Excel Esports CEO Wouter Sleijffers reveals need for new logo and focus - Dexerto
Business

Excel Esports CEO Wouter Sleijffers reveals need for new logo and focus

Published: 12/Nov/2020 15:00

by Adam Fitch

Share


Excel Esports are a leading British esports organization and they’ve just changed their logo for the second time in as many years, returning to an instantly-recognizable “XL” marking.

In January 2019 they were accepted as one of 10 long-term teams in the LEC — the premier European League of Legends competition — and they unveiled a new logo to signal a new era.

November 12’s brand refresh is another indication that Excel Esports are entering their next iteration, though this is to be expected for eagle-eyed fans considering the org have overhauled their leadership team over the past year.

From narrowly missing out on making the playoffs in the LEC 2020 Summer Split to signing 16-year-old Fortnite star Jaden ‘Wolfiez’ Ashman, they have grown from strength to strength since the updated brand was introduced but they’re not slowing down just yet.

Excel Esports Rebrand Wolfiez
Excel Esports
Wolfiez is a Fortnite champion that represents Excel Esports.

Now, Excel Esports are looking to become more than the “over-used ‘lifestyle’ esports brand” by “carving a new unique path” that prioritizes performance and purpose. Steering by a new slogan of ‘The Power of Better,’ the organization have a clear vision for the next few years.

Dexerto spoke with Wouter Sleijffers, who leads the org having previously served as the CEO of their domestic rival Fnatic, to get direct insight into their new logo and ethos, why the change was necessary, and what fans can expect moving forward.

A fresh lick of paint

Branding is a huge component of any company, providing a recognizable face for fans, and setting a precedent with potential clients as to what they can expect. Changing a visual identity isn’t a light decision for this reason, especially as a misstep could severely damage the future perception of your brand.

With this being Excel’s second logo change in under two years, they must have deemed it necessary for the future of the organization.

“I’m not worried to the point where it gives me sleepless nights but I’m very conscious that it’s a second update,” Sleijffers told Dexerto. “Esports and gaming are moving fast, it’s inherent that we need to adapt and evolve. I don’t like the word ‘esports’ because people make too many references to sports, with Liverpool having a 120-year-old logo and such. That’s not us.

“We care what our fans think about it but we also need to believe in what we’re doing and our future. The worst thing that can happen is people don’t give a sh*t and no doubt people will have varying opinions about this — I don’t expect everyone to immediately love it, but it’s our job to show what it’s all about.”

Excel Esports Old and New Logo
EXCEL
Pictured: the old logo (left) and the new logo (right).

It’s imperative for the team to show that they’re not changing entirely, instead just upgrading to give fans, potential supporters, and sponsors a better experience moving forward. The former Fnatic CEO is aware of this, but they drilled down to the very essence of what Excel as a brand is, what it stands for, and where he wants it to go.

“We’re still Excel, though we did even get to the point where we discussed whether we should still call ourselves Excel because of the spreadsheet program,” he explained. “We concluded that we are Excel, this is our world, and we’re confident about who we are. Excel has had an amazing journey in such a short time but we can’t be complacent, we still have a long way to go to reach the top. This is the first step in the next part of our journey.”

Why is now the perfect time for Excel to change their logo again? Since changing things up in January 2019, they’ve shown growth in League of Legends, made a landmark signing with Wolfiez, expanded their team, and secured an impressive partner in British telecommunications company BT. The operation behind Excel has changed dramatically in a short space of time and there’s further growth on the horizon.

“We started talking about the next evolution of the Excel brand at the time of [myself and CCO Robin McCammon joining in January 2020],” he said. “We dug in deep, I didn’t want to be just like Fnatic or FaZe Clan for example, we built it from the ground up and continued to build upon what drove Kieran and Joel [Holmes-Darby] to start Excel in the first place.”

The power of better

Driven by a clear mantra, Excel now have a clear purpose driving them — if they didn’t before. Nailing down exactly what drives those that are behind the company, as well are the players that represent them on the big stages, will theoretically help them fulfill their “commitment to improve” and use their “platform to have a positive impact on the wider gaming and esports community,” as per a press release.

Excel Esports Rebrand Wolfiez
Excel Esports
Wolfiez is the sole competitor for Excel in popular battle royale Fortnite.

So, what exactly does the CEO believe will change from here on out?

“We want to do really well in the games we compete in, that’s not a change in ambition but there’s a lot of work going into that,” he said. “They are great ideas but this is about execution, it’s about how well we’re going to do what we want to do for ourselves, our fans, and our talent. We’re letting go of what we see in sports — maybe at one stage esports took too many people from other industries — because this is gaming, there’s a lot of things I’ve questioned.

“This is also about coming up with a more interesting commercial proposition for brand partners like BT. Identity isn’t about updating the logo, it’s about building our DNA and that’s what we’re doing here.”

British brand with international ambitions

Co-founder and current chief gaming officer Kieran Holmes-Darby said around the time of their last rebrand that they have always been considered, and embraced, as the “plucky British underdog.” Is this still the case? With esports being a digital-first industry, that’s an irrefutable opportunity to access every major region on a global scale and keeping ambitions local could also be interpreted as intentionally limiting your potential fan base.

“We’ve gone from a UK esports organization to a British competitive gaming culture brand, there’s a ton of difference here,” explained Sleijffers. “The United Kingdom is a country with geographical borders, I see Britain from a cultural perspective.

“It’s amazing that Excel is based in Britain because it’s Britain is one of those few countries that has a big export industry from a cultural perspective. We don’t know what that is for gaming because nobody has done it yet. We want to define that culture, I can’t tell you what it’ll look like but it’s going to happen. Hopefully, we can be the voice of the British gaming and esports community across borders.”

Considering this refresh is considered the first step in a whole bevy of advancements for Excel, fans can expect plenty more announcements to come from the organization in the coming weeks and months. For now, the jury is out as to whether existing fans will embrace the new identity of their favorite team.

Columns

Adam Fitch: Sorry Dr Disrespect, mobile esports are thriving

Published: 27/Nov/2020 17:00

by Adam Fitch

Share


Earlier in November 2020, streamer Dr Disrespect spoke down towards mobile gamers on Twitter by questioning how it could be a “serious thing” — however, he’s just failing to understand how popular competition on mobile already is.

While mobile gamers and industry figures alike came to the defense of mobile gaming when the Two-Time took aim at the platform, there’s still a serious misconception around mobile esports and the success it’s already achieved.

Firstly, it’s worthwhile addressing the “serious” comment from Doc. While mobile devices perhaps don’t allow for precision that PCs do, there’s still a major skill gap between average and professional players and that lends itself perfectly to competition. The most common and widely-accepted definition of esports is a “video game played competitively for spectators,” mobile tournaments meet such a criteria on a daily basis and it’s already serious to hundreds of thousands of viewers on a weekly basis.

This skepticism from one of the faces of gaming is emblematic of a larger problem of platform elitism that plagues gaming on all levels. Ever since the popularization of esports there has been debate between console and PC gaming, centering around not only which type of players are better but whether console esports have unfair advantages due to features such as aim assist.

Ezreal in League of Legends Wild Rift
Riot Games
The most popular esports title, League of Legends, arrived on mobile in October 2020.

Tribalism is also a factor in this spritely, never-ending discussion, with players grouping together based on their platform of choice and nonsensically taking aim at those who have other preferences.

The only time in which such a debate would be productive is if cross-platform play is embraced in serious competition, which seems to be a long way away from ever becoming a reality. Fortnite developers Epic Games received plenty of criticism when implementing this feature in casual play, never mind in their esports activities, so it’s probably safe to assume no companies are rushing to make this a reality for the time being.

Infrastructure matters

Something that all good games need to be viable on a competitive level is infrastructure. Creating an appropriate structure for esports initiatives is important, whether it’s by a game’s developer or a third-party tournament organizer.

A great example of this in the realm of mobile esports is Clash Royale, one of the more popular titles from Finnish developers Supercell. The real-time strategy game has its own official team-based league from the company themselves, with top-tier gameplay spanning nine weeks and culminating in a year-ending world championship. This level of support and structure actually goes beyond what some PC and console games receive.

On the third-party organizer front, especially in the West, you only have to look as far as ESL to see how seriously mobile esports is being taken. As well as hosting regular online events for the likes of Call of Duty: Mobile, Clash of Clans, Brawls Stars, and Clash Royale, they have the ESL Mobile Open for elite players.

Clash Royale League World Finals
Supercell
The Clash Royale League World Finals are always a spectacle, rivaling events in almost any other game.

Recently incorporating the Middle East and North Africa into the European arm of the competition, it’s said that ESL hosted over 500,000 players in the inaugural season alone. The second season involves PUBG Mobile, Auto Chess, Asphalt 9: Legends, and Clash of Clans, and will be expecting even more success with the widening of the player base.

In North America, the Mobile Open from ESL is already in its sixth season and has a headline sponsorship from the world’s largest telecommunications company, AT&T. There are other examples of infrastructure being fleshed out for mobile titles, but you get the gist.

A sight for sore eyes

One major factor of how we define success in esports is viewership. With a healthy amount of eyeballs on a product comes sponsorship opportunities, bragging rights, and further validation that fans are interested in watching the elite face off against each other.

With that in mind, it’s never been clearer that mobile esports isn’t just a major part of the future of the industry — it has already arrived. According to analytics agency Esports Charts, mobile events made up three of the five most popular tournaments in October 2020. This happened alongside the League of Legends World Championship taking place, which is not only one of the most anticipated occasions in the esports calendar but as it turned out to be one of the only LAN events we’d seen in six months.

Garena Free Fire
Garena
Free Fire hit a record of 100 million peak daily users earlier in 2020.

Asia and Latin America are where mobile esports are truly thriving at the moment, rivaling the popularity of any other title you decide to compare them with. This is proven from last month’s peak viewership statistics, where MOBA title Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and battle royale game Garena Free Fire occupied three of the top five placements.

Ryan ‘Fwiz’ Wyatt, the head of gaming at YouTube, posted a thread on Twitter on November 26 backed up the sheer popularity of Free Fire on the platform. In 2019, it was YouTube’s fourth most-viewed game and it’s proving to have some longevity considering its monthly viewership peaked in October 2020.

While this level of success isn’t replicated across all regions just yet, that’s how esports typically work. Call of Duty and Counter-Strike are mainly popular among those in North America and Europe, for example, which is reflected in the demographics of both the top-level players and the viewership alike. The same applies to mobile but it’s not an excuse for ignorance.

The future?

Mobile devices are generally more accessible than a high-end computer or new-generation gaming console so there’s a much higher ceiling on participation in mobile esports by default. Whether adoption from mobile users does indeed propel it into becoming the de facto competitive option is yet to be seen, but such potential can’t be ignored.

With viewership rivaling (and even oftentimes besting) that from console and PC esports alike, it’s sheer ignorance to state that mobile gaming isn’t already a major player in the industry. If you fail to see that from the investment that’s being funneled into mobile titles, or the number of people who already enjoy playing and spectating, then perhaps you’d like to argue that grass isn’t green too.