For our second instalment of HTT Spotlight, we had the opportunity to sit down with one of Australasia’s leading pioneers in esports and gaming with over a decade of experience in the industry, Nick Bobir, to talk about his attraction to esports, how he got his start and his overall perception of the industry.
Nick started on his path within esports and gaming back in 2008 whilst playing competitively in Call of Duty: 4 on Sixaxis Gaming – an old school tournament platform which was used prior to the launch of CyberGamer (now LetsPlay.Live).
2011 marked the launch of Tainted Minds, an organisation that later found success both in competition and with commercial partnerships. During the early days of Tainted Minds, the team was seen solely competing in Call of Duty on PlayStation and later expanded to both Xbox and PlayStation upon the launch of Black Ops 2.
Nick officially registered and launched Tainted Minds as a proper business at the end of 2014 and began what was a widely successful era for him. Over the years, Tainted Minds went on to acquire teams in multiple titles and sign a wide variety of sponsorship deals to solidify themselves as one of the top organisations in the region.
Five years on (2019) we then saw ICON Esports acquire Tainted Minds in what was a monumental moment for the business’ history. Later that year the announcement of ICON Esports acquiring Australasia’s number one organisation, The Chiefs Esports Club, was revealed; with Nick Bobir at the head of it and appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the company.
Now that you have a fair idea of the backstory behind Nick and his business ventures, hear from the man himself as he gives his view on the industry and provides more insight into his personal success.
What attracted you to working in the esports industry?
“From the early CG days of running online teams, it really hit home that I had a passion for the competitive element in video games and also the process of building and wrapping a brand around it.”
“I could identify pretty early on where I thought the industry was heading and believed I had the experience from 10 years of operations to step in effectively and make a great career out of it.”
Despite there being a magnitude of people ‘working’ in the esports industry here in Oceania, at what point did you realise that working in the industry was viable for yourself?
“I think most could get a sense of direction from the trend analysis of activity in both America and Europe and where it would eventually head within APAC. Historically speaking, we are generally a good 3-5 years behind and as things started to move from grassroots to semi-professional, that was when the first instances of outside capital came into the space and new eyeballs.”
“It was only a matter of time before bigger brand deals could be secured and additional capital on the books for clubs to fast track some of those full time dreams within clubs.”
For those aspiring to join the industry, what challenges have you faced to get to where you are today, and how hard did you have to grind to make things viable?
“I think it's safe to say I’ve faced more challenges than most, but I think that also helped shape the last four years of my life. When you have the choice of either rolling over and giving up or owning it and learning from mistakes, you find out you can get to where you were always heading eventually, just a little slower.”
“For those aspiring to join the industry, please do so with the understanding this isn’t a sprint, it's going to be a marathon. You have to be prepared to bootstrap and live a start up life if you want to really build something achievable and sustainable, there are no shortcuts.”
Since becoming CEO of The Chiefs Esports Club, the brand has gone on to sign some of the largest sponsorship deals in Oceania and taken part in some large activations, which of these are you most proud of?
“I think personally, and as a group, we are proud of each of the brand deals we are able to sign and execute on. Having signed a majority throughout a global pandemic also helped solidify that we were on the right track around our strategy and execution. I think certainly the likes of Marvel and L’Oreal stand out for the region and likewise both Optus and Menulog as newcomers to the market as huge brands respectively.
“From an activation standpoint the three week consecutive physical event at QV Melbourne and the execution we had to overcome with running such a long event (outside in the weather), is another great one to have on the resume. If it wasn’t for COVID, we had planned to roll out another 6-8 of these across 2020.”
The Chiefs Esports Club has the largest sponsorship portfolio in Australia currently, what do you credit for that success and what advice would you give to those striving to get there?
“Fundamentally it's about understanding your brand, your audience and wrapping the strategy behind it. No two brands are alike and developing uniqueness tailored to each of them and identifying their goals are the crux of making things work.”
“I am also grateful to work closely with one of my best mates who happens to be the best marketer and forward-thinker in the game (there isn’t anyone close) in Josh. Most of our success has come off the back of working together for nearly 5 years and being on the same page when we load up discord every day and night to work on a project.”
“In terms of advice it would definitely be about identifying what your value add is (always pressure testing it) and continuously learning your data and its value.”
Oceania has been hit by a lot of disappointing news of the past few months from leagues shutting down to organisers letting the community down, how does an organisation like yours navigate this and what effect does this have either on yourself or the community as a whole?
“We had made a point to build The Chiefs brand to be more than just a logo centered around a certain league or title and I think recent months of certain closures or setbacks for the region are a harsh reality on why it's important to do so.”
“I think it’s also important to realise that while it’s sad some of these doors are closing, there is equal opportunity for something bigger to replace them – some of which I’m sure will be announced in the coming months. Saying that, it would be great to have publishers and TO’s start to work closely with the teams here on the ground to help shape what domestic leagues should look like.”
Continuing on the last point, what are your thoughts on the current state of esports here in Oceania?
“Obviously there have been some disappointing decisions made from various leagues or TO’s but I also think that 2020 as a whole was extremely tough on everyone (goes without saying at this point).”
“Generally we would have the buzz of local LAN events, IEM, MEO all throughout the year which drum up not only community connectivity but also awareness of the industry. Once these mainstays return (when it's safe to obviously) you will see the space find its groove again.”
If you could, what advice would you give to your younger self entering the esports industry today?
“Don't be afraid to take breaks and recalibrate more often. There was a 2-3 year stretch of working FT from 6am-6pm and trying to build a business from 7pm until 2am. Over indexing on the placebo of 'hustle' mentality which absolutely created huge burnout effects years down the road.”
“Accepting you will make mistakes daily and that it's completely fine to ask for help.”
What can we expect to see from yourself and The Chiefs in the coming future?
“I feel the brand is about 5-10% of where we want it to be and I have some pretty lofty expectations and ambitions. We want to keep driving awareness to Oceania and continue to innovate as a business in and outside of gaming and esports.”
“We will hopefully be able to share some huge announcements sometime within Q1 or the start of Q2.”
“Personally I want to keep growing as an entrepreneur and operator and learning as much as I can from the great people around me and supporting me. My first job is being a Dad and husband so probably a few more pictures of me and Chels on your twitter feed!”
Nick Bobir is a clear frontrunner for the Godfather of Australasian esports given his magnitude of work towards developing our industry and bringing a wide variety of non-endemic brands to the space. It’s clear that he has a strong passion for our industry and there’s no signs of him slowing down anytime soon.
If you have anyone in mind from the Australasian esports industry that you would like us to spotlight in the near future, don’t hesitate to reach out to us via firstname.lastname@example.org