Carlos “Ocelote” Rodriguez has the kind of success story you might call the esports dream.
Ocelote is the founder of G2 Esports, which started out as Gamers2 back in February 2014 as a sub-Challenger League of Legends team. Now, three years later, he owns and operates one of the biggest esports brands in Europe, with players in seven different games and some of the most successful teams in competitive gaming.
The 26-year-old went from being one of Europe's break-out LoL stars, to a semi-relevant team owner, to one of the biggest names in esports. But he dreams bigger, and he won't be satisfied until he can buy a sports team.
“We like to have goals of 20 years from now of being able to buy a traditional club, instead of the other way around,” Oceltoe told theScore esports. “I don’t know if that would be a smart business decision, but I want to be in a position where G2 can actually afford this. Everyone’s dream, it’s funny, is to be bought out, but I feel like my dream is different. I want to be able to buy out other companies.”
Choosing investors carefully
G2 is one of just a few esports organizations that don't have public investment from big name sports investors or venture capital firms. While Team Liquid, NRG, Immortals and Cloud9 pick up big-name investors, Ocelote says he's working a little slower to ensure any investor who comes into the organization isn't dead weight.
Given that G2 has grown so fast and is looking to get even bigger, Ocelote believes that if he were to bring on a big name investor, he’d want someone who would actually involved in working with the company.
The G2 owner doesn't want to sell his shares either. As it stands, Ocelote says an esports team doesn't necessarily need a big-name investor right now, but things could change.
“I am not saying that there is no bubble, there’s a chance that there is, but it’s really hard to identify,” Ocelote said. “There are many variables to consider, but what I can say is that in this point in time, if the club is run very well, a tier one club is able to break even, at least. That’s all I can say. That essentially tells you that if one of the best clubs in the world can break even, and I’m not saying whether we are or not, then that tells you that you can achieve balance.”
A big fish in a shrinking EU pond
But not everything is perfect. Ocelote and G2’s place in League of Legends is confusing, to say the least. The team is so much stronger than the rest of the region, but has failed to make their mark at international events. While Ocelote says that’s more about the team’s stage fright than it is about play issues, it does tie into a far bigger issue: G2 is a very big fish, and European esports is an increasingly small pond.
Esports activity has been moving to America slowly over the last few months, with two straight American CS:GO Majors, EU LCS views dropping and a California-based Overwatch league on the horizon. Meanwhile, Ocelote is moving his focus as well, with more American teams on G2’s roster.
But Ocelote believes it’d be harder for an American team to come to Europe, which is part of the reason he’s not curbing expansion there.
“The US has the same language in a huge region, while Europe has a huge region with different languages,” Ocelote said. “You have to understand how to approach those markets. I think that a US team moving to Europe is never going to be as appealing for the local markets just because culturally it’s much different. We are also very big in the Polish market, and it’s really hard for a US person to understand Polish culture, you need to grow into it, understand how they speak, what they value.
“But on the other hand for a company like us who grew, we had a lot of Polish teams, we understand that market very well, we are able to speak the language of that culture, in their native language, because we have the right people for it.”
On buying an Overwatch team
There are other ways Ocelote wants to grow G2 besides a move to global markets. Back in November, G2's esports brand manager Jakub "Lothar" Szygulski told theScore esports that the team was looking to get back into Overwatch, but was "looking for the right team." Ocelote says that search is still on, but now it's about knowing more about Blizzard's plans for the Overwatch League.
It's been reported that Overwatch League franchise spots could be going from between $2 million and $15 million, which would probably put the highest end spots out of even the biggest esports brands' reach. But Ocelote says G2 is willing to ante up, so long as Blizzard actually tells him what he's paying for.
“You see this 10 million for a franchise, right? I’m okay with that. The problem is that I need to understand what are the revenue opportunities of partaking in such a franchise. You can’t just spend 10 million and not know the business model of the franchise it self. So we are waiting, we are looking. So far, we are happy with the development of the game, perhaps not the viewerbase. That could be better.”
Investing in smaller esports scenes
As for other games, despite G2’s superstar status in LoL and CS:GO, they’ve been slower to reach out to other scenes. G2 fields a Vainglory team, a Call of Duty team, one Super Smash Bros. Melee player and a Rocket League team. The scenes are all small in comparison to the money makers, but Ocelote says he views them as part of a bigger outreach program.
“I feel like [the smaller games are] the backbone of the club, to be able to pick up talent cheap and grow them into stars,” Oceltoe says. “That’s the most outright, positive move, and if you become good at applying this principle, then you’re probably going to be in a good position.
This principle applies to picking up talent and to games. A game that is unknown and no one really talks about it, you see the potential and pick up the team cheap. One year form now perhaps the team is going to be worth tenfold. That’s essentially the very same principle that investors use.”
Ocelote points to the organization’s Rocket League team, which G2 picked up relatively cheaply after the players won the 2016 Rocket League world championship. Now, Ocelote says the game has seen “unbelievable” growth, and recently got into Vainglory for the same reason. He thinks the money will be there soon, and he’s willing to gamble on it when the stakes are low.
On speaking his mind on social media
Ocelote is surprisingly blunt about his expansion. He’s in it to make money, and buying into smaller esports scenes for cheap, building his brand there and even potentially selling high is the best way to do that. He says that bluntness is something he tries to keep in all his interactions, whether in meetings or on Twitter. Even though speaking his mind has landed him in trouble before, Ocelote says that it’s too important to stop.
“Perhaps in the short term, you may think that it’s counterproductive to do this, but in the long term, I can tell you from my relationships with Scream, with Shox, with Fox, with Perkz, with Joey, with Thijs, Lifecoach, Rdu, they trust us, they trust me, because they know what to expect,” Ocelote says. “I think that realism I bring face to face with them is the same realism I bring to Twitter or Facebook or an interview.
“I’m not careless about what I say, but I don’t want to hide the truth. I am learning to become more sensitive with some topics, but I think my heart is in the right place. I have nothing to hide.”
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.
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