Image via Riot Games

The Future of EsportsWikis

I try my best to include as much information as humanly possible, but there are some things that may not be covered, just to ensure the most important parts are not missed.

On the 30th of April I was forwarded an email from River by the GAMURS Managing Editor at the time, Aaron Hetzer. The email was titled “Esportspedia Sponsorship” with an attached deck on Esportspedia’s statistics and history. At the time, Esportspedia was generating about ~6m monthly pageviews with 900k monthly active users. For a young startup that had only been in the esports scene for ~4 months, this prospect was exciting.

River and I got on the same page very quickly. She was interested in bringing Esportspedia under the GAMURS umbrella with our support, and we were ecstatic to support such a great resource for multiple esports communities. We made an official offer to acquire the Esportspedia brand and staff on the 2nd of May, and in the next week agreed on the specifics of the deal. Everyone was thrilled. The deal needed to await the finalisation of River and Azubu’s deal, something all parties were aware of.

To not bore you with details you are already aware of (if not, please read here and here) — Azubu decided not to continue with their offer, and instead wanted to issue River a royalty-free (3 month only) license to run it. This was not acceptable to us, so we instead decided to move forward with a similar deal, and hired the whole Esportspedia team to launch a new wikis website: EsportsWikis. We were fully aware that the original Esportspedia website had a dozen issues which needed fixing, whether it was the downtime problems, the fact that it was haemorrhaging cash, or many others. We were not oblivious to the fact that this was a hard task, we just weren’t aware as to how difficult this would be to monetise — and the responsbility for that lay with us.

EsportsWikis Launched

Very quickly, we launched EsportsWikis with a great reception from the community. What we quickly realised was, even though the community loved us, we needed the mainstream audience of the titles we covered to find us. With Esportspedia, Gamepedia, and Leaguepedia around, we weren’t able to compete with their search engine rankings, even though they were (and still are) regularly behind us in updates and whatnot. I will say though, the EsportsWikis team at the time fought valiantly, and succeeded in growing EsportsWikis to surpass it’s predecessor Esportspedia in traffic today, even with the significant head-start they had on us.

Unfortunately, this was simply not enough. Producing high quality data, supporting contributors financially, and ensuring it is done in a timely manner is not cheap. When you’re also doing that on legacy software that so few engineers understand, you end up paying a consultant $150–200/hr for basic work. To install ad units on a normal website would take 45–60 minutes and cost a negligible amount, the wikis however cost us over $1,500 for such a simple task.

For further transparency, to support the traffic, we needed to invest $30,000 in architecture work and $20,000 in annual-prepaid server costs within the first 3 months.

Traffic

Site Speed

Either way, regardless of the above issues we were still ecstatic to be managing the EsportsWikis brand. Supporting River and the team in achieving their vision was unbelievably important to us, which is why over the last 12 months we invested a total of $270,000 across wages, architecture, and server expenses. We knew going into this project that this was going to be expensive, what we didn’t understand was the difficulty in monetising a wiki (1), and the difficulty in growing the wikis (2).


On point (1): Advertising Revenue

In April of 2017, we did the following traffic for the LoLWiki.

On average we serve around 5–6 ad impressions per pageview, and expect a 25–30% ad-block rate across our sites. With this maths, we should assume that LoLWiki will generate 6,482,707 impressions over the month above.

1,852,202 * 70% * 5 = 6,482,707

Instead, we served a grand total of 1,762,886 impressions. A whopping 73% below our projections. Based on this data we know that ~80% of users were ad blocking the EsportsWikis.


On point (2): Growing the wikis

As an innovative and forward-looking company within esports, we strive to make decisions that positively impact our current and future users. We want to continue growing the wikis, whilst also ensuring their sustainability.

To explain GAMURS as a company, I’ll give some insight into our values:

When we build something we want to make sure that it is adding value, and solving a problem. This is difficult in this situation as we have three equally important factors:

  1. All the data needs to be open, fully accessible, and always available to everyone in esports — i.e no paywalls
  2. It needs to have a pathway to profitability — i.e: sustainable over the long term, and not at the expense of our users experience
  3. The wikis need to continue growing to justify regular investments

Achieving item #1 isn’t difficult — it’s pretty straightforward, we just won’t charge for it.

Item #2 is difficult, especially when the software powering your platform is archaic and outdated. How can you build something meaningful and able to generate revenue if you can’t develop it it yourself?

Item #3 is black and white. A website needs to grow regularly, otherwise there is a problem. Esports is rapidly growing, but the wikis were unfortunately headed in the opposite direction. Even though we launched Vainglory, Rocket League, and Gears wikis, we were still losing money and not seeing any meaningful return for our efforts. The wikis were stagnant, and this made them unsustainable. For something we strongly believe in and always want to improve, we could not prolong this any further. We proposed a solution to this challenge, and required complete staff commitment to drive it forward. Unfortunately, we did not receive this from the EsportsWikis team.

Before I continue, I want to say something about River and her team. River’s leadership and management of her staff is something to be admired and congratulated. Her level of dedication and effort is difficult to fathom, and rare to find in any industry, let alone esports. River led the wikis with a great sense of pride, knowing that she was serving a wide and dynamic industry. I thank River and her team for all that they’ve done, and the wonderful brand they built while they were a part of GAMURS.

To put it bluntly, what occurred yesterday was inevitable. Operation wise, the wikis were unsustainable— GAMURS is a for-profit company that needs to drive sustainable returns. Strategy wise, River and our management team did not see eye to eye. The truth is, we asked River and her staff to lead the proposed solution numerous times over a 3 month period, and were met with continuous resistance and rejection.

In May, I explicitly communicated to River that if the staff behind EsportsWikis were not interested in working on this solution, we would be moving in a different direction. With no change in positions on either end, yesterday we made the unfortunate decision not to renew any EsportsWikis staff contracts. I am deeply saddened that the collaboration between GAMURS and the original team behind Esportspedia and EsportsWikis will not be continuing, but I am also extremely excited by what we have in store.


Now, the title of this post is the “Future of EsportsWikis”, and I haven’t mentioned this once. Without history, there is no future. Thanks to where EsportsWikis is today, we can finally showcase what the GAMURS team has been working on.

Firstly, I’m proud to announce that EsportsWikis has new management. Murilo Ricci and Michael Vickroy are now in charge of driving the wikis forward. They will be structuring the team to power the data behind the platform, but also our social media live coverage and reporting.

You may be asking though, “how is this different to what you were already doing?” 
Great question. 😏

I’d like to introduce you to the Esports Database

An early look of the Esports Database. (Sorry for the Dota 2)

We are building state of the art technology that can not only hold all the information that the wikis did, but so much more. We then want to take it a step further — by bringing greater data visualisation, predictive software, and automatic analysis to each and and every esports user, for free. This website will be integrated directly into Dot Esports. If you happen to be reading an article on Faker, we will automatically integrate the top level data of that player. If you’re reading a piece on a tournament that’s coming up, we will have you covered with upcoming tournament information, competitors, dates, and live match data. This brings me to my next point: we will be building live capability, and a plethora of other features (did someone say power rankings and performance tracking?).

This solution solves the three problems I listed above.

  1. It ensures that the data will be available, accessible, and free forever. As is fundamental to EsportsWikis, every user and visitor has the ability to contribute to the data on the website.
  2. We will be able to build a sustainable and growing platform as we can continuously deploy new functionality, features, and titiles.
  3. It can (and will) become profitable. The power to provide data in any form we wish to the entire esports ecosystem creates an unlimited number of opportunities.
We have thought long and hard about this, and have invested significant capital in building a comprehensive platform, but we cannot do it without your support. If you have any ideas, suggestions, or wants to help with the project, please email me personally at Riad[at]gamurs[.]com.

In the future, we plan on expanding the platform to cover all esports titles, whilst improving the quality of content that users can expect. Gone are the days of basic biographies and some schedules… We want to breakdown every match for you, predict future results and run analysis on your behalf — so you can understand what’s going on. Take CS:GO for example, we want to display where every death happened on the map, when the bomb was planted, the guns used, and in a visual format that is far beyond what is currently available. These are ambitious plans and will not happen all at once, but we are an ambitious company that has continuously delivered.

We want to deliver this to you in a beautiful website, with complementary native iPhone and Android applications — for free.

So yes, to reiterate: the data you have come to rely on is not going anywhere, it’s just about to get a whole lot better.

From myself and the team at GAMURS,
Thank you