and parent company recently marked their first full year together, and the companies are in the midst of a busy week. Yesterday, ReKTGlobal , which will help fund Rogue’s debut season that begins this weekend.
Securing a franchise spot was a stated goal for ReKTGlobal , and inclusion in the LEC marks a significant step forward for the organization. It also provides stability for investors, and Rogue co-founder and CEO Frank Villarreal believes that franchising is the way of the future for major esports games.
The Esports Observer recently spoke to Villarreal and ReKTGlobal vice president of esports Kevin Knocke, and yesterday, into how the companies united after the acquisition and the role of . In a continuation of that conversation, the two share insight into Rogue’s LEC ambitions and application process and the role of franchise leagues going forward.
A League of Their Own
Obtaining a League of Legends or franchise spot was a key goal for Rogue in 2018. As Knocke tells it, the LEC application process spanned thousands of collective hours spent assembling a 140-page booklet and application that introduced Rogue and its culture to Riot Games.
“I think that it was pretty obvious that we had a celebrity connection that was unlike any other team…”
“A lot of how we positioned ourselves as a team, and ultimately what I think made us successful in our proposition, is that we are genuinely committed to doing what we can to [accomplish] two things: provide as much mainstream exposure for games and esports as we can, and also work to authentically build the real infrastructure and long-term development of player bases for games,” said Knocke. “It is in our vested interest to make sure that League of Legends grows now, and for me as a personal fan of League of Legends—someone who plays over a thousand games a year—that’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Key to Rogue’s culture and image are celebrity investors and co-owners, such as rock band Imagine Dragons and DJ Steve Aoki. As the pair expressed in the previous article, having those well-known stars so deeply involved in the organization provides a potential opportunity to pull in more fans that are currently outside of the esports space. That could be a win for both Rogue and League of Legends.
“I think that it was pretty obvious that we had a celebrity connection that was unlike any other team, or that any other team could bring,” said Knocke, “particularly because of how invested into League of Legends Imagine Dragons already was.”
The band collaborated with Riot Games in 2014 for the music video to its song “Warriors,” which it also performed at the opening ceremony of the League of Legends World Championship in Seoul, South Korea that same year.
Knocke said Rogue and ReKTGlobal are in League of Legends for the long haul, and know that the league’s growth will be a gradual process. They are committed to growing a wider fan base around both Rogue’s LoL team and the game itself, and have hired community members from previous European League of Legends Championship Series teams that didn’t obtain a franchise spot.
“We are genuine fans of this game, we want to do things the right way, and we don’t have any sort of false expectations that we’re going to go into the next year and—all of a sudden—there’s going to be 20 times the amount of people watching, or that the scene is automatically going to be sustainable long-term,” said Knocke. “We dug in and really said, ‘We are willing to do the work necessarily to make sure that League of Legends is viable long-term.’”
“The indication and the feedback we got was that Riot is very excited about that,” he continued. “They like that their partners are engaged in and want to work on those sorts of long-term developmental things. I definitely think that that was sort of the overriding part of our pitch, and so I feel inclined to think that that’s what set us apart from other teams.”
A Franchised Future
For Rogue, earning entry into the LEC was a defining moment—not only for landing a team in one of the world’s most popular esports, but more importantly for securing a franchise slot that is guaranteed for seasons ahead. Barring unexpected changes, Rogue could be in League of Legends for a very long time, and that’s something that investors now know.
“I’ve always said that eventually, all of esports will be franchised.”
“It gives us a lot of increased stability because it’s a scene that we know that we can count on,” said Villarreal. “There’s no relegation, and there’s no chance that we’re going to end up playing out of the scene. It gives us something that investors and any person that’s looking into Rogue can latch onto, and say, ‘OK, this will be around. This isn’t going anywhere.’”
“If you look at a lot of the institutional investors that have come into esports in the last couple of years, they’ve come into franchises,” he continued. “It’s because they don’t like the risk that’s associated with non-franchised leagues. Personally, I like the excitement of being in non-franchised leagues, as well, but that stability just gives us that bedrock that we can build a fan base around.”
The LEC is Rogue’s first franchised league, but Villarreal said that it is unlikely to be the last. He envisions a future in which more and more esports leagues turn to franchise models, and that ultimately every major esport will adopt franchising. These are just the first steps for the industry.
“I’ve always said that eventually, all of esports will be franchised,” he said. “Eventually, someone’s going to figure out a multi-game franchise model, or someone’s going to figure out how to franchise each and every game in esports. I think as we see more institutional investors get involved in esports, we will eventually get to the point where every game has a franchised league. Just like the future of the industry is going towards more and more franchised leagues and more and more stability, I think that any esports team that survives will be involved in more and more franchised leagues, as well.”