South African female esports competitors – learnings from Season 1 of the Valkyrie League
When Mettlestate announced season 1 of their ROG Valkyrie League it was met with mixed feelings. I’m not going to address the concerns in this blog post. I already did that at the start of the season and you can read my views here. Now that the season 1 winners have been crowned I wanted to touch on some key takeaways from the competition that I think are of interest.
The fan base is there
The Valkyrie League ran a stream one a week for nine weeks and a final playoffs stream ran in excess of 6 hours a day for Saturday and Sunday (2nd and 3rd June). The stream ran on Twitch and averaged 90 concurrent viewers EVERY stream. The lowest concurrent viewers counted was between 10 and 11am on the Saturday with 40 to 60 viewers. Taking the timing in to account I think this is pretty decent. While the numbers are ridiculously low when compared to international competition, when local comparisons are made it I think we need to agree that there is a viewer base. While I don’t have direct access to live viewer stats my understanding is that popular big name SA streamers aim to average at around 50 to 60 concurrents on Twitch with most local content creators not necessarily breaking higher than 30 viewers concurrently. The Valkyrie stream had more concurrent viewers than a few big SA online finals held during the same time, meaning the games had audience retention regardless of what else was on offer.
There was an engaged audience of players, their family and friends and the die hard SA Esports fans.
The players are there
Nine teams signed up to compete. As is the case with any SA league, a few teams suffered set backs and had to disband towards the end of the competition. However, during the time Valkyrie ran I’m aware of 3 more teams that have formed and are planning to enter season 2. Granted, it isn’t giant numbers. But with 1000 players signed up to play on the new FaceIT CSGO servers – 5% of that player base is all female teams. I’ve not factored in the new teams that have formed but come season 2 I’d argue more than 10% of the player base will consist of females. Keep in mind I’ve not taken into consideration the female players competing in mixed teams currently – but they’re there!
The improvement is there
The main argument from an all female league was that it would encourage female players to stay in the league and not venture into other competitions or compete outside of their safe space. I have confirmation that 3 of the teams that competed in the league are set to compete at SA’s first CSGO LAN this year. They’re competing in the VS Gaming league and are set to compete in the upcoming Evetech Champion’s League. For perspective we saw ONE female player in the big competitions last year. Now we’ll likely see 3 teams.
The MGOs are there
Leetpro Esports got behind an all female team last year. During the Valkyrie League we saw Aperture Gaming sign up a female team as well as Bravado Gaming – whose Academy team went on to win season 1. White Rabbit Gaming has also announced that they’ll be absorbing one of South Africa’s all female MGOs, Amaryllis Gaming, moving forward. I chatted to Ashley “BrinkeR” Groves in 2016 about Amaryllis Gaming, I asked her to highlight the growth she’s had in the last two years and WHY she is now choosing to join White Rabbit Gaming:
Since the formation of the Amaryllis Gaming CS;GO team early in 2016, we came second at the first Valkyrie event and third in the WESG African qualifiers after being knocked out by LeetPro. I also picked up an Overwatch and DotA 2 team towards the end of last year. As the female community grew and moved forward it became clear that there was a distinct division of skill levels between the more well-known teams and those that followed. I also began to realize that my vision of bringing focus on competitive female esports was realized thanks to the first Valkyrie event and then of course the follow up league this year. I have often mentioned the experience gap between men and women when it comes to competitive game play and after watching Finesse and LeetPro cover that distance in staggering strides, I came to understand that a decision needed to be made for the improvement and nourishment of my players, so that they could receive everything they deserved and this came in the form of a discussion between myself and Alwyn Venter from White Rabbit Gaming. The WRG organisation and mine have the same visions and aspirations and they offered me something I could really not refuse. Not only have they accepted all of my divisions but offered me a position as co-owner of WRG and manager of White Rabbit Amaryllis. They took into consideration the love and care we all put into the Amaryllis brand and adopted it as their own and that for me was something unique in their offering compared to others.
I wanted to find out from White Rabbit Gaming if they were jumping in on a fad or if the decision to absorb Amaryllis had stronger roots. This wasn’t a fad decision but rather an investment in South African Esports as a whole:
Since the the announcement of the Valkyrie Challenge last year, we’ve had people asking us if we will be moving ahead with an all-female team. We decided not to as we did not know a lot about the scene and did not want to absorb an organisation considering how new it was. I guess we did not want to disrupt something starting up but rather wanted to see if it can grow. Now, with the female scene becoming more established, we decided to get involved. We started conversations with Amaryllis which made the entire process way easier and with a brand like Amaryllis, who have the same goals as we do, it just made sense. We set up a meeting, got to know each other and checked brand fit and decided it can work.
The partnership is also mutually beneficial:
With the WRG brand being so well established, it makes it a lot easier for Amaryllis to tap into our current sponsors as well rather than having to go at it on their own. We will also assist them in approaching new brands that could benefit from getting involved in female gaming that WRG normally would not be able to get involved with. They will also have all the benefits we provide our other teams and, as the brand grows, they will grow with it. We can just help them get to their destination quicker as they do not have to experience all the growth pains we have but can rather focus on growing their player profiles and engagement with the scene.
Esports allows EVERYONE to be equal in game. But the gender divide doesn’t reflect this. I think the learnings from Valkyrie season 1 give us such an important base to work from:
The players are interested and there. The fan base is as well. With the right investment from experienced MGOs who can supply coaching and ultimately “growth hack” player preparation by supplying them with resources they might not have access to, more female competitive players will begin to appear and ultimately merge into mixed teams.
All female leagues aren’t a long term answer. I’ve always said this. But short term, as season 1 of the Valkyrie League shows, they’re going to allow us to decrease that gender divide and ultimately bring new fans and players to South African esports. Which is what all esports fans, players and stakeholders want.
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