CEO Steve Arhancet Looks to Make 2021 the Year of Team Liquid
Team Liquid has been one of the most ubiquitous teams in esports for the past 20 years. Not only were they one of the first formal teams in esports, but they also revolutionized the concept of a fan-site becoming a hub for an entire esport through StarCraft 2, and played just as big a part in the resurgence of esports as Twitch did in the early days.
Now, they’re a team that represents a combined 110+ players across 21 titles, one of the largest esports teams in the world. They’re also one of the best, with their teams bringing home titles across multiple games, most recently a win at the LCS Lock-In Tournament that should set them up well for success across the opening weeks of the League of Legends season.
Additionally, Team Liquid just renewed their partnership with Alienware, marking one of the longest-running hardware/team partnerships in the history of the industry, as well as launching Liquid+, the team’s new fan engagement platform that offers unique opportunities, merch, and other ways for fans to engage with their favorite players.
We had a chance to sit down with CEO Steve Arhancet to discuss what’s going to make 2021 the year that Team Liquid not only becomes the biggest name in esports, but one that hopes to bring the excellence to match their size.
Team Liquid’s Steve: We Really Believe 2021 Is Going to Be a Big Year for Us
Steiner: Your CSGO team recently finished 4th at the BLAST Premier. While this is still technically a medal finish, you fell short of bringing home the gold. What’s the plan moving forward for the team, given that there are several personalities on the team that are very victory oriented?
Steve Arhancet, CO-CEO, Team Liquid: We’ve obviously made some recent changes to our CSGO squad. We’re excited about the direction we’re headed and have both incredible support from our coaching staff and buy-in from our players – a group that only continues to gel. FalleN’s addition gives the team a strong in-game voice and a dedicated AWPer, which helps expand the playbook going forward. We expect big things from this roster, and I know they’ve set high expectations for themselves.
Steiner: Liquid managed to win the LCS Lockin Tournament. What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of this offseason, and how do you think it’s set you up for success now?
Arhancet: Whenever you make adjustments to a roster, there is alway some uncertainty regarding team cohesion and performance. That’s especially true on the heels of success. Last summer, we saw a remarkable turnaround between spring and summer splits that led to an appearance at Worlds. So, we have a lot to live up to and prove for our fans.
That said, we’re really proud of what the team was able to accomplish in the LCS Lock In tournament. Not only did we bring home a championship, but we helped The Games and Online Harassment Hotline – who received $50,000 of our victory purse. We’re confident in our additions and hopeful that what we saw this past weekend is a sign of what’s to come in the spring and summer. We’ve got a lot of growing still to do.
Steiner: How has Alienware’s partnership with Liquid, the longest standing in esports between a team and manufacturer, helped the team get ahead of the competition?
Arhancet: It’s hard to believe that we’re embarking on our 10th year together. But, then again, Team Liquid and Alienware have been able to do so much together within that time. As our official hardware partner, Alienware has helped elevate our players and staff with state-of-the-art products and support. That’s a lot of PCs, monitors and headsets for more than 225 industry professionals and competitors. And, in the last three years, we’ve introduced two, world-class training facilities in two continents. That’s really an industry first, and a sign for what’s ahead in this partnership.
This renewal will open the door for us in the areas of innovation, player performance and community efforts. Aerial Powers is going to play a big role in the latter, as we introduce ways to improve access and resources within certain groups and communities. You can expect more on dedicated programming soon enough.
Steiner: Liquid has one of the largest number of players and teams in the industry, so far as sheer numbers. What are some challenges in running a team with so many moving parts?
Arhancet: It’s certainly no easy feat, managing 110+ athletes and talent across five continents. There are a lot of nuances and best practices to keep in mind when operating in varying regions and cultivating fans across different cultures.
But, we’ve really leaned into hiring and developing the right supportive and management teams. As we explore new pursuits, enter new games or look to sign new talent, we work closely with relevant work groups to ensure we’re aligning with the best interests of all stakeholders.
Steiner: How do you think esports as a whole will evolve in 2021?
Arhancet: I think we’ll continue to see real-time adjustments and involvement from outside verticals as a response to COVID and the increased popularity around gaming. I think we’re going to see more innovation around how teams and leagues engage their fan bases.
For instance, we started development on Liquid+ well before the pandemic. But, the necessity to meet fans where they are and bring them closer to the sport virtually, was only amplified during this time where most stadiums and arenas remained empty. We haven’t scratched the surface yet of what this platform can do, and can’t wait to explore its potential.
Steiner: What are your thoughts on how Valorant has evolved so far, and what do you think Riot can do to continue to push the envelope in the FPS scene?
Arhancet: I imagine it’s no easy feat, introducing a new sport to an ever-expanding ecosystem. But, Riot’s commitment to grow VALORANT across all major markets has been outstanding. Part of what makes this sport special is the access it provides to a diverse range of athletes and competitors, and that’s reinforced by the largely open format to the VCT. Our VALORANT team has its hands full in Europe, but I think we already belong among the region’s best teams.
Steiner: If 2021 was to be the “Year of Team Liquid”, what would make it so across each of your divisions?
Arhancet: We really believe 2021 is going to be a big year for us. From an esports standpoint, we’re confident that we can compete for championships across all of our games. We’re always working on ways to improve player performance and our competitive success. It’s at the core of everything we do.
But at the same time, we’re continuing to lean into our various business endeavors – from partnerships to apparel to our production efforts. And whenever possible, we’re considering larger platforms that integrate these efforts into each other. How do we blend these areas into broader initiatives? How do we ensure that we are appealing to specific regions, while also looking at our global impact? And, how are we moving the industry forward? It’s a lot to consider, but these are the questions we’re asking ourselves as we move ahead.