It normally takes a newly formed esports team 12-18 months to gel and experience success, however GAIMIN Gladiator’s Dota 2 team only formed in January 2022 and they are already rising in the Dota 2 rankings, qualifying in the Top 14 for the ESL One DOTA 2 Major this May in Stockholm, increasing their following and generating significant brand awareness for GAIMIN.
Arseny Kuzminsky recently interviewed the founders of GAIMIN Gladiator’s about their Dota 2 team and its formation. In readiness for the DOTA 2 ESL One Major in Stockholm, we are proud to re-publish his article and interviews.
In 2020 a breath of fresh air came to competitive Dota. Vikin.gg. These guys were able to fight back against the strongest teams for almost a year during the online era; brazenly, without fear or reproach, breaking well-known lineups in numerous tournaments. Upon closer acquaintance, it turned out that the players and the coach have unique chemistry — a mixture of strict discipline, fatherhood, brotherhood, and strong friendship.
Then, Vikin.gg disbanded. Returning as Team Tickles with almost the same core.
Melchior “Seleri” Hillenkamp, Miroslav “BOOM” Bičan and Daniel “ImmortalFaith” Moza from the previous roster joined forces with Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard, Erik “tOfu” Engel and Anton “dyrachYO” Shkredov. New players, same playstyle. Fixed on team interaction, it’s impossible to single out the strongest player among the top five. And there’s no reason to, honestly. GAIMIN Gladiators work smoothly as a clock, where each gear matters, and as soon as one sags, four cover. GG is an example of how a team becomes strong through excellent player interaction and a balancing of power.
I talked with GAIMIN Gladiators’ top management, to let them explain why Team Tickles was their choice. As well as a little bit more about their history, investments, future plans and why they are confident in the Dota 2 roster’s success.
GG’s foundation sounds like a typical Silicon Valley start-up story — four friends passionate about what they love decided to launch their own project. But before GAIMIN Gladiators, it was something else.
“We were getting a little older, couldn’t find as much success in professional gaming, so we started OCG Esports around three years ago,” Alex Cuccovillo, GG’s Vice President, says. He, alongside Shawn Porter, CEO, and Nick Cuccovillo, President, were having this chat with me.
Shawn and Alex met a long time ago playing Dota and have a professional background in various MOBAs. The latter had a hand in coaching and commentating during the early Dota 2 era. Nick has been in FPS games, working in talent acquisition. So they have adequate knowledge and network in each esports sphere, giving them an upper edge thanks to the the fact they already know the ins and outs of esports not just from a business point of view, but from a player’s point of view.
Alex admits they had to leave competitive NA Dota 2 for other games because it lacked tournaments and money. OCG Esports started signing players, helping them out, and finding investors and partners to uphold financially. In January 2020, OCG Esports re-branded as GAIMIN Gladiators.
GAIMIN Gladiators are based in Canada but heading more towards the global stage, acquiring EU, SEA teams, looking into Brazil, trying not to be constrained to North America.
But apart from the Gladiators side with around five people on staff and a couple of contractors, there’s the parent company Gaimin.io, the corporate side of the umbrella of the whole company. “They take more of the corporate level and to be honest, we relay back some of the business stuff back to them and they either approve it or don’t. And so it works on both ends,” Nick tells me. “They confirm all the transactions or whatever decisions are made for the GG side”.
Alex continues: “We’ve always had a plan. We always knew that at one point we’re gonna need to get investment.. No organization has really made it without some type of increase of investment. So we always had an action plan built. We created investment decks a long time ago, always updating them. We met some of the investors a couple of times through talks; and then a few months later, they figured out that esports is a great way for this application.”
GAIMIN’s Mission is basically this; “PASSIVE AUTONOMIC MONETIZATION FOR GAMERS”. It’s a play-as-earn type of platform: get game rewards for free and do whatever you want with those rewards.
“Although we have an element of Crypto and NFTs within our platform, we are a game engine by design.” Nick explains, with the platform’s core focus the “utilization of processing power, not the mining or purchasing of coins, nor NFTs.”
GAIMIN’s software instead “simply uses Blockchain Elements for background working, and should be viewed as a game engine, with the ability to launch into Private Server Games, including Minecraft and GTAV, watch Content Creators via Streams and practice on your favorite games with skills training.”
He’s also quick to clarify: “Under no circumstances would GAIMIN be requesting people to purchase a currency or to purchase NFTs.” Establishing the platform’s core use case is “actually as a processing power aggregator, to provide processing power for video rendering and AI Production.”; aspects of the technology’s use which are completely separate from most crypto-based ventures.
Takeover and rebranding was a pretty long process. It took a year to close the deal from the first meeting with GAIMIN. We came up with a plan that benefited them as well in terms of getting user acquisition for the platform, and they really liked it.”
“They invested in us more than the teams we had”, Alex says. “We had some teams that were definitely pretty good and some very high level players, but we didn’t have anyone who was on the level of what our current Dota 2 team is. We identified different teams at different cost points and what they can bring, what success, and what type of viewer metrics. We showcased what our plan would be over the next year and a half, what teams we’d bring on and why we’d bring them on, and what kind of potential they have. So there was honestly a lot of background work as well, which was another part of the reason why they really liked what we were doing”.
Acquiring Team Tickles
Shawn and Alex have a background in Dota and were looking at getting back into the Dota scene due to its very high viewership. During the middle of the season; back at the end of December-early January, they saw something special in Team Tickles.
Alex continues: “We had a talk with a few teams. But we were most interested in them just because of not how good they were, but in terms of a new organization coming in the brand awareness that they bring playing against Team Liquid, OG and Secret. All these teams allow a new organization to get that brand awareness very quickly, rather than if you’re in a lot of other regions. So it was a colossal decision-maker for us as well. And we also saw that there was a lot of potential with the roster of young players.
Though, signing a North American team gets you higher chances to participate in Majors and subsequently TIs, adding the fact that there were teams with high skills in need of sponsors. However we decided to look in other areas like CIS, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Our eye caught Team Tickles, and we pursued them.”
GAIMIN Gladiators Dota 2 squad is their most significant asset and most prominent investment so far. “We had the budget to sign a Tier-1 team in any respective game.
Alex continues: “Dota 2 actually is still doing really well in terms of viewership. And especially now that live events are back, that’s huge for us. But after doing the overall analysis, we just thought it was a no-brainer to get into Dota.
Bootcamping, Stockholm and Plans
GAIMIN Gladiators were staying at the Relog Media facility for the whole DPC league. Instead of players traveling around and trying to figure out visa issues, GG’s management decided to keep them in Belgrade for as long as possible. They have excellent connections with Relog, who were “so, so helpful” on this.
Nick underlines the importance of bootcamping and its impact on players’ success:
“Everyone thinks bootcamp is about 24 hours grind and practice. However, there are aspects of it in which the players never physically met. Thus, it was an ideal moment for them to meet, develop team bonds, and even establish a team culture. If we are to compete in the next Major or a large event like TI, that is a necessary aspect; it is critical for a team to have at least that initial engagement. We also got them a psychologist once a week to go over stuff with them. It’s important for mental performance and mental fortitude, so they won’t get exhausted or drained.
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