Nicolas Reber is the founder and CEO of GamerLegion GmbH, a company that unites esports and coaching under one roof. With successful teams in ten different games and over 40 licensed coaches, GamerLegion has made a name for itself in professional gaming. With us, he talks about the beginnings of his company, what makes every team unique and the Gaming House, a 300 m² penthouse that is used as a hub for the team members as well as for prestigious gaming events.
In 2017, you founded GamerLegion in Berlin with the intention to offer professional coaching for games. Since then, your company extended even deeper into esports. Please tell us a bit about that.
GamerLegion in a nutshell, is my passion for helping and supporting gamers, who are trying to be better, or even the best. In 2016 it became clear to me that in order to support a future in esports, proper training is crucial. As there is a ton of mistakes anyone can make in a game, it’s difficult to find your own way and it is very helpful if people with a lot of experience are supporting you. I have a very strong talent in finding exactly this kind of people.
This passion for training has also translated towards our esports approach. In 2018, we decided to pick up our very first League of Legends line-up, and since then we have expanded our journey to include well-known games like CS:GO, Fortnite, FIFA or Rainbow Six, but we are also especially recognised by our wondrous dive into the scene of Age of Empires, which was easily one of our best decisions, I would say. In general, we are always going to be especially focused on coaching and shaping ideal environments when it comes to supporting talents, building teams, and enabling players. Today I would say, we are one of the most recognised German top level esports teams with a strong foothold in Berlin.
Why did you choose Berlin for the company?
The company was founded in April 2017 in Celle which is a smaller city close to Hannover. After a few months, it became clear that in order to grow and attract potential employees, it was necessary to move into a city with a strong support for our needs as well as our identity. Back then, I made a list of words which defined us most, which included basic definitions like „gaming“, „esports“ and „start-up“ as well as needs. Like what kind of target employees I would need to shape my ideas, how hard it is to settle down and what kind of people a city attracts. In the end, it was a tight race between Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin. After deciding upon it, my small team consisting of just three went on to live and work in Berlin just 6 weeks later. I have not regretted the decision for a second to this day.
About the coaching: What is it exactly, that you are offering?
Through our platform, we bring people together. This means that we connect coaches and gamers who want to improve in a game to help them achieve a set goal. This ranges from the basic learning of a game, to the possibility of beating one's friends, up to the goal of entering professional esports in the future by participating in national/international competitions.
The approach is that interested people spend many hours watching their role models for inspiration. They often watch videos and try to copy moves or tactics. It takes a lot of time to find a player online who can teach the skills necessary to become better according to my individual experience. Every player is individual and has their own strengths and weaknesses. The individual one-on-one coaching approach allows the coach to focus on these fine aspects of the student’s needs. A clear definition of goals contributes to the improvement process being as effective and efficient as possible. We make sure that coaches are thoroughly vetted, so that we can guarantee the highest possible standards for every hour.
You are very successful with the teams in different games. How did you form those teams and what do you expect for upcoming tournaments?
Esports has been an important path in our company philosophy – we want to create successful teams filled with talents that grow into their career through our coaching staff.
After a few years with multiple different games and teams, now we have four game titles that fit into our philosophy and into our brand within the last year.
For example, we remodelled our former League of Legends team to fit into the Prime League. We found an experienced coach who was thrilled to teach and form raw diamonds and mix them with experienced and well-known star players. The start in January 2020 unfortunately was nothing but a failure, still the trust we put into the team and our staff by giving them the time they needed, got paid back immediately: with overall success in 2020 and a very strong European Masters Finalist in the summer and being the second-best team in inter-European League of Legends.
Age of Empires is an interesting franchise game with a fairly old community. The name GamerLegion will always have its roots in the past, when the Legion fought battles and conquered the land. Age of Empires is a game about conquering and sending armies into battle. Jumping into the game and inquiring the best team out there, was the logical step. For example, the Red Bull Wololo III champion from Serbia, Darko „DauT“ Dautovic, who is one of our players, has played AoE for more than 20 years on a top level – that´s honestly pure amazement for me to see. Also, the progress and dedication of the six players is amazing and I am sure we will have a lot of fun together in the future. I hope that they can continue their journey with our support and bring back many trophies and lots of great memories.
In Counter-Strike, we made changes in the second quarter of 2020. We concluded that we need to focus on our philosophy and started to sort out big names and old stars. Supporting young talents on all levels, helping them succeed and be successful, marking the next steps on their career. In May 2020 we announced our new prospects, raw diamonds, young and talented. The new year started amazingly, the talents started to play well together, winning crucial matches against high ranked opponents ultimately leading to qualify for the DreamHack Open in November, the biggest tournament our CS:GO team has ever taken part in.
Our latest addition is our Tekken player Tetsu who came to us in August 2021. In Germany, it's hard to imagine the Tekken elite without him - even though, at 22, he's one of the absolute youngsters on the scene. He celebrated his biggest win in his short time with us thanks to his victory at Panasonic Fight Night and is ready to attack the European top class.
Every team has a different approach, but all teams have a synergy with our brand. We help talented players to reach the next level in their career and being successful together. We expect a lot of passion and mentality from our players for the next tournaments – winning is always great, but the journey of improving themselves and improving as humans will always be as important as the victory.
Do you think the Gaming House is a positive factor for the evolution of the teams?
The Gaming House is one of the most important factors for our teams and the organisation in general. Basically, it serves to make the topic of esports tangible. In the Gaming House, our teams have everything they need to work professionally and feel comfortable. Due to the location, we can also significantly increase the personal exchange with the teams, which is very pleasant for everyone involved. Success can be celebrated, and developments can also be discussed together. For the office team, it is enormously important, also from a marketing and sales point of view, to have the team bundled at a fixed location, as best as it is possible under the current conditions. This opens many more possibilities for potential partners to implement creative activities.
In addition, GamerLegion places a lot of emphasis on the individual development of each player, which can be made much more effective through personal exchange. The regular visits help ensure that the team members have a contact person for their worries and concerns at all times. From our point of view, this is an essential point that shapes the development of the team spirit. Everyone gets to know each other personally, away from competition and training time. Joint evenings or excursions benefit the team spirit which has positive long-term effects. The generous space in the Gaming House gives each player their own room where they can retreat if they want to.
Even away from the direct occupancy by our teams, the Gaming House is a central point which we will use more for events in the future. So you can summarise that our Gaming House is the core hub of GamerLegion.
Do you see more interest in esports since the beginning of the pandemic? Or do you think that the interest rises while gaming becomes more and more popular?
I think both factors together play a decisive role. Basically, the current trend is that more and more people around the world are active in the field of gaming. It starts with mobile games on the way to work and extends to professional esports careers. Due to the increasing digital possibilities, the interest of young people in becoming more active in gaming is also growing. This development leads to a steady increase in professionalism, and there are more and more people who (want to) pursue a career in gaming professionally. This shift from hobbies and profession to the digital realm is the ultimate result of developments in recent decades which is now being actively promoted by governments. This is also recognized by companies, which in turn can better address their target group. In this way, more financial strength enters the market, which in turn increases the attractiveness of the industry, thus creating a cycle that accelerates growth and benefits players.
As people are at home, unable to pursue their previous hobbies for the most part, they tend to go online. Whether out of boredom or due to available time, more and more people are coming into more frequent contact with platforms like Twitch or YouTube, and everyone can find something of interest there which is an exceptional accelerator for esports. However, it is noticeable that the classic structure or culture is also shifting to online demands and channels from and orienting itself to its flexibility, which is more important than ever in the current times. The developments before the pandemic make it clear that even under normal circumstances, esports is growing, and social recognition is also constantly improving. Still, more time and work is needed to continue to anchor the topic of esports as a given presence.
What are your wishes for the future? What would be needed to bring esports to a wider audience?
My wish is that what happens on the internet and intrigues the young audience daily gets more recognition and support from our politicians. As esports and gaming are developing into one of the biggest constants in this pandemic, everyone should recognize the importance of giving this major scene a supportive foothold in Germany for generations to come. The speed of life has accelerated very much. Blink and you might miss your opportunity to integrate your country in one of the biggest future markets.
With official support towards esports, it is my goal to start rolling out esports leagues and tournament games to a vast audience by filling up live audience arenas, delivering emotions and entertainment. The past journey of football shows you what the future of esports will look like. It is only a matter of time.