Pan Jie sports waist-length brown hair and a pair of black and red patterned high heels on stage for the “E-Sport Entrepreneurship” panel at TechCrunch Shenzhen. Subverting the video gamer stereotype, the petite Pan Jie was the co-founder of DotA team 7L, who beat countless others to become one of the top two ranked teams in China from 2007 to 2009, when it was active.
Better known as her online alias Ruru, Pan Jie has since gone on to become the CEO of LGD Gaming, one of the oldest and largest professional e-sport clubs in China. In May this year, LGD Gaming completed RMB 30 million Series A. With investor backing, LGD Gaming has ambitious plans to construct an e-sport ecosystem, from training colleges to e-sport services and entertainment destinations.
While in conversation with TechNode journalist Li Motian at the TechCrunch panel, Pan Jie shared with the audience her beginnings in the industry, the challenges she has faced and her outlook on the future of e-sports.
How LGD Gaming began
Pan Jie: LGD Gaming began as five grassroots e-sport players. In 2010, I joined the team as the team leader. At the time, there were only two or three dedicated DotA teams and [they were] not very professional.
Not long after I joined, Wang Sicong [the son of Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man] announced he was entering the e-sports industry and poached four people from our team. So we only had one person left.
But I’m an e-sports player. I never quit and I don’t go into matches intending to lose. I worked with the remaining player on our team and recruited another four players to continue the team.
Pan Jie: I wanted the team to be sustainable and keep developing, so building a good commercial e-sport system was a good thing. With a commercial system in place, [we made] many e-sport games popular. We recruited more teams to focus on various games which eventually turned into a comprehensive e-sports club.
We were always conscious of our core advantage. We were nicknamed as the e-sport Huangpu Academy (akin to an e-sport Westpoint). By staying true to our core advantage, we were able to build and promote our brand. We established the China DotA Elite Community brand and provided e-sport player training on behalf of many games.
How the internet celebrity phenomenon has affected the industry
The boom of the live-streaming industry has raised the pay of the “hosts” or entertainers providing content on these platforms. The e-sport industry has also taken to the live-streaming model and seeing a dramatic rise in the pay for live-streaming hosts.
Pan Jie: When e-sport live streaming first started, [a player’s contract] with the club was around RMB 1 or 2 million. But if he/she signs a live-streaming contract, that can reach tens of millions. So many players decided to retire from competing and work as a live-streaming host.
One needs to be smart in managing this. As a club, we need to keep up with the market. Firstly, there are [rules] in the industry. A player who has signed a contract is bound by certain conditions. Then we can plan by signing [revenue sharing] contracts with the players whereby potential live-streaming revenue becomes part of the contract.
A player doesn’t just become a popular live-streaming host instantly, there is a process involved. A player needs to improve him or herself so by helping their future development, we have better leverage for ourselves.
Secondly, if a player leaves, we need to have a pipeline of fresh talent to replace him or her so as to not affect our operations.
The future of the e-sport industry
Pan Jie: The e-sport industry is developing very fast and its systems and rules are not perfect. There are people working in this industry who are not at a professional standard, many of them need to learn from other traditional, mature industries.
I believe this is the beginning of the e-sport industry development. For everyone working in the industry now, [they] start slowly, learn from experts in traditional industries and recruit expert talent from other industries.
As everyone’s collective knowledge improves and the e-sport industry continues to develop, then the rules will get better and more balanced.