Immortals GM lurppis: "No one in esports has found a way to monetize the fans"

We sat down with Immortals CS:GO General Manager Tomi "lurppis" Kovanen ahead of MIBR's announcement to ask him about the organisation's plans to make money out of the new roster.

The dust has settled after the highly-anticipated MIBR unveiling in São Paulo last night. Several hundreds of fans attended the event, at the Transamérica Expo Center, and thousands more watched the live streams and the TV broadcast.

After the partying and fun comes the hard work of building a sustainable esports brand on the back of one of the most celebrated rosters in recent esports history.

lurppis believes that most organisations are 'burning money'

That work, in part, falls on the shoulders of Immortals GM lurppis, who was brought in in February to focus on "business operations, content, and event formatting".

The former 1.6 professional has remained involved in esports as an analyst and writer since his retirement while working with J.P. Morgan as an Investment Banking Analyst.

We sat down with the Finnish veteran to discuss his role in MIBR and how the organisation plans to re-invent the financial side of running a Counter-Strike team:

What exactly is your job going to consist of in the new organisation?

The General Manager title isn't necessarily like a sports GM-type, so my job isn't to make trades every week or get a new player in for less than the outgoing parts are worth. Basically, it's a General Manager title in the sense of traditional businesses. I'm in charge of all the business operations that relate to Counter-Strike across Immortals.

So what might that entail? You've talked before about also being responsible for content. What might that be?

I'm obviously not ready to reveal plans that we're not ready to talk about at this point, but whatever we do that relates to Counter-Strike falls on my lap. Whether it's the announcement event in São Paulo or potential future plans. It's also making sure that the team is doing fine in all regards. That they have everything they need from us to perform well and figuring out, well, anything related to running a Counter-Strike team.

I want to touch on that because there was some stuff going on with the players and their relationship with SK. Will you be there to avoid those kinds of things?

I think I'm mostly there for the business side of things. The Venn diagram of people who have real business experience and also understand esports is very, very tiny. Even smaller if you only look at Counter-Strike. So I think that's the actual value. I will say, though, that, based on the rumours, which I obviously cannot confirm nor deny, it does sound like the players had some sort of problems with the organisation, and I can say that I certainly would not want to run it that way myself.

With you and [Immortals CEO] Noah Whinston, it seems like the business side of things plays a big part in this new venture. What do you think you're going to be doing differently from the way other organistions have run things?

Well, it's a huge investment to bring in one of the best teams in the world. And from what Noah has said before, regarding what we're trying to do in Brazil, I think you can start to get an idea of what we plan on doing just based on the fact that we already hosted a ticketed event just for the announcement of the team. We're going to see what's possible within the realm of fielding a CS team and what can be done with it. We definitely don't want to be one of the teams who just pay players to compete at tournaments. We don't think that's a sustainable business model, and our plan is to see how we can stretch that and how we can actually make the numbers work. Which is something that I don't think actually works for any team.

That's my next question: There must be some sort of need in the market that you have identified. What is that?

The numbers just need to work. Currently, I think every Counter-Strike team is just burning loads of money. The higher the salary, the more they're burning. It's very hard to recoup the kind of money that these top players are getting paid. You hear the rumors about, say, getting paid $25,000 a month. You do the math. That's a lot of money over a year - $300,000 a player and you have a coach as well - that's almost 2 million dollars right there. You'd need a lot of sponsors to make 2 million, so I'm not sure if that's currently reasonable. I think, realistically, you probably need to have other avenues of monetizing your fans. And frankly, I think it's a really interesting challenge because no-one really in esports has found a way to monetize fans. That's why, if you look at the graphs that show the difference between revenue generated per esports fan and revenue generated per NBA fan, the difference is huge. And bridging that gap, that's the interesting part about this job, how to make that work. Because no one has made it work yet.

MIBR look to capitalize on the fame of FalleN and his men

Does that mean you're going to be paying the players less than other organisations?

If we were to offer them less money than others, then they might not have wanted to join our organisation. You have to operate within the realities of the market. The players have to be paid what they're worth. You pay for the results, the marketability, and all the other things, so I don't think it would be realistic to expect to field this team for cheap. So then the question becomes: "How do you generate more revenue?"

There are other organisations trying to solve that riddle. RFRSH, with Astralis under them, are also looking into this. Not saying that they're necessarily making money, but they seem to have some ideas as to how to generate revenue outside the regular ways. Are you looking at what they're doing in all this?

Our idea is to go beyond just sponsorships. It's more about what other revenue streams there can be. The risk to me, the only risk for the growth of Counter-Strike is that if there is a turn down in the economy and companies slash their marketing budgets, then that affects the scene right away or whenever contracts run out. So you have to find a way to expand the revenue streams beyond sponsors.

In all of this, in your quest for making money outside the old ways, why Brazil? Why is it that you think Brazil is the market to do this in, at least as a starting point?

We didn't start this top-down. We didn't compare all the different potential markets. If we had, we'd want to be in the US, I think. That's the best market for basically everything - the biggest economy, the highest purchasing power and things like that. So for us, it all starts with the team. And the team happens to be Brazilian, which means most of their fans are in Brazil, and that's why we think that there is a lot of untapped potential in there. We think that the things we do in the United States, we should be able to apply to Brazil. There are some gains to be had from that, we believe.

Plus, the fans are crazy.

Yeah, they're very passionate. I went to an esports conference in Rio two months ago and was very impressed with the number of people that were there from non-endemic companies. Just the interest in esports is crazy, we saw the speed at which the ESL One Belo Horizonte tickets sold out, for example, and the fact that coldzera and FalleN were invited to the show where they named the biggest athletes of the year in Brazil. These guys are actual celebrities in Brazil, and the interest that the fans have in this team is beyond anything I've ever seen in any other country for any other Counter-Strike team.

Finland Tomi 'lurppis' Kovanen
Tomi 'lurppis' Kovanen
No team
Rating 1.0:
Maps played:
Xyp9x | 
Israel Mayr0N 
2018-06-24 16:07
2018-06-24 16:07
making money of delusional fans is smart
2018-06-24 16:08
Finland Lehtori 
ez 4 KOVAnen
2018-06-24 16:14
they can def make a lot out of the brazilian ones as long as they're offering something affordable
2018-06-24 16:35
Netherlands ZoMilan 
Like the see you later shirts xaxaxaxaxaa
2018-06-24 17:05
That is how the Church works.
2018-06-24 16:47
2018-06-24 16:08
draken | 
Argentina X3L0S 
Robin kool
2018-06-24 16:07
Finland perkelemeister 
Sounds evil -Never forget the power of ENCE! #EZ4ENCE- -perkelemeister
2018-06-24 16:08
natu | 
Finland sadmen 
2018-06-24 16:27
2018-06-24 16:40
Truck Fump.
2018-06-24 19:05
2018-06-24 20:28
EZ4ENCE 2018
2018-06-24 21:56
2018-06-24 16:07
fer | 
Brazil Drezim1 
bad news
2018-06-24 16:07
Lebanon RobloxPorn 
Corporate shill
2018-06-24 16:08
Lol br
2018-06-24 16:08
Oh wow lul
2018-06-24 16:08
cause too many poor Brazilians and Turks
2018-06-24 16:08
2018-06-24 16:09
2018-06-24 16:09
France 1Faren 
MiBR wants the $$$
2018-06-24 16:11
United States Trump2020KAG 
Money grab team. Will have to pay for pics taken with players and pay for autographs. GG Thus picking up shit2k one of the biggest fan bases in all of csgo. Elige top1 na shit2k barley top 10.
2018-06-24 16:13
Netherlands jonsve 
It's what other sports do as well...
2018-06-24 16:23
United States SoupSnatchin 
Very true trump2020 shit2k can't even see out of his own eyes Elige top 1 na
2018-06-24 16:23
Denmark Poopoohead123 
Espiranto 1 mvp elige 0 btw
2018-06-24 16:47
That is one ironic name when whining about capitalism.
2018-06-24 18:00
United States Trump2020KAG 
whos whining?
2018-06-24 18:58
Wow your asshole got carpet burn really fast.
2018-06-24 20:51
United States Trump2020KAG 
typical libtard
2018-06-24 22:50
Aw don't cry now lil guy! Waaaah not capitalism! Waaaah libtard!
2018-06-25 00:27
United States Trump2020KAG 
u the only libtard here lil boy so go bed and maybe Hillary will give u a big kiss in ur wet dream with her
2018-06-25 00:43
The reason I know you're a fakeflage awful troll is you whined about capitalism and then said libtard. Which is literally not how it works, you idiot.
2018-06-25 01:11
United States Trump2020KAG 
once again dumbazz no one whined....U are upset about hillary so decided to cry to me about how u are 13 and wanted a female libtard president...once again being u are so dumb ill tell NO ONE WAS CRYING ABOUT ANYTHING. I stated what that statement was about...U will have to pay for anything doing with MIBR/IMT players and items....thats not crying thats just saying what the team is now..a money grab
2018-06-25 14:24
It's easy to monetize them: the more fans there are - the more your sponsors pay for ads because of the bigger viewership.
2018-06-24 16:11
2018-06-24 16:17
viewership is irrelevant if the people viewing it doesn't fucking buy anything.
2018-06-24 16:43
it does not matter, the more people watch - the more potential buyers there are
2018-06-24 16:44
United States SWiFTzZzZz 
Ads aren’t free. When you see steelseries on a jersey they pay for it to be there
2018-06-24 17:03
jeez i wish i were a VP player 25k$/mo = so ez money LUL
2018-06-24 16:12
'' No one in esports has found a way to monetize the fans '' Fnatic gear ??
2018-06-24 16:13
Ecuador ARKZE, they get shit ton of cash from merch and gadgets source: im polish but fakeflaggerino :G
2018-06-24 16:38
ropz | 
Czech Republic rusteD 
doesnt dota force you to pay if you wanna watch majors?
2018-06-24 16:45
better gaben pay me to watch a shitty dota 2 tournament than i pay for that bullshit
2018-06-24 16:52
I watched few games of the last major via twitch i believe ( not dota fan tbh cant even understand the game)
2018-06-25 00:46
Finland FisuCSGO 
2018-06-24 16:15
Wow CEO of Nordic Bet misses the point here.
2018-06-24 16:16
2018-06-24 16:20
2018-06-24 16:20
Vietnam Oida 
"No one in esports has found a way to monetize the fans" ImmortalsGG, Made In Brazl - MONETIZING PEOPLE SINCE 2018
2018-06-24 16:22
NordicBet CEO
2018-06-24 16:26
expected from nordicbet ceo, only cares about money xddddd
2018-06-24 16:28
Money is what moves esports
2018-06-24 17:09
the world *
2018-06-25 00:47
Yes yes my canguru friend
2018-06-25 00:47
Mirage : Jungle
2018-06-25 00:49
I dont get It :c
2018-06-25 00:49
United Kingdom INGEMARSSON_ 
“...because no-one really in esports has found a way to monetize fans.” Interesting Tomi. Does your memory escape you? Go have a chat with Andreas Thorstensson.
2018-06-24 16:31
fnx | 
Indonesia hackv1n 
Sez SK | Potti
2018-06-24 18:15
United Kingdom INGEMARSSON_ 
Hahahah :p *SK | Kebab heater
2018-06-24 18:21
Feels like what they are going to do will be a nuisance for the team and they are going to perform like shit cus they will have to do so many pr stuff and travel to Brazil to host fans events
2018-06-24 16:33
Yeah if it's going to be like that I doubt they're gonna be in this org for long. The dude's main concern is not having a successful team in a healthy environment but generating a big revenue strictly out of its players' fame. IMT might become the EA of eSports, cunts that want to squeeze out every single penny out of their audiences.
2018-06-24 16:46
Denmark MeToxi 
But he still has a good point. CS esport will never grow if its just a dark pit that you throw money into without getting anything back.
2018-06-24 22:04
If CS was a "dark pit that you throw money into without getting anything back" the game would be dead since long. Exposure from famous teams give them enough money to pay them and still grow. Just look at SK, while they had the brazilian roster they managed to get contract with Visa and stuff, and they didn't want to let go the players. It's just IMT being greedy and trying to squeeze us like milk cows. Every huge organization has been built on the back of successful teams bringing sponsor to the brand. After that, u just need a solid fanbase that will cheer for you, buy merch and u just gotta keep finding bigger and bigger sponsors
2018-06-25 00:34
Esports have already grown large enough to make every big company/investor have a part in them, you have examples like Redbull, HTC, Visa, Audi, Mercedes, VP getting $100m+ from some magnate, Schalke04 having a LoL team, Shaq co-owning NRG, etc. Eleague was broadcasted on cable TV in a big number of countries, it's just a matter of the media acknowledging Esports as an actual thing, because we all know what the average old fart thinks about it.
2018-06-25 02:49
France France98123 
"IMMORTALS GM LURPPIS" dayum i hate the sound of that ...
2018-06-24 16:44
ill buy a mibr shirt, a hat and a coffe mug
2018-06-24 16:46
2018-06-24 16:50
How about streaming tournaments on Twitch instead of Youtube and Facebook?
2018-06-24 16:51
Germany FreePizza 
mibr gambling site incoming
2018-06-24 16:52
and you certainly won't be the first one.
2018-06-24 16:55
Indonesia Exodd 
After all it’s just business & all about the money. Probably the reason why there will never be true loyalty again anywhere
2018-06-24 16:56
smart guy
2018-06-24 17:05
ruuit | 
Serbia Wule123 
more like greedy cunt
2018-06-25 13:54
"the difference between revenue generated per esports fan and revenue generated per NBA fan, the difference is huge" yea because nba is in cable shows you more ads than match and the tickets are $10000, big difference with csgo
2018-06-24 17:11
Tickets are $10000???
2018-06-24 18:04
starting at $10000
2018-06-24 19:29
I don't think you understand the cost of tickets in US currency, my friend.
2018-06-24 20:50
I don't think you understand the meaning of the word hyperbole, my american friend.
2018-06-25 03:33
That honestly didn't come off as hyperbole at all.
2018-06-25 03:41
probably because you're dumb
2018-06-25 03:43
Or probably because you're backpedaling. I mean obviously talking about cable ads was hyperbole too, right?
2018-06-25 05:30
i don't see the hyperbole in saying nba is broadcast on cable and has lots of ads, i'm sorry. and you not understanding what i mean is not 'me backpedaling'. next time i write a comment here i'll keep the american audience in mind and simplify everything i write like in 1984.
2018-06-25 06:07
United States Jack1CS 
Cheapest tickets are like $20, actually very good seats are like $300. Mby in like finals tickets can be that high lol.
2018-06-24 21:28
Maybe if the absolute best seat is being scalped, but $10,000 is unlikely I'd imagine.
2018-06-25 00:27
United States Jack1CS 
10k isnt even the best tickets in finals, the best ones are like 20k
2018-06-25 05:25
I don't pay a ton of attention to the NBA but that's a tad excessive if true.
2018-06-25 05:29
United States Jack1CS 
2018-06-25 05:30
Fuck these quotations, why should I read them 2 times
2018-06-24 17:18
Lurppis is the perfect guy to handle this job, he knows his shit. Perfect bonus is that he could at any time just jump in to a game since he's way better than any brazilian has ever been or will ever be in CS.
2018-06-24 17:23
If you fans bet on you,and you start throwing,what do you think?
2018-06-24 17:31
Brazil BuddyINSANE 
I like that! Good luck Tomi!
2018-06-24 17:44
get that money
2018-06-24 17:50
Oh so the revival of MiBr is just a money grab.
2018-06-24 17:53
Tunisia edgg 
no, Noah decided to buy the mibr brand and sign the ex-SK roster because he likes them
2018-06-24 18:55
Proof ?
2018-06-24 18:57
Tunisia edgg 
you dont really get it do you?
2018-06-24 19:00
Proof that I don't get it ?
2018-06-24 22:14
It's sarcasm
2018-06-24 22:21
Proof ? ( No shit )
2018-06-24 22:22
2018-06-24 19:29
2018-06-24 20:32
retired at 30? damn lurrppis
2018-06-24 18:07
as if lurpis could solve the problem that young people don't have spending power. you can't milk them if they only have pocket money from their parents.
2018-06-24 18:07
2018-06-24 19:34
You early teens are but a portion of the audience and the business overall.
2018-06-24 20:20
don't include me :P and they are the largest portion.
2018-06-28 22:20
Twistzz | 
Estonia dev2ce 
"it's a huge investment to bring in one of the best teams in the world." I can see why you didn't pick up one of the best teams then. LMAO
2018-06-24 19:22
fox | 
Portugal GoDtK 
Subscribers card incoming like football teams and other sports. E-sports blowing all the traditional sports incoming. #moneymoneymoneymoneymoneymoneymoneymoney
2018-06-24 20:11
Gl lurppis
2018-06-24 20:50
Germany No_Kappa 
2018-06-24 23:30
Brazil Smartzilian 
Fallen is monetizing his fans since CS 1.6 xD Look at what he's doing, selling expensive gears, lessons about the game, crowfunding. He does an paid event every year...thousand fans goes there to see him.
2018-06-25 03:04
Brazil Smartzilian 
It's a good model mr. Lurppis
2018-06-25 03:06
shaGuar | 
United States brieN 
-business model: make more money -proceeds to buy old team name that means nothing to current fans -profit?
2018-06-25 03:44
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