This week, we interviewed Marco “Jinkgo” Garnier, esport Manager at Riot Games, on the famous game League of Legends. He talks about the company’s ambitions and also how he manages the Open Tour, a new competition on the French soil.
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KYKLOS: Hey Jinkgo! We hope you’re well. Thanks for accepting this interview. For the ones who don’t know you, can you introduce yourself briefly?
JINKGO: Hey guys! Actually, I’m Marco “Jingko” Garnier and I work for Riot Games, League of Legends’ publisher, as esport lead. For the record, I’m currently in charge of organizing the LoL Open Tour in France, a great project so far.
K: And what’s your track record before working for Riot?
J: I studied political science in Paris, I was very interested in the European-community construction and the cultural mix that lays in this area. While studying, I went deep on the social link behind networks and especially behind gaming which is a fantastic source of a social link but also through esport. At that time, esport was just a fade and it started to break ground. I remember LoL’s first-season finale which was happening in a small room, some players were sat on the floor, there were no casters or sponsorships… I studied the topic, I published some articles and I started talking about esport in the heart of the political science university.
Then, I discovered on Reddit a post about a guy who was doing a tour across Europe but without any hotel bookings! He was sleeping at LoL players’. I joined him and what’s amazing is that people easily opened their doors to co-players, who didn’t speak the same language. This mindset definitely amazed me. I followed him along the way, interviewing interesting people which led me to contact Riot Games Community Manager based in Dublin. Then I applied there for a position as Community Specialist and in 2014, I was hired as Community Coordinator in Ireland. And I stayed there for 2 years then I moved to Paris when Riot opened their French offices.
K: Great! Sounds awesome! Talking about French esport, We are going to talk about the League of Legend’s Open Tour. For the record, it’s a yearly tournament opposing French teams to elect the national champion in the end. How is it going so far?
J: It’s going quite fine actually! We received good feedback from players and from the fan base hopefully. It’s comforting because, at first, it is designed for the esport fans. There are only two phases for the moment: Lyon esport which occurred in February and the Gamers Assembly which was only a few days ago. We noted a lot of teams with an interesting level (Diamond-Master ranking) and it created an appreciated atmosphere. Moreover, we also included a broadcasting system which relays the matches playing during the Open Tour and which attracts a strong viewership eager to watch the French scene.
K: What are the goals of this Open Tour? Both in a short or long term.
J: The main objective is quite similar either on a short or long perspective actually. We want to allow French players to become more famous. If you have a good level, you know that you’ll have to go to the Open Tour to break ground definitely. The other goal is to allow teams to follow a recurrent and steady competition to gain visibility and trust. Finally, for fans, we want to give them a scheduled competitive content to follow easily their favorite players.
K: If we get it well, you want to improve the professional scene to emulate the amateur base?
K: That’s quite a good plan! Is this Open Tour designed to be launched in other countries?
J: Each country has his own specificities and his own independence over the structure for the Tour. I work on the French market and it appeared this model was the best fit for France in terms of audience expectations and players’ level.
K: What do you think about the game? Do you think League of Legends has reached his final stage? Or is it likely to be modified in the future?
J: In my opinion, I think the game is now considered as mature and we should focus on making it a true success worldwide, on a cultural side. For example, in football, without being an incredible player, you will always see information about this discipline in the news, you will talk about it at lunch etc… We have the same will, we want to allow LoL to be part of the life of everyone in the community and that the players are proud of being part of it. That’s what I think the main aspiring goal of the game now.
K: In this path, you have competitors we guess. Some games have recently known a huge success (Fortnite, PUBG, mainly Battle Royals). What do you think of this kind of games? And do you think they have a future on the competitive scene?
J: I would say they have a real future on the “hardcore” esport market. What we know on Starcraft or League of Legends is hardly disposable on Battle Royals. There are much more players, much more teams to follow… I think the publishers are thinking about this problem but for now, they don’t have a clear answer. However, on a more “casual” level, with broadcasted content, strong influencers like what we witnessed at the “Barrière Show”, it can still be very interesting and entertaining! But I don’t think they can organize a league system for a competitive mindset.
K: And what about you? What are your future plans?
J: I would like to stay at Riot Games. The Open Tour is an amazing project, we have to build everything from scratch, the community is well involved, and it makes me thrilled! I’ve been working in this sector for a long time now and I have been able to see people’s evolution. For instance, TraYton, when he was 15-16, was already battling in French Challenges from his home setup. Now, he is playing for Gentside, he plays in huge competitions and his “path to pro” is already set up. That’s what I like to see, and I want to be part of even more!
J: No problem! Thanks to you too!