At Genesis 5, six of Rivals of Aether’s greatest players took to the Sunday stage to fight for the title of RCS champion. among those players we saw the familiar jerseys of organizations like Panda Global and T2 Esports. However, two players in the Sunday finals were wearing the jerseys of a brand new organization, Tuxedo Esports. With 4th- and 5th-place finishes at the most prestigious RoA tournament in history, Tuxedo has already established itself as a powerful brand in the competitive Rivals scene. I caught up with player and co-owner Billy “LBO” Dunmire to discuss the origin of his new organization as well as their plans for the future.
Live It, Breathe It, and Now Own It
For those familiar with competitive Rivals, LBO is a familiar name. The Zetterburn master has been taking names and producing strong results since the early days of the game’s esports scene. However, LBO never intended to be a top competitor when he picked up Rivals of Aether for the first time.
Having played Starcraft 2 and League of Legends at a high level, he had proven to himself he could be a strong competitor, and had even run Starcraft tournaments. Searching for a break from the competitive grind, he picked up Rivals of Aether. “I started playing Rivals to stay more casual and not get invested.”
While LBO’s plan to stay casual may have failed completely, his competitive career has seen nothing but success. He was quickly picked up by Burrito Esports, and made a splash at several high profile tournaments in 2017. This was where the idea to form his own organization began.
“When sponsors started entering Rivals, our crew and others got people picked up by sponsors so we got a firsthand glimpse of the business side of everything. Over time we found ourselves saying, ‘we could do this and more.’ Eventually we just had to take the leap.”
Suit and Tie
LBO explained that the name of his new organization started with his co-owner, Ryan “Cupz” Belcher. “Cupz is a big fan of penguins. We explored that route of naming but we aren’t a hockey team so it didn’t fit. We wanted to stand out from the crowd and not go for some intimidating scary name meant to sound tough. So I took the penguin idea and went with Tuxedo instead. It’s classy, but our mascot could still be an awesome penguin.”
Whenever a new game begins to develop a competitive scene, new organizations will inevitably sprout up. However, there are two critical factors that set Tuxedo Esports apart from the crowd. First, both LBO and the team’s first signed player, Dolphinbrick, are elite competitors within the scene. This allows the brand to launch with immediate credibility within the Rivals community. However, what’s truly encouraging about Tuxedo is that fact that the organization launched with multiple sponsors.
Brand deals and sponsorship are critical to the sustainability of an esports organization. LBO has already secured partnerships with N3rdabl3.com, a gaming and popculture news and review platform, as well as Iello Games, a titan in the board game industry best known for King of Tokyo, winner of a myriad of industry awards. LBO explained that his preexisting relationship with both companies helped convince them to get on board with Tuxedo Esports. “I write for N3rdabl3 and already have a running relationship with those guys so it’s an easier sell when they already know you’re competent in what you do,” he said. “I also do contracting work for Iello and regularly spend time with the higher ups there as well.”
This networking and salesmanship, combined with the team’s already-impressive competitive resume should have Rivals fans excited about the future and security of the organization. The competitive excellence combined with business savvy closely mirror the origin of one of the biggest names in all of esports, Team Solomid.
Looking to the Future
Despite his new business endeavors, LBO has no plan to stop competing any time soon. “I figure it’s no different than working in your own store,” he explained. “You cut down labor costs and get to handle the business from both ends.”
In between tournaments, LBO and Cupz are hard at work preparing to expand their brand into other games. While the team obviously wants to recruit top talent, they have a much clearer vision for what they want in a Tuxedo Esports player. “Our main priority is to pick up players that are grinders before getting sponsored,” said LBO.” DolphinBrick has been a top player and a super hard worker before ever getting sponsored. Shizblacka, our streamer, was scouted for a month before we decided to go with him. He streams constantly and he did so without a sponsor.”
He went on to explain that above all else, the team is looking for players who display a strong work ethic. They are open to signing teams and players from any game, so long as they can meet those strict requirements.
For more on Tuxedo Esports, be sure to follow them on Twitter. You can also follow LBO directly. My thanks to LBO and the entire Tuxedo Esports crew for the opportunity to learn more about their organization. Having interviewed countless owners of esports orgs, I can confidently say that Tuxedo has all the prerequisites to be a powerful force in the industry.