equip our top players for future negotiations with sponsors and teams.
What Makes an Org?
First, let’s quickly talk about how an esports organization functions. There are two types of esports org–“for-profit” or “for-passion”. These types of orgs operate very differently, and it is important to know which sort of organization you’re meeting with before signing anything.
For-profit orgs are, obviously, organizations run with the intention of making money. These are businesses with multiple full-time employees. While winning is important, their number one goal is to grow their brand and increase revenue. These organizations expand into new games to grow their audience, and attract new potential customers for merchandise and sponsors. While most people think of the big names like TSM, Fnatic, and CLG, any organization with smart business strategy and sound profit margins can fall under this category. There are many organizations like Panda Global, GaleForce Esports, and Tempo Storm who do not have the same corporate infrastructure of a Fnatic, but still pay their players and operate like a busniess.
Attracting a for-profit org is the goal of any competitor wishing to make a career in esports. To do this, you need to be a player that can provably generate revenue for the organization. We’ll talk about how to do this a bit later.
For-passion orgs are a different matter entirely. These are organizations with no clear revenue model. Maybe one person is pulling in a small salary, but most staff are volunteer. These orgs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are run like businesses and have goals of turning a profit. Some are passion projects by fans who just want to be involved in esports. Finally, some are actually evil contract monsters hiding behind a veil of enthusiasm just waiting to trap poor kids in awful legal handcuffs and take advantage of their good faith.
Other than that last one, there’s nothing inherently wrong with signing with a for-passion org. Many of these organizations provide players with the resources they need to compete at the highest level. These organizations will be interested in you either because they already have a passion for Rivals, or because they are focused on supporting smaller scenes.
What You Offer
Whether it’s for-profit or for-passion, both organizations are looking for similar things from their competitors. They want to attract sponsors, sell merch, and increase brand recognition. For a solid organization to be interested in you, you must be able to help them achieve these goals. At the end of the day, the role of an esports competitor is to be an influencer within their community. Let’s talk about how to do this.
The most obvious way to be attractive to an organization is to place well in tournament. You will have your name on stream and in the general Reddit conversation more frequently when you are winning. News organizations generally only cover the top placings for smaller games like Rivals. If you do nothing else, you can still grow an audience and be considered an influencer if you are consistently winning.
Next, orgs will look at your social media presence. How many followers do you have on Twitter and Instagram? How often are you tweeting? Do your posts get a high volume of shares and likes? This is critically important to an organization. If you have a strong social media reach, they can use those metrics when negotiating with sponsors. They can expect a percentage of your followers will make buying decisions based on your influence.
Additionally, organizations are attracted to content creators. Whether it’s a YouTube channel, Twitch stream, or even a blog, producing supplementary content is a major asset. It means that the organization’s name and logo will be seen more frequently throughout the week. Your content metrics show further loyalty from your audience, giving you more effectiveness as an influencer.
How to Get an Org
So, we’ve identified some organizations and what they look for in a player, let’s talk about some action items that will make you attractive to an org.
- Play well–for most players, this is the first step. Prove that you can consistently make top 8.
- Tweet more–even if you only have 10 followers right now, start building good habits. Make tweeting a part of your daily schedule. If you aren’t good at it, start simple. Post one Rivals-related tweet and one personal life-related tweet every day. Feel free to reach out if you want some more specific coaching in this area.
- Make content–if you have the skills, have a YouTube channel and stream. Upload or stream on a consistent schedule, ideally multiple times per week. Again, the goal at first is not to have a massive following. It’s to build good habits. If you can’t make video content, write. Post character guides to Reddit. Start a blog and do recaps after each tournament with your thoughts.
- Have an opinion–the topic doesn’t matter. Just have some strong opinions about the game and about life. Some of the biggest successes in Smash have come from players posting memes about the correct toppings for pizza or the proper procedure for making cereal. You should also have strong opinions about your game. Post a tier list and defend it against complainers. Tweet about your favorite anime, or why you thought a movie was bad.
- Be available–the FGC has a culture of developing clans and teams that have no actually organization behind them. At least, not one that will help fly you to an event. This is very confusing for smaller orgs looking to dip their toe into an indie platform fighter. If you want to be part of a real esports org, you need to let them know you’re available. Make sure your Twitter profile states that you’re a free agent. Either keep your DMs open, or have a professional business email listed in your profile for inquiries. If you can, avoid putting a team tag in front of your name during high profile events. Do whatever you can to make it clear to potential orgs that you are not only available, but ready to be signed.
Last, a Warning
Rivals is still a very small game in the major esports landscape. It will probably be a year or so before any player is with an organization that can pay them a meaningful salary. That said, this game has all the proper pieces in place to grow into a real contender. This is why some organizations have come into the scene.They are hoping to lock down some of the top players now, while they are cheap, before the big money starts coming in.
This is by no means a bad thing, but it is something to keep in mind as a Rivals player. It requires that you really think about your career, and that you proceed carefully in contract negotiations. VexX and Fly Society are great orgs who genuinely care about their players, but that is not the case for everyone. There will be organizations that come to you with completely evil contracts. I have seen players trapped in contracts that locked them into an organization for 2 years with no way out and no salary.
I’ve seen contracts that gave the organization the rights to all YouTube ad revenue, or 50% of all prize money won by the player. I’ve even seen contracts that required players to stream on the organization’s channel, and never seeing any share of the subscription or ad revenue. You must read through contracts carefully. Never handle a negotiation alone. Get someone you trust to read everything, and to talk directly with the organization before you sign. If you need, I would be happy to help with your negotiation, or at least read through the contract for you.
Now, obviously not every organization that approaches you will be evil. Most will actually have the best intentions. That said, I would caution against signing with the first organization who approaches you, even if the offer is completely fair. Over the next year Rivals will continue to grow both as an esport and as a game.
If you sign with a team now, you are risking losing the opportunity for a better offer 6 months from now. You need to weigh your options and carefully decide what is best for your career. Don’t be afraid to bet on yourself and explore your options. Especially if you haven’t even started producing content. At the very least, do not sign any contract that locks you down to one team for more than 6 months.
I am so excited for the future of Rivals. Hopefully we’ll see more great orgs pick up players in the coming months, and more players working to make themselves attractive to top notch teams. It’s going to be a great year for Rivals fans, I can’t wait to see what’s next!