Steve Arhancet on Liquid+ "Our ultimate goal is to become the most recognized esports team in the world."

▲ Image Source: Gamepedia


Tuesday, August 10th, Team Liquid announced the launch of their new community outreach platform, Liquid+, which will change the way fans interact with their favorite team and players. Fans who make Liquid+ profiles will have their fandom recorded, and will level up by watching and interacting with Team Liquid in everything they do. 


Watching TL players stream, watching Liquid play in their professional matches, interacting on social media and Reddit, going to community events, and more will all be recorded in fans' profiles, allowing fans to keep track of all they've done and allowing Team Liquid to give back to them and show them recognition for their support. Liquid players will then have a platform that allows them to coordinate events with fans, like attending virtual concerts together, or paying for a meal and catching up in Discord over dinner.


Overall, Liquid wants to say thanks to their biggest fans and give them recognition and a way to further connect and interact with the players they love. You can read more about the Liquid+ platform and see videos and pictures here, and you can read an interview with Team Liquid co-owner, Steve "LiQuiD112" Arhancet, below.


▲ Liquid+ Homepage


Who came up with this, what was the original inception of Liquid+?


It was actually at one of the LCS tailgates that we used to do in person, where we were in the parking lot and we had those setups and stuff. There was this young woman there who saw me, and I could tell she recognized me. You could see that she was so excited, and she walked over and was shaking and said, "Oh my god, I can't believe I'm meeting you Steve, this is amazing. I've been a fan for so long! I followed you through Curse, I watched you play Soraka, I watched the LMQ match, and I've been supporting the org," and on and on.


And so I just thanked her and gave her a hug, but after that, I thought to myself, "Wow. I feel like an asshole. I had no idea who she was." She's buying merch, watching our players, subscribed to our Twitch channels, coming to the matches, cheering us on all geared out in TL stuff, and I just had no idea.


▲ Photo by Parkes Ousley


So our ability to recognize past a follower on Instagram or Twitter or whatever - it's bad how esports teams think about that. It's just to get followers and engagement on the social channels, but that's not enough. We need to be able to recognize that loyalty and fandom that has been expressed over the years, and that will be expressed to our players and organization. And we should be able to say thank you to them, and to her, and we should be able to do that regardless of geographical boundaries - we should be able to do that around the world. And every game that we're participating in where we have Team Liquid fans.


So that was the moment where we first realized we needed to fix this problem. So we decided to set a new standard by which teams recognize their fans, and we started an internal project team at TL to figure out what that might look like and it got to the point where we realized we needed to build a platform. So first we decided what we wanted it to not be. Because it could be a lot of different things and it was important that it was not a peer to peer platform. That's something that already happens in Discord communities, and it may happen alongside these experiences we have.


And second, we didn't want it to be a content hub where you'd have to go to get access to certain things that you wouldn't otherwise get access to. We didn't want to move traffic over from somewhere where they're already enjoying it to them then having to come here for that. No. The idea is that it purely is about recognition. So if a fan is cheering on the Discord channel, or cheering on Twitter, or replying to a player's tweet, or in someone's twitch channel, or commenting on our Reddit, etc. Whatever it might be, we see it all and we appreciate you! It's just that. And you'll be rewarded through earning certain statuses through TL.



Like maybe someday your name is carved out here at the Alienware Training Facility and memorialized. Or maybe at the ATF in Europe. Or if Hbox comes up with something that he wants to do with his fans, then cool! We'll do that. So it's mostly about recognition and being able to have unique experiences and sign up for those or know that you'd get that benefit. So we gleaned a lot from American Express, Delta, Starbucks and how they think about rewarding their customers. And that's what it was for us, recognition of fandomship.


And then, of course, it developed, like how are we going to finance this thing? It's going to take a lot of capital and time and focus, it'll become the heart of our organization where all these things that we do connect through it. And we were going to launch, but we got delayed, but we're finally here. And we're going to cap the initial registrations so we can work through some bugs and issues and stuff, but we're excited to finally reveal that we're going to redefine the standard in which esports teams communicate with their fans and lead the charge for other esports teams.  


▲ Image Source: ESL


Oh I definitely believe you're leading the charge. You just brought it up a little bit, but what were the hurdles concerning the financing piece, and how did you set it up to make it worth it - or even profitable? 


For us, the way we think about it is that our ultimate goal in the long term is to become the most recognized, largest esports team in the world that becomes multigenerational. It's not just about one influencer or particular leadership over one period, but it's a brand that's cheered for based on the group of teams and players and such.


So the way we see it is if we're able to build a substantial connected community within Team Liquid, then surely the enterprise value associated with the number of connections made, and the depth of those connections, is truly valuable, irrespective of generating revenue. It is important to create some sustainability with the platform too though. We put a lot of money in the development, and we'll have costs associated with the experiences we provide to the fans and the rewards they get. So to help offset those costs, a big solution is partners.


But not partners in the sense of going through and seeing a bunch of ads, but if Hbox wants to do something with a few select huge fans, maybe a partner wants to fund that experience. So when partners can come in and provide meaningful value in terms of the experience we provide to fans, that's where we can help generate some revenue to offset the cost of maintaining the platform. And then there's just the insular stuff like we'll probably sell more apparel and we'll have more eyes on the rest of our business.


But really, before we think about monetizing, we've got to get the experience right. We've got to make sure fans see the value in signing up and connecting. And if we get that right, if we get it right by region and by game, and if we get it right by the players and they see value out of it too, then that's when we can think more about monetization. If players think, "Wow, if I'm under Team Liquid I get all this and I can grow my fanbase and I know who they are and I can do things with them," then great! And that's the focus, and it will be for quite some time as we get it up and running and up to the standards that we have. 


▲ Photo by Parkes Ousley


So you mention you want to create a community, but you mentioned it wouldn't be peer to peer, so how do you create a community without having that aspect? 


So the peer to peer engagement is already happening in most social platforms. So if you're on Twitch and you want to participate in the community, you're in the Twitch chat. Let's say we curate an experience for all of our "X-status" users in the platform, we'd invite them to a private Discord and they'd all enjoy a music festival with X players. So they'll be able to connect in that Discord, but they don't need to be able to connect on the platform and send a message on Liquid+. They'll be able to connect around the experiences that are provided as benefits to our community which is where they'd have them otherwise; they won't feel forced to go and have these connections on the Liquid+ platform.


There's also a lot of data protection stuff and privacy too that I think it helps when we don't have the peer to peer. For instance, "I'm a Liquid+ user and I'm the most engaged fan of the Rainbow Six team, but I'm comfortable silently being that fan." Maybe they don't want to be recognized by their peers. They will know themselves, they can see that in their profile, but it's up to them if they want to be a part of our community through other channels - like Discord. 


▲ Photo by Parkes Ousley


So you mentioned player involvement as well. Are you already working with them on it? What has been their response so far? 


So we did an initial focus group session with every player about eight months ago. In those sessions, we showed prototypes of the platform, how they would use it, how it may help them create better connections with their fans, etc. and we got a bunch of feedback. Overall the sentiment was really positive. They were like, "Holy s***! You mean I could invite some people to come to do this cool thing? Or I could send my fans something?" That was pretty cool, they can't really do that today.


Then last month, we had another round of "Hey here's the platform, here's how you can use it." And there were a few who ignored it, saying they're just here competing - which is great, we want them to win! - but there is definitely a significant majority that are very excited about the platform and how we can create a space on Liquid+ for every player interested to then be able to recognize the fans that support them. 



What does the culture end up looking like through this platform? What is the hope for how it affects the TL community? 


The hope is that our community will feel more appreciated by knowing that Team Liquid is recognizing the actions that they're exhibiting, and maybe one day, even going to LCS we could have a little check-in that they came. So then the community will feel more connected and involved in who we are and what we are about. And they can enjoy being with other likeminded folks that enjoy a particular game or value of Team Liquid.


Or maybe they're in a particular region with other fans and we're doing something locally... Our community can find other common interests via the platform through the experiences we provide, and I think that creates a more connected tissue. Whatever experiences there might be, our fans should feel more connected to our players, the team, and each other. 


▲ Image Source: Team Liquid


You alluded to this earlier as well, but what happens with other esports teams in response to your launch? How does this set the tone for what we as an industry should be doing?


I hope that it sets a new standard by which teams have the responsibility to recognize the time invested by fans to the orgs and the players. I think it will show, "Wow, we can't just slap a logo on something, or just field a team and expect fans will come." We at Team Liquid have now engineered a way to give back and see the fans and talk with them in a better way. So I think it will push the teams to seek out their own solutions to create better communities. And I think that's good.


I think a lot of esports teams have struggled around that. They may think of their growth in terms of YouTube viewership, or the number of Twitter followers that they have. And they think that is an indication of their success when really the indication is the degree of engagement you have with each individual fan and the depth of that engagement and how far it goes and how long it lasts and if it's multigenerational and what it means... It plays more to the value of engagement and recognition than just pure numbers across third-party platforms that are not owned by the team. 


The multigenerational point is interesting because we have that in traditional sports. It proves how much you're thinking of the future and how big you can someday be. I guess this is just one step in that process. 


Yeah, exactly. If you think about our ability to win as much as we do with all the different games that we're in, now there's greater long term value associated with each win because they become closer to Team Liquid and the players and other fans than just watching. They can almost opt into being a part of a community that is conversational versus one that's not. And to create a community, it has to be multidirectional and I think a lot of teams don't do that. They're maybe expecting fandomship because of their success or content, but for us, we say we owe more than that. We need to be able to create experiences and recognize their loyalty through whatever means.


▲ Photo by Parkes Ousley


Other than just people responding positively when this goes live, what is the hope for the launch? What does a successful launch look like for you all?


I think listening to feedback from the users on the platform will be very important. We need to iron out kinks in the formula for Liquid+ points and how we budget experiences and the costs associated with those, how you accumulate them in order to be a certain status or gain access to experiences, etc. So we need to make sure all of that makes sense, but for me, success is being able to hear that feedback and being able to implement it before January.


And that's all on top of positive sentiment and the fans feeling recognized. "Oh I like this, I can see myself keeping my accounts connected." And people going from cheering for the League team to cheering for the League AND VALORANT team. Maybe they didn't like VALORANT, but now they do because there's Team Liquid there and other experiences and another community...


In our beta, we saw signs of that happening, where there might be a fan of one or two games who then started to watch other channels or follow more of our players and all of that kind of stuff. So that's another measure of success, being part of the holistic community.  


▲ Image Source: Clarin




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