Alex Ich & Crumbzz to form Challenger team

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Veteran players Alexey "Alex Ich" Ichetovkin and Alberto "Crumbzz" Rengifo will be joining forces to form a new Challenger team. The team will be owned and financed by Chris Badawi - a former lawyer who was formerly in the running to pick up Curse Academy.

Rengifo and Ichetovkin will be joined by Maria "Yuno" Creveling in the support position. Creveling previously played for Team Roar’s bottom lane alongside Shan "Chaox" Huang.

The AD Carry and Top lane positions have yet to be finalized, but the team is currently scrimming with Ritchie "Intense" Ngo (AD Carry) and Oleksii "RF Legendary" Kuziuta (Top lane). Badawi states that the scrims so far have been going great but that the team is still considering all available options and accepting applications.

The team’s name is still to be determined, but Badawi states that they’re happy to accept name suggestions via this email:  helpusnameourteam@yahoo.com.

The Score had a mini Q&A with Chris Badawi.

Q. Greetings Chris, so first off - what was the inspiration behind forming the challenger team?

I was a lawyer in New York doing patent litigation and one day I got run over by a car and almost died. Facing the end of your life is the best way to see where you want your future to go and I realised that I really didn’t want to do patent law anymore. I’ve always been a gamer at heart - not a very good one - but it has always been in my heart. So when I saw that there was a massive opportunity to create real business in this industry, I figured that I owed it to myself to try.

Q. So how did you get in touch with Crumbzz and Alex?

So initially, I was in the running to purchase Curse Academy from Steve Arhancet. I got outbid but I formed a relationship with Steve and during that process he invited me to work with Liquid for a couple of weeks and see what it is that I wanted to get out of the scene. Steve opened a lot of doors for me and really welcomed me into the scene. I made a lot of great connections and met a lot of good people. After my experience with Liquid, I decided to create my own team and we parted on good terms. Steve was really wonderful throughout the whole process.

I saw Crumbzz left Dignitas, had drinks with him and talked about what we wanted out of the future. We wanted to create something that was really player centric - less of a company and more a family, something like the early Cloud 9 - a bunch of guys doing something that they loved. The scene is so competitive and there is so much money involved that there is a lot of pressure on these guys and a lot of the times their love of the game diminishes. Overall I think it is possible for players to play this game for a living and have fun doing it.

I decided I wanted to create an atmosphere and a team where they felt like they were part of an organization - something they were proud of and were personally invested in the outcome of how the organization does and Crumbzz really liked the philosophy. So he and I together started talking about what kind of team we wanted and what kind of roster we wanted. Crumbzz suggested Alex and I talked with Alex to see if he was contracted to any team. He said he wasn’t and so we ended up getting Alex. Crumbzz and Alex are two of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. Any team with these two kind, professional and distinguished personalities at its core will be an absolute pleasure for all involved - not to mention Alex is a legend and Crumbzz has been in the scene from the start.

So with this philosophy in mind, I started to search for other players and found Yuno. All three of us agreed that she was a diamond in the rough. We’re now three strong and still looking to solidify the rest of the roster. We have plenty of time until the Challenger Series qualifiers.

Q. What are you looking for in those roles?

Again, with this philosophy in mind, it’s of paramount importance that they’re not just a player who talks - they’re somebody who would be your friend and you’d want to wake up and see everyday. Somebody that creates an atmosphere of joy and not tension.  Obviously, pure mechanical skill and game knowledge is a requisite.

Q. You stated that that you saw an opportunity to create real business but then you stated you wanted to create a family, do these two not clash stylistically? How do you aim to be a family and a real business?

When I was working within the LCS I noticed that there was a lot of pressure and expectations on the players and that personality seemed to be taking a backseat to skill alone. I wanted to create an environment where players felt more a part of the organization and less like an employee. My goal is to create a team where players feel valued and appreciated and I believe that the organization can be profitable with that mentality.

That isn’t to say that we won’t bench people for underperforming, but we won’t ignore their feelings either. It’s rather a place where players feel heard and have a personal stake in the success of their business. I’m planning to implement a profit sharing model.

Q. You mentioned in your previous answer that you were planning to implement a profit sharing model - could you elaborate a bit more on this and how do you plan to avoid the pitfalls that ex-Alternate had in 2013?

Its tentative and a work in progress. But ultimately I can envision a system where the players compensation grows as the organization grows.  What I believe that perhaps some in the scene do not, is that the players essentially are the organization.  I just think they should be treated as such.

In terms of avoiding pitfalls, the profit share would belong to the spot, not the player. For example. each player on the active roster is entitled to a base salary + X percent of org profits (however we decide to calculate that). So a player would have to be on the active roster to obtain a profit share

Q. Lets move on to infrastructure. What infrastructure do you plan on implementing?

Regarding staff - we’re looking at a number of different coaches. We’ve been working with different people and seeing who we work the best with. There is still a lot of time left and we believe that there are a lot of great people out there - many who are committed to other things that may become available, so we haven’t committed to any staff at the present.

In terms of facilities, we’ll get a gaming house near the Los Angeles area once we get into the Challenger Series.

Q. What is the team’s name?

We haven’t decided on a team name yet. It’s important to me that the members feel that the team is theirs - as well as the staff. Once the roster is finalized, we’ll see what the community has come up with and decide together. Alex was particularly excited about NA 5.

Q. Thanks for answering all these questions - is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to express my gratitude to Steve Arhancet for opening all these doors for me and that I couldn’t be happier to work with the people I’m working with. These are some of the best people I’ve ever worked with. It’s exciting and all very fun.

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HTC eSports: 'It is becoming difficult to justify our investments into the [LoL] scene'

by 4d ago

HTC eSports is the latest organization to comment on controversial statements made by Riot Games President Marc "Tryndamere" Merrill and other Riot officials earlier this week about the long-term sustainability of League of Legends esports and its attractiveness to outside sponsors. In a statement on Facebook, HTC said that largely because of Riot's policies, it is becoming more difficult for mainstream sponsors to justify sponsoring teams in the LCS.

The post specifically addresses a Reddit comment made Wednesday by director of esports Whalen "Magus" Rozelle, which said Riot was opposed to a sponsor YouTube video made by Team SoloMid and HTC. The video shows TSM's LCS team playing the HTC Vive game Raw Data.

Magus said in his comment that the video was "a [tacit] advertisement for another game." "This is against LCS rules because LCS isn't a platform for other game companies to advertise on," he wrote. "Yes, this means there's a category that teams don't have access to but for any sport, letting quasi competitors advertise on the league doesn't make sense."

Rule 3.7 of Riot's official LCS rulebook states that teams are completely unrestricted in terms of what sponsors they are allowed to secure. Rule 3.7.6 lists "products or services from direct competitors" as one of the sponsors that are restricted in terms of being displayed by players at certain times, however the rule lists those times as: "the use or play of LoL, adjacent to LoL related material, the LCS, or any Riot-affiliated events."

While the rule does not explicitly ban players from participating in a video affiliated with what could be construed as a competitor, it does state that "LCS officials have the ability to update the category list at any time."

HTC said in its post that Riot threatened TSM with a fine if the video was not removed. The sponsor wrote that it was not "strategically trying to circumvent" Riot's policies, and that the video was part of a series which featured TSM's players playing various Vive games, which they claim the team chose themselves.

"Survios, the creators of Raw Data, did not make any financial investment into the production of the video, nor did they approach us to get it made," HTC wrote. "TSM selected Raw Data themselves after reviewing a list of Vive games as they felt it would resonate most with their fans."

HTC did admit that it is logical that Riot does not want LCS pros to bring attention to their competitors. However, they asked for a clarification of what Riot's policies explicitly prohibit. As an example, they asked what the difference is between an LCS player streaming Deus Ex and an LCS player making a YouTube video of them playing a Vive game. According to HTC, those kinds of questions are making it more difficult to justify their sponsorships in the League of Legends space.

"If Riot does not want us making videos that feature our sponsored players playing other games, we do not have many options for showcasing our products," HTC stated.

"Sponsors are now very limited in what we can do to market our brand and products while still supporting the League of Legends scene."

HTC also noted that the r/leagueoflegends subreddit does not allow HTC to post their LoL-themed ads, though Riot has no official affiliation with the subreddit, and their policies are outside of Riot's control.

"As one of the first major non-endemic sponsors in the West, we believe we have helped pioneer marketing in esports, and we’ve loved every second of it," HTC stated. "But with less avenues for advertisement in League of Legends, stemming from the restrictions on the teams and players, restrictions on the subreddit, and the lack of available marketing opportunities at competitions, it is becoming difficult to justify our investments into the scene."

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

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MonteCristo on the LCS revenue debate: Riot's 'like some sort of f***ed-up tyrant Santa Claus'

by 6d ago

In a lengthy video posted Tuesday morning, OGN LoL caster and Renegades co-owner Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles weighed in on the debate that has broken out between LCS team owners and Riot Games about how teams and players earn revenue in LoL esports.

MonteCristo, whose LCS team was forced to disband earlier this year after Riot ruled it had inappropriate connections with Chris Badawi and Team Dragon Knights, was not shy about his frustration with how Riot's current policies have affected organizations' ability to generate revenue and pay their players.

"There has been no sponsorship revenue sharing for the league," he said. "The sponsors are tapped out. The endemic sponsors, they're not going to give any more money for League of Legends. Most teams are losing money, maybe one or two teams are making a razor-thin profit from LCS."

He claimed that Riot's policies about how and where an organization's sponsors can be featured has not only limited investments made by current sponsors, but has also made the LCS an unattractive option for potential new entrants.

The debate over how Riot's esports policies have affected team owners and outside investors broke into the public spotlight yesterday when Riot co-owner Marc "Tryndamere" Merrill replied to an interview with Team SoloMid co-owner Andy "Reginald" Dinh.

RELATED: TSM's Reginald responds to Riot's Tryndamere: 'It’s irrational to invest even more money into LCS, given how restrictive LCS is'

Reginald argued in the interview that Riot's decision to release a major patch after the LCS regular season, but ahead of playoffs and the World Championship, has hurt the high-level competitive environment. He said the constant reinvention of the game makes it hard for players to find consistent, healthy employment with a competitive organization.

Tryndamere countered in a written response on Reddit that Reginald had the power to decide how his players were reimbursed, and accused him of shifting profits to investments in other esports rather than paying more for LoL players.

MonteCristo rebuked Tryndamere in his video, saying that the money team owners use to pay players is ultimately controlled by Riot and that, in situations where Riot already provides money to players, they've chosen not to increase that amount.

"Maybe if you're concerned with the financial health of the players, Tryndamere, you should pay them more money," he said. "Maybe you should raise a stipend. You haven't raised a stipend for the players since 2013."

The Renegades owner argued that the rules surrounding sponsorships need to change to enable more outside investment, and that Riot should consider a revenue-sharing proposal that would see teams and players benefit from Riot's sponsorships. His video doesn't go into detail about what a solution might look like.

MonteCristo also claimed that the threat of relegation already forces teams to offer as much as they can to acquire the best players, so that they do not lose their LCS spot and forfeit their investment. "In a system where relegations exist, teams will always be trying to pay the players the maximum amount that makes sense, because otherwise you lose everything," he said.

He called Riot and Tryndamere hypocrites, claiming that they were telling teams to spend more on players while underpaying their own broadcast talent. MonteCristo and his fellow OGN casters have raised the issue of unfair treatment by Riot in the past, for example when they boycotted the Mid-Season Invitational for allegedly offering substandard wages. In a Tweet Monday morning, he said the current debate gave him more reason to believe a caster's union is needed.

In Tryndamere's original Reddit post, which he later edited, he suggested that Reginald and TSM were "losing money" by investing in other esports. MonteCristo attacked this statement in his video, saying there was no way for Riot to know whether teams were turning a profit from titles like Counter-Strike or Overwatch. (Renegades has an active roster in CS:GO.)

"I don't know how Riot got this idea," he said. "They never asked me, as a team owner, how I was doing, where my sponsorship money was coming from. And I would have told them that — for me personally and I think this is true for a lot of teams — that sponsorship in CS:GO and the potential of Overwatch was much more exciting for sponsors. And it was getting increasingly difficult to field good sponsorships and make good money off of an LCS team."

MonteCristo took special issue with a section of Tryndamere's response in which he separated teams into those with "good guy" owners like Reginald, and others at the "bottom end of the ecosystem."

"I hate this about Riot," he said. "They’re like some sort of f***ed-up, tyrant Santa Claus, where you get put on the naughty or nice list for all-time, and they decide ‘he is good, he is bad. I guess Regi’s one of the good guys. I don’t really know what that means in this context."

MonteCristo is unlikely to be the last to weigh in on the debate. Reginald posted a full response to Tryndamere's comments Tuesday, and commentator Duncan "Thorin" Shields has promised a video response in the near future.

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury kindly asks you not to feed the Volibear. You can find him on Twitter.

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MarkZ on why he quit coaching: 'A lot of players in the scene have very bad attitudes'

William "scarra" Li 5d ago

Mark "MarkZ" Zimmerman has been busy since his departure from coaching Team Liquid, creating his own show, "The Blame Game," and often appearing as one of the main guest analysts for the weekly NA LCS broadcasts.

After Team SoloMid's 3-0 sweep of Counter Logic Gaming in Sunday's semifinal, William "scarra" Li chatted with MarkZ about why he's happier than ever since leaving coaching behind and get his prediction for the upcoming third-place and grand final matches.

For more video interviews and highlights, be sure to subscribe to theScore esports on YouTube.

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Re-Ward Here: A Guide to Toronto for the NA LCS Finals

by 5d ago

For those who don’t know, theScore esports is based in Toronto, Canada. So with the 2016 NA LCS Summer Split finals taking place in our city, who else would be better to give you some tips to get around?

We present to you our guide to help you make the most of your trip to Toronto.

For more video interviews and highlights, be sure to subscribe to theScore esports on YouTube.

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Thorin responds to Tryndamere: 'Riot have this ridiculous worldview, this insane God Complex'

by 5d ago

Duncan "Thorin" Shields has waded into the controversy surrounding Riot co-founder Marc "Tryndamere" Merrill after he criticized TSM owner Andy "Reginald" Dinh on Reddit, with a 50-minute video.

Thorin wades through many topics in the lengthy missive, but reiterates many points made by both MonteCristo and Reginald himself in their responses to Tryndamere's comments.

RELATED: MonteCristo on the LCS revenue debate: Riot's 'like some sort of f***ed-up tyrant Santa Claus'

"First and foremost, this idea, that like, if Regi’s concerned about the financial health of his players, he should spend his own profit from League of Legends on paying them," Thorin said. "I mean, again, that’s not just the way that salaries work in the world, you don’t just take your own profit and then for no reason pay the player."

He goes on to talk about how Riot's strict control over the LCS, unfriendly attitude towards sponsors, and stagnant prize pools and stipends do not incentivize teams to reinvest in LoL.

Thorin calls on Riot to "explain to us the mechanism by how investing more money gets you more money, by which you can then pay the players more money from. Explain how the cycle works, Marc Merrill and Riot, you haven’t done that whatsoever so far."

According to Thorin, Riot remains reluctant to reinvest into the LoL esports scene through avenues such as revenue sharing and sponsorships, because their own main revenue stream remains micro-transactions within the game itself

"The truth is, as I’ve mentioned before, Riot have only really, if you look at their actions, ever used League of Legends esports as advertising for League of Legends the casual game," he said.

To hear Thorin's thoughts in full, as well as an apt reference to The Lord of the Rings, you can see the complete video here.

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. Follow him on Twitter, it'll be great for his self-esteem.

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