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Rogue CEO Frank Villarreal on H1Z1's Esport Potential
INTERVIEW // H1Z1: King of the Kill // By Gregory Ibañez // 13d ago
H1Z1 has been growing immensely over the past few months and has attracted some big names in gaming — Summit1G, Ninja, DrDisrespect, among many more. We caught up with Frank Villarreal, the co-founder and CEO of esports organization Rogue, to discuss the potential of H1Z1 esports outside the yearly Invitational.
With the addition of Hosted Games, how do you see the game fitting into the esports space aside from the yearly H1Z1 Invitational?
I feel like H1Z1 has the potential to tell a different storyline within each game. Every game is going to be a little bit different — whether its going to take place in residential, Pleasant Valley, or in the hills. The landscape changes every time you play the game and the story changes with that.
A professional team might lose a player early in the match and they'll have to play the rest of the match 4v5v5v5v5 and if that's the case then they have to play differently. I think there's enough variety in play that the added layer of competition has a place for H1Z1.
What range prize pools do you think the game will see when not hosted by Daybreak?
I think we will be pleasantly surprised.
I'm not the only team owner that has seen a lot of potential in this game. One of the things that attracted us to H1Z1 is that it has such good storytelling — that each match can be unique and has a lot of rewatchability.
We're not the only ones that see that, the tournament organizers see that too so I think that we'll see a lot of high prize pool matches. What the format for that is, I don't know yet. We'll see, but what I know is that H1Z1 is going to have big prize pools in the near future.
Does the current state of the game need to become fully polished before H1Z1 jumps into esports?
The game definitely needs more polishing and I think Daybreak is doing all that they can to get there as quickly as possible.
For competitive, the biggest problem I've seen is smokes not going off. That to me is a really big one because if you're laying down smokes it's usually when you're usually in a firefight. You cant spend that extra three seconds droping it on the ground, picking it back up, and trying to throw it again.
I think we'll see those problems get better over time as Daybreak figures out how to fix specific portions of their code. We've seen their hit registration improve. With Preseason 3, I felt like the feel of the game and hit registration was worse again, but I did the shadow-glitch and after that the hit reg felt pretty good.
I guess my answer to that is: we'll see. I know for upcoming tournaments that are LAN, there will be referees behind every player, at least every team. And if there's a game breaking glitch the match will probably be restarted if the glitch gives the other team a huge advantage. I hope Daybreak fixes it sooner rather than later so that it may become a larger esport, but we are already trying to find workarounds for the problems.
King of the Kill already has three different queues — Solo, Duo, and Fives — which play out much differently from each other. When Daybreak opens its esports gates, should they take all three head on, or focus on one and slowly branch into the rest?
I feel like fives has the most tactical variety of any esports I've ever seen. Player have the ability to do really interesting tactics and interesting flanks. There's so much you can do tactically in fives that I've never really seen in any other esport.
I hope the focus is on fives. Currently the teams are all picking up teams of fives because we believe fives will be the primary mode.
The game ranked in the Top 10 Most Watched Games on Twitch in 2016 and each Invitational gathered six-digit concurrent viewers. With the addition of a true H1Z1 esports scene, which titles do you feel it will begin to rival?
Esports are usually closely reflected by their user base and that user base is currently growing. It had a huge bump the last three months, but it'll have a month larger bump when the game actually comes out. We're still in pre-release so it'll be hard for me to give an actual representation of where H1Z1 will be in terms of esports viewership until I know what the actual user base is going to be — which'll is a couple weeks after release.
However, talking among the other organizations, we see so much potential in the streaming value in general. There's so much ability for chat interaction and player interaction within the game. In League of Legends you're never going to get into a game with a pro player unless you're also a challenger player. In H1Z1 you have the ability to interact with a fan in game because they don't have to be in Royalty to play with you or against you.
In terms of streaming numbers it will do better per user than any other esport on the market.
Do you have any last words or thoughts you’d like to share?
I think that every organization that's coming in wants to build the esports scene together. You'll see a lot more teams in the future, but I see everyone coming together for this. That's rare in esports. All the teams are willing to come together to make sure H1Z1 esports succeeds.
Gregory 'leeks' Ibanez once upon a time played Counter-Strike: Global Offensive semi-professionally under multiple organizations. He sticks to AWPing in CS because he's known around the office as literally the worst Widowmaker in Overwatch...