Muddawg on 100 Thieves doubling down on Battle Royale
Published on March 15th, 2019
100 Thieves has made a name for itself through signing promising rosters in League of Legends and Call of Duty, but it’s betting big on Battle Royale. Shortly after the organisation doubled down on Fortnite and entered Apex Legends, GINX Esports TV spoke to Eric “Muddawg” Sanders, Head of Esports Operations for 100 Thieves about the reasons for the recent signings. What exactly does your role in 100 Thieves encompass when it comes to expanding into a title? I work with our internal team to evaluate a game to see if we’re going to enter into it. Recruiting, player evaluation, and handling contract negotiations are all part of my role in the organisation, on top of daily esports operations. So there's a lot of discussion surrounding like Battle Royale titles, their statuses as esports have been discussed ever since they've come about, people have questioned it because of the random elements and the amount of players in the game and such. So what do you think about it as an esport? To be completely candid my first thought - and this is before I had any true knowledge or expertise in the scene - was that RNG is pretty annoying to deal with. As I started learning the titles better and started to understand top tier competitive play, I realised that the players are really good at limiting that element. Especially in a game like Fortnite with building, sometimes you just get caught off with positioning, but most of the time the players are aware enough to control this. The players have got to a point where they're able to like really mitigate that to the best of their ability and then Apex Legends is the one that’s less predicated on RNG. Other than a couple of the weapons in the game, you can kill anyone with any weapon if you have a higher tier of mechanical skill than them. So I think they did a really good job of implementing a power curve with the weapons but still making it fair for those who are more skilled. I think developers are doing a really good job at mitigating the randomness and letting the players' talent show. https://twitter.com/100thieves/status/1103385563997003776?s=21 Obviously 100 Thieves has had Fortnite players for months and recently you’ve doubled down on the amount of players on the team. Is this purely based on the recent announcement of the $30 million Fortnite World Cup or just because you have faith in the game? It was a mix of both, we were evaluating the game for months prior to that announcement. So, when I first joined, Fortnite was a big priority for me. But since I didn't come from that esport – I played Fortnite casually with friends but that’s about it – I watched a ton of competitions and player streams. When you're recruiting for a game you really need to understand it at the top tier level. I spent a few months watching a ton, talking to a lot of competitive players, our players and just other people I knew in the industry to learn who some of those top level and best mechanical players are. The World Cup announcement ended up coming around the same time as when we found some great players. So yeah, the event played a factor in it but we were expanding in Fortnite either way. Would you say you're happy with the results of your Fortnite team up until this point? Because obviously you’d not quite had the same level of success in terms of placements of like Ghost Gaming and FaZe Clan? We're definitely looking to improve placements and our overall performance - that really drove a lot of the reasoning behind these recent recruitments. Something that we realised is that in BR titles you need to have a little bit of a deeper roster, but because of the RNG in these titles, even the best players aren’t going to win every single time. So by expanding our roster with very talented players who can play at the top, it gives us a much better chance to have competitive success. How did you find these top tier players that you wanted to sign in Fortnite? With Ceice and Elevate, they won the WSOE tournament down in Long Beach, California around the holidays. I was visiting family for Christmas and the day I got back, I landed and checked that out. I saw them win there, that was what really put them on my radar. With Kyzui, he placed fourth at the Secret Skirmish and that obviously put him in our sights. Two big things for me are personality and cultural fit because when we sign people to 100 Thieves, we do our due diligence and take our time with doing it. But once we sign them, we really believe in them and view everyone that we sign is a long term fit. It's a combination of their skill, their performance, their personality and character - a little bit of everything. A lot of these players are between 16-18 so you want to find guys with good heads on their shoulders that you can help grow from a competitive perspective, and their brands as well. https://twitter.com/100thieves/status/1100863138906365952?s=21 What's the thought process behind signing players for Apex Legends, and are all of those who you signed on board as competitors? We have Teenage and Lifted who are purely competitive players. Gigz, we view him as a mix of a competitor and a content creator. He has a pretty strong following and averages a good amount of viewers already. Getting into a game like Apex Legends where there’s not a competitive scene yet, we really believe in the title and I think what's really important, especially in new games, to be one of the first movers. If you sit around and wait, a lot of the top talent might get picked up. And while we're not 100% positive on what the Apex Legends competitive scene is going to look like, we're pretty confident that there's going to be some form of a competitive scene coming. So we wanted to get our foot in the door and get a few top tier guys that we really believe can do well from a competitive point of view. We're sort of evaluating the next steps and what it looks like in terms of getting a full team but, as you said, there’s not a full competitive scene yet, so we're very much paying close attention and continuously evaluating. Do you think Fortnite’s explosive entrance has changed the way organisations will enter games, such as the likes of Apex Legends in the future? I think you're going to see more teams pick up multiple players straight out of the gate. I think we’ll see some organisations take a shotgun approach and throw a bunch of darts at the board and hope some of those players pan out. One of the biggest differences with Fortnite is that Epic Games is constantly changing the format and the player count and they let players know last minute about tournament formats. I think that Fortnite is a very unique beast. Right now the only way you can play Apex Legends is in groups of three so you're not going to deal with situations like in Fortnite where they’ve made one of my players play with someone else, for example. I think you're going to see a more stable player count and competitive system there so I think Fortnite is unique is that sense. A big part of 100 Thieves entering a title is the game evaluation, such as what type of staying power we think it will have. With our organisation, when we sign players we want them here for the long term. We want to really believe in them. So I don't think we're going to just sign randomly for any game and hope we get a few people, but if the game has promise – whether that’s competitive value or streaming value – we would certainly make a move into it. 100 Thieves will be in action this weekend across both the LCS and at CWL Fort Worth, from which our very own Adam Fitch will be reporting live from the arena. If 100 Thieves sees as much success in BR as they have in League of Legends and Call of Duty, we may see some incredible achievements coming from the LA-based franchise.