Carlos: "We are now entering an expansion phase to become a broader entertainment business"
G2, the world-renowned esports organisation, is about to celebrate its eighth birthday. Under the tutelage of CEO and Founder Carlos "ocelote" Rodriguez, it has grown to be one of the successful and most recognisable brands in esports, with an outstanding ability to connect with audiences and build an identity across its various teams.
ocelote's role is crucial to this; a unifying personality in the disparate world of esports, fans from any one of G2's teams can look to Ocelote and connect and identify with the public-facing and outspoken CEO.
The former World of Warcraft and League of Legends pro player has sat down with us for a Q&A to discuss his approach to success and what the future holds for his company.
What do your Twitter drafts look like, and do you have any words muted on Twitter?
Twitter Draft 1: "Now that we won Worlds, I can die in peace."
Twitter Draft 2: "s1mple, welcome to G2"
Twitter Draft 3: "Elon, nice having you in our Rocket League bootcamp yesterday."
Words muted: None. I read everything.
Knowing you from your WoW days, you weren't always as outgoing. What changed for you? And what advice would you have for anyone who wants to care less about how they are perceived?
I've always been the same. But being in the same industry for so many years has given me the extra confidence to be myself unapologetically. My advice is: be confident in what you believe until you are proven wrong.
For many, creativity comes from a point of idle boredom. How do you stay creatively productive?
For me, creativity comes from the joy of doing different things and getting a taste of different verticals. Some fun ones. Some less fun. If I do the same thing over and over again, I get bored. If I'm bored, I'm not creative.
Is winning by investing in top teams cost-effective, or did you have to create a business model around it to make it so?
Any company that wants to become self-sustainable needs to be able to support aggressive spending. This isn't exclusive to esports teams but across any company. Ultimately, we need to have a functional, excellent business. It needs to cater for high volumes of spending into players, organisational structure, and expansion into other areas.
In your Red Bull Unfold, you said you expect your players to aim to be the best, and if not, they'll be cut from G2. Has there ever been an instance where you've given a second chance?
Yes, plenty of times. It's taught me the lesson of never spending too much time and effort into motivating players that don't have that killer instinct or eye of the tiger in them.
Either they are self-motivated to become number one, or they aren't. If they aren't, that's okay, there are plenty of teams out there with lower expectations. But I won't allow these players to hold back the careers of their teammates or waste valuable time.
Competitive careers can be short and chaotic. It's my job to ensure each player has the best team and toolkits at their disposal as they hit their peak. This includes the quality and level of ambition in their teammates. We owe it to them to hold this standard.
However, these decisions aren't taken lightly. There are a lot of factors that come into place. Performance, motivation, how the surrounding people are feeling, and how the game is evolving are all key factors.
So if some key indicators are in the red, a second chance will only delay the inevitable.
Ultimately we are a business, and our goal is to win, not to please individuals.
Is there a world or even an endgame plan in which G2 eventually has esports only as a side business and focuses more on entertainment in general, or will you always have competitive gaming as part of your core identity?
G2 was born in esports. Our esports business will remain part of our core and roots forever. We are the most successful esports organisation of all time both competitively and media-wise.
We are now entering an expansion phase to become a broader entertainment business. Esports will always be at the heart of what we do. But in that sense, yes, our business will become more focused on entertainment.
Which other esports organisations do you look at and think that they have aspects of their business which are working better than the equivalent on G2? Who can you still learn from in the space?
100 Thieves and FaZe are doing a good job when it comes to influencer strategy and economics. We have lots to learn about these areas. The buck pretty much stops there.
You've positioned yourself as the core of the G2 brand. Let's think 10 or even 20 years ahead. Is there any fear that as you get older, the younger generation might not connect to you any longer or that you might not want to be in front of a camera all the time?
ocelote and G2 are two separate brands.
But I am also Carlos Rodriguez, Founding CEO of G2 Esports. As Carlos Rodriguez, it is my job to make sure the company continues to be number one. People don't follow me as a result of G2 putting me in the spotlight. People follow me because they like me, which in turn incentivises G2 to keep me in this spotlight. Like it or hate it, I am a no-filter public figure. G2 is the only place I deploy career efforts into, so it is only normal that I continue to be G2's most relevant asset.
I already recognise when I don't understand how to connect with zoomers. I've learned to surround myself with people that understand the way the world changes, then encourage the organisation to adapt accordingly. Whether I'm 31 or 50, the same principle will be used.
If the day ever came where you stepped down from G2, do you have anyone in mind who could take over and uphold the values that you have stepped down?
I haven't thought that far ahead. I enjoy my role too much. When I ask myself: "What will I do when I'm a billionaire?" My current job is still the ideal scenario. I have my dream career. Thankfully, I am aware of how fortunate I am.
You announced the new CS:GO roster recently. Would you call this a lineup for the long term?
The lineup will stay for as long as we believe they can reliably become number one.
Hypothetically, if you were to only compete in one title and be dominant for years, what would that be and why?
I can't choose. I've come to love every game we're a part of for different reasons. Our legacy in all these games is too great for me to take a side here. Obviously, people will say I root for League of Legends first and foremost, but this isn't entirely true and definitely decreasingly so as the years go by.