Tempo Storm's GM on franchising: 'Now that really good owners are in the league, it really stresses them out to have to play to avoid relegation'

by theScore Staff May 31 2017

Interview video time stamps and topics:

4:42: Taking Reynad to the Playboy Mansion
8:07: The ins-and-outs of working at Tempo Storm
9:32: LCS franchising
12:36: On what it'll take for Tempo Storm to get a league spot
24:39: Echo Fox/Delta Fox scrimming controversy
35:47: Tempo Storm and the FGC
40:05: Being a support sub on Tempo Storm's Overwatch team
46:53: Tempo Storm and the Overwatch League

Tempo Storm might be best known as the heart of Hearthstone, but the organization has teams in several esports including: Overwatch, Vainglory, Super Smash Bros. and a LoL team in the NA Challenger Series.

Robert Del Papa, Tempo Storm's general manager stopped by theScore esports' podcast to talk franchising, scrimming and the time he took TS's CEO and Hearthstone pro Andrey "Reynad" Yanyuk to the Playboy Mansion.

Click or tap here to listen in on SoundCloud.

Find theScore esports Podcast on iTunes.

In fact, it was that visit to the house Hefner built that helped Del Papa, who previously worked with the fantasy site FanDuel, secure his current position with the organization.

"After we met up a few times, I brought him as my plus one to the Playboy Mansion," Del Papa said. "FanDuel holds their annual finals at the Playboy Mansion and I skipped my boss and went to the big boss and I'm like 'Yeah, I have this big partner. Real high-roller, I need to bring him in so I can close a deal.' Well it was Reynad, right? So Reynad was my plus one and we had some time there to have some fun, chat a little bit and I kind of knew at that point that Tempo Storm was the org I wanted to join."

As Counter Logic Gaming's former COO, Del Papa has a special interest in the League of Legends scene and has strong thoughts on the reported franchising of the NA LCS. Specifically, he believes that Riot is looking for people who are interested in the longevity of League of Legends, not those who are hoping to make a quick buck and get out.

"I think it was about having the right mix folks that are available to be in," Del Papa said. "Granted, they have said to some degree that it's not necessarily that if you're in the LCS, that doesn't necessarily guarantee you your spot, that's kind of an open topic currently. However, I think long ago there were more people coming in to make a quick buck, not here for the long-term. I think they want people who believe in League of Legends as a long play. They need to share those rights, the broadcasting rights and the other revenue streams because it's kind of stagnated."

RELATED: Riot aim to start NA LCS franchising in 2018 Season, current teams not guaranteed spots: sources

Del Papa believes that one of the biggest factors that stresses out potential LoL owners is the ever present threat of relegation. If a team plays poorly one split or the team can't develop the proper talent that is needed, a major revenue stream can be gone in the blink of an eye.

"The other thing is it really stresses... y'know, now that really good owners are in the league, it really stresses them out to have to play to avoid relegation and so they can't make the strategic acquisitions of players or develop talent quite as well. They have to always have that Sword of Damocles over their head."

However, for Tempo Storm to secure a spot in the theoretical franchised LCS, it will take a lot more than a plus one to the Playboy Mansion.

"It might cost a little more than that you guys ... Maybe I need to get one of those trips to the moon with Elon Musk or something. Maybe that'll get us in, I don't know.

"That's why we created a team in NA CS," said Del Papa. "I definitely talked to Reynad about being acutely aware that this will be a difficult battle guys. Meaning there are a lot of really good brands in now. A lot of the teams are really strong, looking to even qualify or promote is not a guarantee that you're in. Even doing that, being a winning team, you have to be a winning team and winning brand. I certainly think we're a winning brand. Hopefully we're also a winning team. that's pretty important too."

A LoL insider, Del Papa also weighed in on rumors he heard about Echo Fox eschewing scrims against all teams except their NA CS sister team, Delta Fox. Though he repeatedly stressed that he has not confirmed this with EF, Del Papa thinks that they are trying to fight against the system and show that they can get things done their own way.

"I'm not on the ground floor of these things, like I said, but I have heard certain rumors basically that Echo Fox is unhappy with the way things are being run and they've been kind of a standout from the franchise model, potentially. And again, I cannot confirm these things directly from Echo Fox. And essentially, they believe it to be a stronger model to basically show their... rather than like toeing the line, they want to take a firm stand on the way they run their business. And to go further from that, those are only things I've heard from speculation. Knowing, having talked to Rick and knowing a little bit about Jace, they definitely are leaders in the sense of like they want to run things the way they want to and I actually respect that part about them a lot."

Possibly the biggest issue facing any esports team, including Tempo Storm, is the development of the Overwatch League. While Blizzard has yet to reveal how much a spot in the league would cost, Tempo Storm is definitely interested in participating in some form or another according to Del Papa.

"Overwatch is something that I personally have a high interest in, and Reynad and I have gone back and forth on our opinions as to what's going on," said Del Papa. "To be as direct as I can and careful with what I'm saying, we definitely want to be in. I don't think anyone would say that they would not.

"Let's assume that it is an expensive endeavor to do that," Del Papa continued. "It doesn't make financial sense necessarily for an org of our size to go in directly. But again, there's the potential for partnership with someone else that could be a thing that would happen."

But would Tempo Storm go for an Overwatch League spot directly?

"Being as careful as I can, for us to be owning a slot directly, I'd say that's probably unlikely," Del Papa said.

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.