Written By: Matthew Rondina
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Shane has extensive experience in the esports industry, he currently is the team manager for Raptors Uprising GC and Philip Balke professional FIFA player for the Toronto FC. He is formally the Chief Operating Officer of Luminosity Gaming and has worked with Unikrn as the Director of Sales and Partnerships.
Shane gave us an inside perspective on esports development in Canada and offered plenty of advice on how to get your professional gaming career off the ground.
Is the Bell Fibe House the first esports facility of it’s kind for MLSE?
Talbot: “This is unprecedented because we have never had a gaming house, or a gaming facility to reveal. MLSE is used to launch events for training facilities, with a lot of really large facilities including ones rolled out for TFC and the Raptors a few years back.
For me, this is the first time doing anything like this, I’ve had gaming houses in past lives but it’s always been secretive. There’s never been a notion of exposing it to the community in any sense and having a big sponsor tied to the naming rights of that facility, so we’ve always kept it pretty private.”
Who are some of partners that help the Raptors Uprising GC to train and compete?
Talbot: “Bell sponsors a number of things for us, in the Bell Fibe House they provide us with our internet connection and cable packages. We also have IBM, OLG is our jersey sponsor as we are launching a really amazing fan experience contest that we will be rolling out in the next few weeks.
On the endemic side of things we have Hyper X and DX Racer who are providing gaming chairs and peripherals. Alienware provides all of our gaming rigs, we’ve got top of the line Alienware PCs, 10 of them in the basement. My personal favourite monitors with 240 Hz refresh rates, so as someone who plays first person shooters, refresh rates on a monitor it’s absolutely huge. For 2K I think it definitely makes a difference, these guys say, ‘this is smooth.’ But for me playing Counterstrike and Overwatch that refresh rate — I went from 144 to 240 Hz when I go on these monitors and it’s a night and day difference.”
Where are you hoping events like this take esports in Toronto and all of Canada?
Talbot: “Toronto has always had an amazing esports community. I knew that when I would go up to the LANs at Durham College and there would be 500+ people who would carry up their rigs for a weekend long Counter Strike tournament to win a graphics card, you know, if you were first place.
It was the idea to get out there with like minded people from Toronto and meet other guys who you would usually only come across online.
I’m very excited to be part of MLSE now to be able to bring the resources, the clout and credibility of MLSE to be able to throw really big, top tier events in the Toronto esports community.
It makes sense to dip our toe in the water and get started with these games that are very relevant to our current sports teams. We are certainly focused on where the opportunities are going forward, to bring some really cool experiences to Toronto.”
Can you comment on any other sports based video games being brought into MLSE portfolio for future events?
Talbot: “We saw that the NHL just ran the NHL Gaming Championship out of Las Vegas, tied to the NHL Awards event. Which was great, they had over 20,000 concurrent viewers watching players 1v1 NHL, which to me sends a really strong signal for that game because if you follow the competitive community, they actually play 6v6 so the fact that 20K+ were willing to watch the 1v1 format, which was different than the competitive community is used to, I think is a really strong signal.
So, of course being the Toronto Maple Leafs we probably have the largest extended fanbase and we know that the NHL gaming community is really heavily concentrated in Canada. We would probably be the first in line to do something like NBA 2K League, but no indication that is necessarily going to happen yet.
I think they are doing what the NBA did and they are experimenting with some one off tournaments to figure out what their strategy is going to be. Other than that we’re definitely looking at the really big traditional or endemic games, we’ve always had our eye on Overwatch League and Fortnite is on our radar of course, it’s on everyone’s radar.
With the announcement of the Fortnite World Cup and the 100,000,000 in prize money, we are certainly considering where the opportunities might be for a world class operator like MLSE to get involved in bringing Fortnite to Toronto.”
For someone looking to break into esports what professional advice would you give them?
Talbot: “Do stuff, there’s so much opportunity. When I got the job [with MLSE] I can’t begin to tell you how many people reached out to me looking for a career. I told them, look you’re very sharp, I love how you approached me, it shows you have great networking and business development skills. But I’ve gotten dozens of resumes from people who have been blogging, on their own. I don’t care how many views they have, but the fact that they have been consistently writing a blog about their favourite game for 12, 24 months with no money attached to it shows they have a deep passion for it.
I met a guy who is a data scientist and really loves 2K and I said, the amount of opportunities you have to crunch the numbers around 2K just tweet it if you don’t feel comfortable blogging. If your not a writer, then just tweet what you are finding, whether they go viral or not if you do that for 12 months, I will have a much stronger case to make that you are the right person for a job with us.
Because the people we want in esports are not people that think this is the next big thing, we want people who have always known it’s going to be something huge and have a passion for it. There’s just so much opportunity for people to get started on that model and I think that if your not contributing in some way to gain experience from home, then you’re not proving that you’re hustling hard enough for a career in the industry.”
A special thanks to Shane, MLSE and the Raptors Uprising for taking the time to chat and open up their training grounds at the Bell Fibe House. Be sure to follow Shane and the rest of the team’s journey on raptorsuprising.nba.com, twitter, instagram and on twitch.
About the Author: Matthew Rondina
Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. Follow Matthew’s gaming adventures on twitter and join in on the fun!