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[Herald Interview] Looking at the future of esports

Gen.G’s Arnold Hur predicts LCK turning to franchises will lead to improvements in esports industry

Arnold Hur, chief operating officer of Gen.G Esports, wears the new Gen.G uniform. (Gen.G)
Arnold Hur, chief operating officer of Gen.G Esports, wears the new Gen.G uniform. (Gen.G)

Gen.G Esports kicked off the 2020 League of Legends World Championships in Shanghai with two victories, besting North America and China over the weekend.

As the players bowed to the audience following their victories, the team’s new uniforms caught the attention of many.

The new LoL team uniform is just one of the efforts by Gen.G to succeed on all fronts.
Designer Heron Preston (Gen.G)
Designer Heron Preston (Gen.G)

In July, Gen.G brought onboard designer, artist and DJ Heron Preston as its executive brand adviser. The appointment reflected the esports industry’s growing interest in fashion and design. Preston was responsible for the design of the team’s new uniform, made in collaboration with Puma, which had formed a partnership with Gen.G in June.

Two of the three phrases on the jersey are “Change the game” and “Fall down 7, get up 8th,” which are part of Gen.G’s corporate philosophy.

“Winning is never easy, and many times, we might fail on the path to success. We want to keep the mentality of resilience and taking risks in order to succeed,” Gen.G Esports Chief Operating Officer Arnold Hur told The Korea Herald.

Hur, who joined Gen. G in 2017 after working at Google in California and Goldman Sachs in New York, has had interest in esports since he was young. “Even when I worked at Google, I built a bit of a funny reputation as one of the more senior business guys that was really excited about and played actively in the internal Google corporate League of Legends tournaments.”

It was the friends at these tournaments that introduced Hur to Kevin Chou, the founding CEO of Gen.G who eventually invited Hur to join the company.

As COO of Gen.G, Hur is responsible for Gen.G’s competitive teams, marketing and business operations.

“Esports is a rapidly changing industry, so it’s my job to ensure our collective global teams can adapt to and succeed across all fronts,” said Hur. Noting that gaming is growing in the mainstream media culture, Hur said, “With the onset of COVID-19 and the restrictions that have come with it, online communities have emerged as focal points. The audience is only growing.”

Gen.G has been active in broadening the influence of the esports industry.

Gen.G worked with the University of Pennsylvania in bringing a renowned track event, the Penn Relays, online in April and announced a $1 million commitment in scholarships for students in the US interested in majoring in gaming, esports, entrepreneurship, journalism or content creation.

“Some of the most meaningful work that we can do is use video games and esports as a connector that builds both community and individual growth,” said Hur. “A lot of the work that we’ve done in education has been built around helping young people reach their full potential. That kind of work has been really important to us.”
Gen.G LoL players pose wearing new uniforms. (Gen.G)
Gen.G LoL players pose wearing new uniforms. (Gen.G)

With LCK turning to a franchise model next year, Hur expanded on what could be done to improve the industry.

The lack of standardization in the LoL industry makes transparency of player wages difficult, according to Hur. Esports player wages are rarely revealed in Korea, leading to rampant speculation. As the league evolves and business matures, the salary figures will come out more publicly, Hur suggested.

Taking care of retired pros is another area that could be improved, Hur pointed out.

“I think we need to create a better path for transition for a post-pro career once a player retires,” said Hur. “I think if the industry can do a better job of taking care of them (the players) through their entire career instead of just their pro career, we have a much better chance of being considered as a real sport and exciting industry to be a part of.”

In recent years, Gen.G has assisted retired players like Ambition in becoming streamers and supported their transition into careers in coaching or academia.

Hur remained optimistic of Korea’s position in esports and Gen.G’s role in the industry.

“Korea has a talent pool that is unmatched. Both the infrastructure and culture is far beyond any other country when it comes to the view of legitimacy of the sport and respect that fans have about the players,” said Hur. “When it comes to the esports player base, Korea is still the mecca.”

With offices in Seoul, Shanghai and Los Angeles, Gen.G is aggressively transforming itself from an esports organization into a global esports brand.

“Unlike many other esports organizations, we are a global company with offices around the world, and that enables us to activate and operate locally in each market while connecting globally on our mission to continue to change the game of esports for the better,” said Hur.

As for Gen.G’s prospects at the 2020 World Championships, Hur hoped the players would continue to build a reputation as a world-class team and organization.

By Lim Jang-won (ljw@heraldcorp.com)
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