Interview video time stamps and topics:
1:40: The story beyond Maida's 'Buyaka' gaming tag
4:55: On hosting Toronto Raptor Lucas Nogueira to play some CS
7:13: How MLB pitcher Trevor May got signed to Luminosity
8:32: 'It's one of my dreams to be the official esports team of Toronto'
11:25: On Blizzard's Overwatch League
13:32: How Steve Maida founded Luminosity Gaming
15:33: Finding LG's original Brazilian CS:GO squad (now SK Gaming)
17:31: On LG's current CS:GO roster, and why he chose all Brazilians
21:31: 'It's kind of like a power struggle': The over-saturation of CS:GO events
23:25: On the problems with the NA CS:GO scene
28:14: Why LG fields teams in everything from WoW to SMITE
32:00: Signing players to long-term contracts
34:37: Maida on being a 'hands on' leader
36:48: Final shoutouts to LG fans, sponsors and the city of Toronto
With a geographically-based Overwatch league on the horizon and talk of franchising the League of Legends Championship Series going on for years, theScore esports sat down with Luminosity Gaming founder Steve Maida to ask: Will city-based, franchised esports actually work?
The LG founder made an appearance on theScore esports Podcast Monday to talk about everything from his journey from a kid begging his mom to drive him to local LAN tournaments, to launching an internationally-known esports org.
He also spoke on Blizzard’s upcoming Overwatch League — the promised first-of-its-kind esports league to feature city-based teams.
Though the idea of a geolocated league comes with a few obvious advantages for teams and their venture capital backers, the LG founder said it’s still too early to tell whether buying a league slot would be a worthwhile investment.
“We saw some of those numbers that are being floated around — $10, $20, $30 million — I’d be curious to see what Blizzard’s plan, because they’re asking for that investment, what their plan is for the ROI [return on investment],” he said. “Once I see those details I’ll have a better answer for you.”
The fact that Overwatch is still unproven as a viewership draw is also a problem.
“It’s yet to be seen if the viewership is actually there and if it’s a sustainable esport,” said Maida. “If you look at APEX … that was the first time we’ve seen crazy, crazy viewership where it’s actually been substantial, like 70,000 plus across a couple channels, but that’s in Korea, in Asia,” he said.
“Let’s see what happens in America. I haven’t seen a tournament run here [in NA] where the numbers have been astronomical; where those kind of numbers make sense. But let’s see.”
But even with precious few details on league structure and an untested market appeal, a geographically-based esports league has some inherent attractiveness, Maida said.
“In terms of the opportunity I think it’s exclusivity … that’s luring these big companies into the market,” he said. “And the fact that it’s going to be done on such a large scale and it’s going to be regulated, unlike Counter-Strike where anyone can do whatever they want almost. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity. I’m excited for the plan that they have in the future.”
Then there’s the local fan factor that a geolocated league could leverage. Regionally-based teams, whose rosters share a common country of origin, have seen great success in international esports like CS:GO. Just think of Danish titans Astralis, Polish powerhouse Virtus.pro, or the all-Brazilian squad from SK Gaming.
“You’re going to have representation in North America, and a North American fan is not going to cheer for a Korean team. They want a team here,” noted Maida.
As for whether there’s a danger of one region, like Korea, dominating the league, “it depends on what Blizzard makes of the rules for players coming in from Korea and China,” said Maida. “If they want to limit it to where you have to play in your region, I don’t think it’ll be an issue.”
When asked whether Luminosity would be gunning for a hypothetical spot in their home base of Toronto in Blizzard’s Overwatch league, Maida played it casual through a wry smile.
“Those conversations are ongoing, and we’ll see where it goes,” he said. “I think the city’s definitely ready for an esports team to be representing them.”
Colin McNeil is a supervising editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.