Running an esports organisation is not a cheap exercise. The biggest teams in the world often need multiple big investors or funding rounds to bring in the millions of dollars needed to pay players, build training facilities, and travel to all corners of the globe for competition (when there isn’t a pandemic goin on).
So when people heard that California-based Gamer Republic had shown interest for a franchise spot in the LCK – Korea’s top League of Legends competition – they were dubious. Why? Because it was to be the world’s first attempt at a fan-funded, fan-owned, and fan-managed esports team. It would be an uber-democratic operation in which each investing fan could vote on decisions within the team, such as which players to sign, which coach to bring on board, and even which champions to pick and ban in competitive matches.
The information about the project gives an incredibly detailed overview about how decisions would be made, what tiers of membership fans can purchase, and how its elaborate rewards system worked.
However, it appears fans are still sceptical about the idea as fundraising efforts on the company’s Kickstarter have currently been suspended a long way off of the enormous initial target of $10 million. This suggests that, maybe, Gamer Republic’s CEO and the man behind this avant-garde idea, Ryu Jiwan, has bitten off more than he can chew.
Just before donations for the project were suspended, Jiwan took some time to answer some of our burning questions about his vision of a fan-owned franchise in the LCK.
When asked whether a team managed and controlled by League of Legends fans could out-perform established teams in the Korean scene like T1, Jiwan admits that his team would be a slow burner, but that it would eventually be in a position to compete at the very top level.
“I don’t think we can beat other teams in the first year,” he tells The Loadout. “All teams don’t fit in at first and need time to settle. We believe it will take two years for our system to be in place and working properly. By that time, our team will have overwhelming data analysis skills and systems that other teams do not have. In most studies, collective intelligence shows better results on average than a single person’s judgment. From 2023, I think we’ll be able to surpass the other teams in the league.”
Jiwan also tells us that over the next few weeks he will be pitching the idea to investors, which he believes won’t contradict the idea of a fan-owned franchise.
“If the condition of an investment is to give up being “fan-owned” I have no intention of receiving the investment,” Jiwan says. “I just want to implement the model I proposed, not to be the new owner of the LCK team. If there is an investor who can help me implement my new idea, I would like to work with them to create that future.”
He also plans to pitch the project to investors by likening it to a “game,” which he calls “Real Time MMO LoL Team Manager.”
While Gamer Republic’s vision is a revolutionary concept, it appears it isn’t enough to convince the LoL community to actually part with its cash. Even so, its brainchild remains optimistic that a fan-owned team can work in an ecosystem of big investment.