T1 Polt on team operations and marketing: "In the West, I think that there are a couple things we can learn from TSM and Cloud9."

Image via T1

In the StarCraft 2 scene, the name Choi “Polt” Seong-hun is a standout one. Not only was he older than his fellow pro players, but he also divided his time during his career. Seoul University is ranked number one Korea, and to be able to graduate from such a university while winning six tournaments is not an easy feat. Polt is greedy for success.


After his mandatory military service in Korea, Polt returned to esports as the general manager for T1’s League of Legends team. This news created a lot of discussions within the broad LoL community. “How was Polt able to get such a position without experience and in T1, the most prestigious esports organization in Korea, at that?” The fact that his esports career was exclusively in StarCraft 2 added another layer of doubt to the voiced concerns.


To find out his thoughts, goals, and responsibilities, Inven approached Polt for an interview, who shared that when he got the offer, he contemplated countless times on whether or not he’ll do his job well. 


First and foremost, can you please introduce yourself to our readers?


Hello, my name is Choi “Polt” Seong-hun, and I’m the general manager for T1’s League of Legends team. My role at T1 requires me to create the best environment for player acquisition and development, internal and external communication, and career development.


It’s been two months since you’ve joined T1. When comparing your impressions about T1 before and now, which are some things that remained similar and which are different?


From an outsider’s perspective, there are countless reasons why T1 is so prestigious in this scene, so I was expecting certain things from them upon joining. T1 exceeded my expectations in that regard, so I was reassured.


On the flip side, because of such prestige, I always thought that I was going to struggle in meshing with the team. However, everyone, including all the players, has been very kind towards me, so I’ve been comfortable.


You stated that you’re in charge of player acquisition, development, and management. How do you rate T1’s performance so far?


To live up to T1’s prestige, our roster consists of players and coaches that are considered the best. Our goal for this year is to win Worlds. While we may not be first in the LCK Spring split right now, I believe in our team’s potential to win not only the Spring and Summer split but Worlds as well.


In some teams, the head coach of a team is in charge of communications, while T1 created a separate role for it with the general manager. Can you tell us more about your role?


We didn’t perform very well last year. By analyzing the various causes of our poor performance, and in our quest to find direction, we concluded that the players and the coaching staff want to 100% focus on their role. However, the head coach had too many responsibilities, as he had to strategize, communicate with the front, and even take care of his players.


That’s why I took on some of those responsibilities, so the coaching staff can focus solely on player nurture and strategy, and the organization can do things more efficiently overall.

Image via T1

Can you tell us some of your responsibilities?


I’ve helped create player acquisition and development plans for our CL (Challengers League) team. Also, alongside our academy head coach, Hong “Cella” Seung-pyo, we’re also actively scouting young prospects. In terms of our main roster, I’m in charge of the team’s scheduling, as well as communications, always striving to create a better environment for improved performance.


From T1’s main roster to the CL roster, to T1 Academy, there are a total of three teams that the org operates. What are some of the goals that each of these teams has and how are they interconnected?


Our main roster is striving to perfect their craft with the goal of becoming world champions, and our CL and academy team are running alongside them. Depending on the performance of the CL and academy players, they can be called up to the main roster.


Sometimes, players are required to take part in external activities, and because of them, there were various issues last year with regards to the players’ schedules. What are some of the steps that were taken in resolving such scheduling conflicts?


In that regard, we received a lot of criticism from our fans. After much internal discussion, we decided that while we can’t outright stop it, we can mediate it so that our players can focus more on the game.


The first thing that came to mind was that since T1 has many more teams outside of League of Legends, they can help alleviate some of the workload that the LoL roster has.


The second thing was using digitized versions of our players. It’s similar to K/DA, but with real people. This would mean that our players will ultimately spend less time on set, thus be able to focus more on their practice. Not only that, but it’ll also help to have efficient scheduling. 


During the off-season last year, Faker already finished shooting at a studio built by SKT and MS. Whenever the digitized Faker is ready, it’ll definitely help free up his player schedule.


"The digitized Faker" may go shoot ads for the real Faker (image via T1)

Some advertisers would want the player to be there in person. Will they be okay with this method?


It was a concern that also crossed our minds, and while some sponsors may want to work with Faker in person, others may also want to just watch him perform better, so I believe that this method definitely has its merits.

Can you also share post-retirement plans for your players?


Players all have different reasons behind retirement. Some may just want to call it quits, while others may have to serve their mandatory military service or just decide that they aren’t good enough.


At T1, we’re trying to stretch out our players’ careers as much as possible. From physical and mental care to acquiring world-class coaching staff, we’re providing our players with the best.


After players retire, there are various career choices that they take. BoxeR and Wolf are streamers under T1, and our CL head coach Bengi took on more of a leadership role. T1 is planning to branch out to other ventures, and we plan to actively continue our partnership with all of our retired pros. 


You stated that winning Worlds was the goal for 2021. However, compared to DWG KIA and Gen.G, T1 has been heavily underperforming. What do you believe are some solutions for improvement?


When you take a look at the five teams we faced so far, three of those teams are considered the best in the league at the moment. Those games themselves were very close, and we lost them due to mistakes made by the team at the very end.


I believe that with small tweaks, we should be able to go head to head against the strongest teams in the league. Our coaching staff is doing a great job in leading the team, and as long as the players can follow their leadership, I doubt there will be any major issues.


From my understanding, you spent a lot of time overseas, so you’re very fluent in English. Helping T1 find its footing in the global esports market is a daunting task, so can you share some detailed plans for achieving such a goal?


There are many reasons why T1 has such high name value in the global market, and the most important reason behind it came from our rich tradition of having incredible players play under our organization, such as BoxeR and Faker. To this day, there are many amateur players that would love to sign under T1. Even I wanted to, during my days as a pro. T1’s brand power is definitely there, so the expansion of international fandom will definitely secure T1 as the number one in the world.

Polt during his SC2 pro days (image via CSA)

While there are many Korean players that go overseas to play, not many western players end up joining the LCK, because of the big language barrier. Even so, have there been discussions on bringing in foreign talent?


League of Legends is a game played with five people on each team, so communication is critical. It’s all happening very fast, so even Korean players sometimes miscommunicate. If foreign talent were to be added, I think that there will be more communication issues.


Most Korean players that go overseas learn the native language of the region, so if foreign players are able to fluently speak Korean, there shouldn’t be any problems.


You mentioned some future global projects. Can you share some of the organization’s plans?


All esports teams around the world generate revenue through streaming, sponsorship, and merchandising. We’re always thinking about how we can generate more revenue from such methods.


Choosing the right demographic is critical, as it will determine how the organization strategizes. Is there a country that the organization considers to be the most important?


T1’s a Korean organization so Korea is our number one priority. However, expanding to audiences worldwide is a priority that follows closely.


When pro players transition into management, they usually start as a coach. However, you went straight from player to general manager, so there must’ve been a lot of preparation on your end.


To say that I didn’t feel the pressure would be a blatant lie because T1’s a globally recognized organization. The first thing I needed to do was fully understand my job responsibilities, so I talked to a lot of insiders and former StarCraft players that now work in the LoL esports scene for insight.


Then, I had to determine what was expected of me, and whether or not I can fulfill those expectations. I felt like they were possible, and I still do, so I decided to join T1.


As a former StarCraft 2 player yourself, what are some of the things that you can relate to with the players on T1?


Being a well-known esports star may look fancy on the outside, but it takes that much practice to get to where they are now, so they struggle a lot. It’s not easy to practice every day. The management and the coaching staff are always looking for ways to help their players, and the players actively take part in discussions as well, with the only goal of winning on their minds.


Even still, there are players that struggle due to the lack of progress they see in improvement. As a former player myself, I’ve also had days where I struggled really hard, so I’m always there to cheer them up as much as possible while thinking of various methods in overcoming their individual slumps.

T1's main roster for the 2021 LCK season

The importance of the Summer Split and Worlds overshadows the importance of the Spring Split. Many say that the Spring Split doesn’t really matter, and even your head coach Daeny stated that he’ll utilize the Spring split as the time when the team comes together as a unit. Thoughts?


In terms of what he said, it doesn’t mean that the Spring Split is irrelevant. However, the fact remains that the Summer Split is far more important than Spring. While the best-case scenario would be being consistently good, I think Daeny meant that in order to reach higher heights in the one-year time frame that he has, he believes that the Spring split is the most optimal time to utilize in becoming a unit.


Which western organizations do you believe are doing a great job in team operations and marketing?


When it comes to teams in Korea, I believe that there are no other teams that do it better than T1. In the West, I think that there are a couple things we can learn from TSM and Cloud9. The biggest North American organizations have their own unique strengths and traits that separate their brand from the rest. If we can utilize some of their strengths in expanding our own brand, it’ll serve as a benchmark in growing the organization bigger.


Lastly, is there anything that you’d like to say to all the fans cheering for T1?


T1’s goal for this year is to win Worlds. All the players, coaching staff, and other personnel at T1 are giving it their all to achieve that goal. I know that with time, we’re going to achieve our goals, so instead of becoming disappointed over each loss, please believe and continue to support us.

Image via T1

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