Article by Mike Stubbs – Forbes
The Immortals name has had a tumultuous history in the world of esports. What was once one of the hottest up and coming disruptive teams in the space, quickly grew to a size that was arguably unsustainable. After embarrassingly missing out on a spot in the franchised LCS despite being one of the biggest names applying, the company eventually purchased the OpTic Gaming brand, giving them a place back in the league.
But for fans of the OpTic brand, Immortals quickly became the bad guys as they seemingly only wanted the LCS spot and appeared to ignore the rest of what the well loved name had to offer, before eventually selling it back to OpTic founder Hector “HECZ” Rodriguez. This, along with a transition away from the underdog spirit that Immortals once had, resulted in the Immortals name being somewhat tarnished in the view of many fans.
“A lot of people view Immortals, like we bought all these teams and we did all this and then like, sold it off and shut it down and did x and y and I think that’s fair for people to feel,” said Jordan Sherman, the new president and CCO of Immortals Gaming Club. “And we can’t deny that, we have to acknowledge the history of the company. We can’t change it, but we can address it and that’s what I think everyone wants, to be transparent.”
Sherman joined Immortals earlier this year and is looking to change the way the business operates in the public eye. After the company grew and became more corporate, focusing on expansion, it seemed to reduce communication with fans and media about what was going on. In the early years the company was well known for giving the public a close look inside the inner workings of the organisation, but that has shifted to almost the complete opposite in recent years. Now Sherman is looking to change that, and is making it a priority throughout the entire business.
“What we really want to do is make sure Immortals is accessible to fans,” said Sherman. “Like if you’re an Immortals fan, you’re gonna have an opportunity to connect with our players, or to watch content from them, or maybe even have a say in the direction that we go. We are going to make all of our channels available for fans to participate, and we have staff that deeply love the game and come from the fan community.”
From a publicity point of view many of the M&A deals that the Immortals Gaming Club has been involved with over the years have ended negatively for the company, with hardcore fans of the likes of OpTic Gaming feeling angry with the group. But from a financial and growth point of view, most, if not all of the deals, have achieved what the management team wanted, which in the specific case of OpTic Gaming was a chance to get back into the LCS.
“Getting the LCS slot was so crucial to our business because it sets up everything else for us,” admits Sherman. “Without that, we can’t do as much as we want to do.”
The result is that the Immortals brand now has key teams across a number of games, and has cut a lot of the other areas that were not as profitable, or an area the management team saw as a viable long term play. Somewhat surprisingly, this has allowed Immortals to become margin positive across all of its business sectors, which is something that many teams that still rely heavily on VC funding can only dream of at this point.
“The company went through a series of M&A transactions and had to clean up a lot of the past,” says Sherman. “[We have] done so in a way where we are now contribution margin positive across all of our business units. So as you look at esports companies across the world, many of which are kind of struggling to get by, I think Immortals is actually in this really advantageous point where a lot of what the company has done over the past couple of years has positioned it now where our operations and our costs are manageable and rather flat. And our upside and the profit we’re able to make from our business units is growing at a tremendous rate. As a result, you know we’re margin positive across all the units, and we can invest in new areas of growth.”
One of those areas of growth that Immortals is choosing to invest in is League of Legends Wild Rift, the mobile version of the massively successful PC game that is starting to pick up steam as an esport. Like many mobile titles, the biggest audience for the game and its competitive scene is in Asia, and on first glance this would appear to be the market Immortals is chasing by signing a team in Wild Rift. But Sherman explains that the company is focused on the American market in almost all of its key areas, and this is no different, with management hoping to become the number one Wild Rift team in the US and using that success to further cement the Immortals brand in the country.
“So this is purely for us, right now, an American play,” says Sherman. We’ve seen the macro trends across the world, we’re optimistic that it is going to come here. We believe in mobile games as an industry because of the lower barrier entry. We believe in the partner that’s creating the game, and that the game itself can help our LCS team. And we think we can actually activate in various areas in the community alongside Riot [Games] and give people experiences that they may not be able to have both digitally and in person. So we’re really bullish on it and we think this is a US play for us, and we think it’s complimentary to our existing big business units.”
It’s an interesting strategy that could pay off big time if it works out. If Wild Rift becomes the mobile esport that finally builds a big audience in the West, as many mobile titles have done elsewhere, then Immortals are in a prime position to be the biggest name in the scene in America. Add in the possible synergy with the main League of Legends team of Immortals and you can see why it seems like an attractive proposition, with both titles potentially helping the other to climb to the top and build a massive brand in the League of Legends ecosystem. This is ultimately the main goal for Sherman and his new look Immortals, to make the Immortals name into the biggest and most successful esports club in America.
“I want to turn immortals into the number one esports dynasty in the US,” says Sherman. “What we tell our staff is we’re trying to build a company that outlasts our time at the company, and if we can do that, and do it the best and do it number one overall in the US, then I think we’ll do something that we’re all really proud of. I don’t think it’s too crazy of a goal for us to think that in a few years from now people will see Immortals as that type of dynasty that’s first in class in the country, and that’s what we’re going for.”
It’s a lofty goal and one that will no doubt cause a few people to laugh in the direction of Immortals. But with a business that is actively making money, a rarity in the sector, a streamlined but clear roster of teams that should last for many years to come, and a new leadership team that is looking to right the wrongs of previous administrations, it isn’t quite as unlikely as it might have seemed a few months ago.