With the release of the ESL National league led by Trevor “Midway” Schmidt, coL’s Jason Lake sat down with him for some back and forth in an interview for the ages. Each interviewer’s questions can be found in the respective sections below.
Interviewer: Jason Lake
Jason Lake – First off, on behalf of the community, welcome back to eSports! It’s great to have you officially involved again. What have you been up to for the past couple of years?
Trevor “Midway” Schmidt – Wow, so much. I got married in April of this year and spent much of my time on the growing personal life. It’s very hard to do both, be very into gaming and find/be with a significant other. I’m happy my wife Julie is so supportive and we couldn’t be happier. I’ve been restricted in what I could do in gaming up until now with MLG’s purchase of GotFrag. That time period is over and I’ve found a project I’m happy to be apart of with ESL.
Jason Lake – Tell us a bit about how you became involved with ESL National.
Trevor “Midway” Schmidt – Well I’m the head of National ESL. The title’s are a little up in the air but at the end of the day I’m in charge of making a league that we can get gamers excited about. We are going to start off focused on the Intel Extreme Masters, which is one of the biggest events in the eSports Calendar. I am running this competition alongside John Clark and Steve Devaney who used to work for GGL in the past. In addition to them we have a great team of league administrators with people such as Michal Kucharz and Kevin Bonhag. I will be in charge of making sure the competitions go off without a hitch and we make sure we qualify the eight best players/teams in each of the games. The LAN finals will be in New York this fall and we will be starting qualifications in our Regular Season in the coming weeks. It’ll be a long process and we hope to get finished with plenty of time for players to get to New York.
After that we are creating an infrastructure to hopefully build a league fans and players can enjoy. But as we learned from CGS, a league that is financially sound and can be here not just for this year but the years to follow.
Jason Lake – What aspects of your journalistic (Gotfrag) experience do you feel will most help you be a successful league manager?
Trevor “Midway” Schmidt – Well at the end the day promotion is always a key. For years I felt like I was running CAL. I would run the match nights and make sure teams played on time so fans could get involved. If teams changed schedules I had to re-promote matches so people would watch on HLTV. So in a sense my experience with GotFrag is perfectly in line with running a league. Not sure how many know this but I ran the premier CS league in North American, Rumble in the Desert (RiTD), before I started with journalism in eSports.
Jason Lake – You’ve been around eSports from the beginning and have seen many leagues come and go. What mistakes do leagues make and how will you avoid those pitfalls in ESL National?
Trevor “Midway” Schmidt – Most leagues start so big they fail before they start. It’s impossible to keep growing because you are so big. I feel the most important part is building a business model that can keep the league growing at a successful rate. I’m not expecting to be some massive league tomorrow, my goal is simple success and creating a league people want to be apart of. That means working with the community and not changing the rules because it sounds like a good idea.
Jason Lake – Many observers contend that American eSports is in a serious slump. What ideas, plans, surprises, etc, does ESL National have in store for the fans and do you believe the league can help revive the scene in the United States?
Trevor “Midway” Schmidt – That’s a very good question, saving the best for last Jason. To me the key to rebuilding the American scene is rebuilding the infrastructure. We need to be able to see the American scene and understand its depth of competition. Right now it feels like EG and coL, then what? Back in the day you could name 6-10 teams that all were compelling for a segment of the fan base. We need to build that audience for different players and teams. Building that depth will allow us to regenerate the interest and passion we have all lost.
Interviewer: Trevor “Midway” Schmidt
Trevor “Midway” Schmidt – Into the bracket stage at ESWC again, must be nice to get back there, when can we expect a CS team that wins International tournaments again like your previous ESWC wins and gives the USA something to root for? What steps do you believe on a team/player level do you need to accomplish to reach a goal of winning an International tournament?
Jason Lake – Thanks very much. I’m proud of the team and feel they played pretty well. I think this squad has some strong potential if they can stay together long enough to develop the necessary chemistry. The challenge for American teams is getting in quality practice. The scene has really slowed from 2004-2006 and it’s more difficult than ever to find reliable teams to scrim against. Of course, Euro bootcamps have always been the optimal training for U.S. squads but that is true now more than ever. Only with the proper amount of practice against top 5 teams can an American squad get over that hump.
Trevor “Midway” Schmidt – What is it going to take for Team Complexity to beat EG in route to the Intel Extreme Master World Championships? Eight spots get to the New York LAN Finals this fall, what do you think coL needs to do to be a #1 seed in CS?
Jason Lake – EG’s squad is very solid and obviously has players with extensive experience and calm under fire. It’s always fun to see the teams face off and I expect the IEM battles will be exciting. If we can stay focused and remember the basics of good comms and rotations I believe we have a solid chance of beating them.
Trevor “Midway” Schmidt – We didn’t see any major QuakeLive action from Complexity at ESWC, with the qualification process for Intel Extreme Master, what is your expectations for your QuakeLive team? Star Power is strong with VoO and DKT, what about the rest of the year with your expectations?
Jason Lake – Brian has announced that his retirement will take place after Quakecon and VoO has been pretty inactive and is no longer under contract with us. This leaves our Quake Live division up in the air right now but if we can talk DKT (“The Legend!”) into staying around a bit longer I’d sure love to watch him play those young challengers!
Trevor “Midway” Schmidt – With CGS gone, how does a gaming team brand survive in the USA? What do you guys need to do to be success and grow as both a brand and a franchise?
Jason Lake – It’s not easy right now, that’s for sure. The recession combined with a slump in the overall eSports community in America has made the past two years very challenging. I believe brands need to expand beyond the traditional CS/Quake/WoW structure and reach out to new communities (like Tekken, Madden and Street Fighter) to continue building the brand recognition and respect that corporate partners are looking for. I also think it’s smart to diversify a bit and give back to the community like we did with our Creative Complexity Challenge and EG is doing with their Masters Cup. Innovative ideas can sustain brands during difficult times and those who are stuck on the old ways will quickly go the way of the dinosaurs.
Trevor “Midway” Schmidt – What defines success for you? When is Complexity successful? Is it already? What do you need to do to reach your ultimate goal with Complexity?
Jason Lake – Success is definitely a relative term, especially in challenging times. I believe we’ve achieved different levels of it over the years but the hill is still steep and the opportunities endless. I don’t know that my partners and I have an ‘ultimate goal’ beyond the continual building of the brand we love and the long term viability of eSports in general.
Thanks for the opportunity, Trevor and best wishes in your new endeavor. I’d like to thank our loyal sponsors: Creative, XFX, Qpad and G8 Brand. Without their loyal support we wouldn’t be here. Thank you