The Podcast: Cloud9 Owner Jack Etienne Joins Talking Games With Reggie And Harold!

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Today, Cloud9 owner Jack Etienne talks to Reggie and Harold about the team’s storied history, the effect of Covid-19 on him and the teams, Cloud 9’s first League of Legends team and whether Hai should have been an owner, the issue of bigotry in esports, what ownership means for Sneaky, Cloud9’s future, and much more.

It’s an intense conversation in which Reggie, Harold and Jack go deep into the ever-growing world of esports.

Enjoy it! We only have two podcast episodes left, ever!

Transcript:

Reggie  00:01

Welcome to the fifth edition of talking games with Reggie and Harold. We hope you’re saying well and staying safe in these challenging times. As you add your voice against racism and social injustice, we salute your efforts to create positive change in America. At the New York Video Game Critics Circle were trying to change things as well. Through the mentoring of homeless and other underserved students. Please take time to donate at NYGameCritics.com/Reggie to support these efforts. Today on the podcast, we’re talking esports with Jackie Etienne, the CEO of Cloud9, one of the most important teams in the world today. Jack has taken Cloud9 and an exciting League of Legends team to great success, and over a $300 million valuation from Wall Street.

Harold  00:56

Reggie I first met Jack when Cloud9 was a relatively small entity, I was able to travel the world for a Playboy cover story on Cloud9, and its first successful League of Legends team from California to Seattle to Paris to Seoul, through their ups and downs. And over the course of nearly a year, I got to know Jack and the original team. I wrote a book about esports called the League of Legends experience, which is a colorful snapshot of the era. It was exactly the right time to write about esports because it was exploding from a counterculture movement to a mainstream sport.

Reggie  01:36

You know, the rise of esports has really been fascinating to watch. The esports landscape is currently valued at a billion dollars five times larger than it was in 2014. And it’s projected to continue similar aggressive growth. There are a variety of companies in the business, each taking a different approach. Cloud9 believes and fielding teams are across a range of games, and competing with great athletes. And now, here’s our interview with Jackie Etienne.

Reggie  02:23

Jack, great to have you on our podcast. And to begin, maybe we should start with the origin story for Cloud9, and how you entered the esports business?

Jack Etienne  02:32

Sure. So shortly before Cloud9 was founded by myself and my wife, I was running the ad sales division for Crunchyroll, which is online anime streaming service. In my free time, I was helping an esports organization name TSM and I was their general manager like I had the general manager role and I also did ad sales for them just helping them just stay afloat and It was really more of a passion and fun thing for me. It was my introduction to esports of watching it really grow. And at the same time all that is going on I was also heavily involved in running a guild, which is a group of people in a game called World of Warcraft and competitively taking down objectives in that game. And so I personally was really interested in video games and playing them I also helped manage a large esports organization. And that was all like side fun hobby passion stuff for me. But my day to day job was running a sales team for Crunchyroll, I saw an opportunity to pick up the guys that I first signed for Cloud9. And I think like, the reason I was happy being a big part of TSM and running Crunchyroll, but I saw a lot of opportunities to expand outside of League of Legends and the ownership of TSM was really focused on League of Legends and nothing else. And so I saw all these opportunities and when I brought them up to TSM, they weren’t really interested in doing it. But for me, I just loved competitive sports and I saw all these different games that were growing. And I thought, Hey, you know, the only way I’m ever going to be able to really kind of pursue all these things I’d like to get involved in is be running my own team. So I started thinking about like, how would I do this? How would I make my own team and I actually started looking to and I did invest in bey the second place League of Legends team in the LCS, a team called Good Game University and started going through the process of onboarding those guys making a new brand and, and that was going to be my initial play into my own founding of a team. As it turns out, how, you know, when you acquire things, sometimes the employees or the people are involved, they have a whole nother idea of how they want to run things. And the guys that I hired that the team that I bought, they wanted to go another way they wanted to work with another owner that was looking to get involved in the space. And so I was really struggling with that and getting them to be excited about what I was looking to build. And so while I was struggling, I was introduced to Hai, he was playing for another team. They just qualified for the LCS. He had an opportunity to leave that team but he wanted to work with someone who has a really good management group because he hadn’t had really good managers in his past. And so he thought, hey, Jack, I heard you’re looking for a team, I love the stuff you’re doing with TSM. You know, would you consider making an organization for me to play for, you know, so I had this situation where I’ve got five guys who really not happy about what I was looking to build, and they wanted to work with somebody else. It wasn’t necessarily it wasn’t a personal thing with me, they really want to work with somebody else. And I had Hai who I saw his team when I was helping run TSM I saw practices of Hai’s team vers my team, and I knew how good his team was and that their their dirt, you know, that they had a really strong future ahead of them. So I saw an opportunity to just go ahead and sell the team that I had bought GGU to this person that really wanted to get involved into LCS, and the players wanted to play for them and also acquire Hai on his team, which I thought was going to be an equally really good team seemed like a win-win for everybody. So I sold GGU the I bought the contracts for these players and then at that time point I need to come up with a name for the team. I had my own branding that I had kind of set aside that I was I was really thinking was good, but Hai being who he is he really wanted to name the team Cloud9. And so we put it to a vote Hai and Elimination and Balls voted for Cloud9, me and Meteos and Sneaky voted for my brand. And Hai being the the, you know, the awesome guy. Yes. He’s like, well, I’m team captain. So I get to be the tiebreaker. And we’re gonna go with Cloud9. And I just, and I just laughed, I’m like, okay, that’s fine. We’ll go with Cloud9.

Harold  06:33

Jack, I actually first met you in Paris, at the League of Legends All Star event there and I was writing about Cloud9.

Jack Etienne  06:40

I remember.

Harold  06:41

Yeah, I was writing about Cloud9

Jack Etienne  06:43

With no Hai after the long class. I remember.

Harold  06:46

That’s right. That’s right. It was drama from the beginning of that story. And I guess one of the questions I have is, how have things changed with Cloud9 since then it’s been years. So what have you learned? How is the team evolved?

Jack Etienne  07:03

So that time at that event was about one month after I don’t know if I mentioned at the interview, I just quit my job at Crunchyroll. And I decided it was time to focus full time and step away from Crunchyroll focus on Cloud9 full time. And literally the week after I put in my resignation, Hai’s lung collapsed. So as you can imagine, for me, you know, I have a young daughter, married, got a mortgage, I put all my eggs in one basket and my team captains, lung collapses, and it was terrifying. It’s terrifying because you know, worried about my player because I’m worried about his health. I’m also terrified for my family. I think one of the big transitions that’s gone on from that point to now is when I started the team, it was just me and those five guys. I wasn’t really, let’s say in charge I obviously I was at the end of day I was in charge of the team, but a lot of the direction and a lot of the mindset of the team was coming from Hai and from the players as well to be frank like, is only this current iteration of Cloud9, this spring of 2020. And really, the time that actually took place was shortly after worlds of 2019 did the last player from that group of five leave the team with sneaky leaving the team, I cemented the mindset and expectation and goals completely for the team without any of the original guys like, input. There was a mentality shift specifically for the LCS team that beyond the LCS team, there’s a lot of stuff to talk about. I mean, like when I bought out those players now just remember that in the name of the team quote from Quantic, I spent something around $10,000 for buyouts for those players. The last valuation, as reported by like many sources for Cloud9 in 2018, was $300 million. So clearly like that, Economics and the visibility on the esports space has completely changed. And honestly, the pay for the players with at that time was maybe 40 50,000 a year for a really good playing, paying esports job. I’ve now have players and coaches that are, you know, they’re all north of $500,000 a year, on the big on the big teams. And so it’s like, it’s, you know, the economics have completely shifted from that time.

Reggie  09:28

You know, I’d love to push on that point, just the thought of, you know, esports as a business, right, right now, globally, it’s a billion dollar business, it’s projected to grow, you know, north of 20% a year. You know, talk a little bit about the business side. So, you’ve got players, you got players with salaries and coaches. There’s a training aspect to this, there’s a performance aspect to this, just educate the listener on some aspects of of Cloud9 as a business.

Jack Etienne  09:59

If you look at our partners our partners are Microsoft and BMW and Puma and Kaiser Permanente and another six multi billion dollars of revenue a year companies, the companies that want associate with Cloud9, have these incredibly huge brand values, and their expectations on what they’re buying are extremely high and that and that we present ourselves in a way that they’re, you know, that they can comfortably get behind some really big expectations on how we present ourselves. And then our competition. They’re all working extremely hard. They’re extremely well funded. Most of my competitors are owned by large traditional sports companies. So you see Madison Square Garden involved and, you know, and the Mets and is that just based on something like 80% of the teams now in the leagues that I’m involved with our traditional sports teams, so and they’ve got really incredible sales. behind them, they’ve got incredible infrastructure behind them. And I need to not only keep up with them, but I want to beat the crap out of these guys. I’ve had to level up you know, I now have data science teams that are literally scraping data out of these games to give us a competitive advantage. I have really credible seasoned sports psychologist, Gary, who runs our sports psychology department. He just recently not even a year now retired from the Navy and he was a psychologist, doctor for the seals and he applies what he learned on team building in the seals to our players and to make them a solid team and we have incredible strength trainers that right now I’m in my shorts, I’m still sweating from the workout we did with our with our strength trainer this morning and me and all our managers and all our players are working out. You know, every single morning before scrims we usually had chefs here making us food here and inside our HQ, but because of the pandemic we couldn’t do that anymore. So we have a private caterer who delivers like nutritious meals to us every single day, the pandemic changed everything like each in one of the locations where teams live, like cleaning services, they actually live on site so that they’re not going home interacting with other people that live on site. The managers now live on site and we’ve got private catering feeding. So trying to go through all the hoops to keep our players healthy and happy and confident has been also extremely difficult. But you know, we now have the resources to do that. And we put a lot of thought into making sure that not only are we happy and healthy, but we’re super productive and we have an edge all of our competition.

Harold  12:42

Well along the lines of COVID-19 and the pandemic in sports psychology. What are the team’s feeling right now? How are they feeling? Well, they are used to these wonderful, sold out venues with rock concert like applause and the like. So how is it changed for them and what are they feeling?

Jack Etienne  13:06

I think we’ve done a really good job as far as like the actual play field we’ve been able to like you know that there isn’t a huge difference of course the there is a bit of a letdown of not going to these really cool venues and interacting with a really large crowds that’s obviously disappointing but these are all really smart people they understand like and appreciate that, you know, we’re lucky to be able to still compete when a lot of the other sports can’t and you know, we’re just doing our best to continue to provide entertainment and and for our fans as well as provide fulfillment by being the best team here in North America.

Reggie  13:43

Yeah, jack. One of the things that surprised me is I looked at Cloud9 was just the range of different franchises that your players competed. How do you decide which franchises to field the team around even to the point of deciding you know, to field the player for Super Smash Bros. Melee versus fielding a team and in Ultimate, how do you go through that process.

Jack Etienne  14:04

Specifically smash like we’ve been working with mango forever, like since he’s been with us for almost almost seven years or six years now, so I think so there haven’t been a lot of changes. When I picked him up, he was the best. And he’s maintained to being one of the best for a long time. But like in games like Valorant, which is brand new, we had a player named Tenz who is clearly a super gifted FPS player, but he he tried out for our actually got a job with our Counter-Strike Team, but he didn’t really fit in with the guys, you know, on a personal level and requiring basically more than that guys that he were on his team were seasoned veterans, and he was very much a rookie. And so there was just there was just a disconnected understanding of the game, but we knew he was a superstar player. He just needed the right environment to grow in, but it wasn’t here. So we kept them on a roster. He wanted to stay on our roster. And when I heard about Valorant coming in as like, Hey, is this a game that you’d be interested in, like switching from Counter-Strike because I think you’d be good And he he was super excited, like yes. So we built what we done with Valorant as we found like a superstar that we thought like had a ton of potential and we just built a team of people that he felt like he would work really well with. And, and we’ve managed it really closely and we will see what the results of that will be. We don’t know. But I can tell you. There’s another game called Heroes of the Storm, we did something very similar where we took super high mechanical, talented players from other similar games. And so we took a bunch of League of Legends pros that were super highly talented, but just weren’t making it on League of Legends teams. we imported them essentially into Heroes of the Storm. And we won two Blizzcon’s in a row which is like the biggest event for Heroes of the Storm. And so actually think about like Heroes of the Storm. We won the first two World Championships when they came out, Overwatch league we won the first World Championship when it came out. We’ve had a pretty good track record of doing well and new games and we’ve kind of follow that in methodology of finding really talented players that are maybe shining and other similar games and then bringing them into into that again

Harold  16:07

And Cloud9 is doing really well. This year for League of Legends

Jack Etienne  16:13

Our League of Legends team.

Jack Etienne  16:14

Yeah, we’re the we’re the number one team in North America. And we’re good we have the most dominant season in the history of LCS last split. And what’s a really cool statistic is until that time, the most two other most dominant splits were our spring or summer 2014 —  our summer 2013 and spring 2014 were the two most dominant splits for the last seven years and now our spring 2020 is the most dominant So number one, number two and number three most dominant being the highest win percentage are now all Cloud9. Just really cool.

Harold  16:51

That is cool. And one of the, you know, when I wrote about this, Jack, this is the case with tons of counterculture. All movements esports fans in League of Legends and I think generally did not want their sport and their game to go mainstream. They kind of wanted it for themselves and they were suspicious of interlopers coming in. And it even when the story came out, many liked it. But then I was still subject to like a fair amount of bigoted tirades from some of the top youtubers in the space at the time. So there was a wild west aspect to it, as and I mean, this is mine aspect to it as well. So as esports has grown, has this changed?

Jack Etienne  17:38

I think it’s getting better. But it’s, you know, I think it’s getting better. But there is definitely some of it still out there. There’s still like, there’s still a lot of games that are kind of underserved, so there’s still some of that out there. But in the biggest games like Overwatch league and League of Legends, it’s pretty clean environment. Counter-Strike is still a bit of a wild, wild region. Because Valve doesn’t actually, you know, manage it.

Reggie  18:13

As a longtime executive, I enjoy talking business with Jack. I admire the way he’s directed Cloud9’s growth over the last six years. And he’s done it without partnering with a mammoth existing sports organization. Because of schedules, we had to interview jack over a few different segments. In this segment, jack has shared that he’s not feeling all that well. And he may have the COVID-19 virus. You can hear this voice that he’s trying to power through, but not feeling well. Harold picks up the conversation.

Harold  18:47

I wish this was face to face because we’ve had such good talks in the past. It’s been too long but hopefully once this whole thing is done, you know, maybe maybe I’ll I’ll see you again.

Jack Etienne  18:59

Yeah. So to I actually, unfortunately a on Wednesday, or maybe it’s Tuesday, I got a fever. And so I’m now self isolating myself. I feel like fine. I feel fine. I’ve gotten a COVID test. I’m waiting for the results. So if I do have it, hopefully it’s a mild one because I honestly, like if I hadn’t checked my temperature, I wouldn’t even really know I’m sick.

Harold  19:23

So Right, right, right. Is it high? Is it high?

Jack Etienne  19:26

It’s bouncing between like 99 and 102. So bounces between those temperatures. So it’s, it’s high enough to like, you know, you know, at night I’m like, why am I sweaty? You know, but it’s not high enough that I’m really uncomfortable,

Harold  19:42

man, I hope I hope it it goes away soon. And it’s not. It’s not COVID

Jack Etienne  19:47

Yeah, me too.

Harold  19:49

Yeah, ’cause you got stuff to do. Like that’s the thing, both of us. You know, we all have like, jobs that are pretty much 24 hours a day.

Jack Etienne  19:57

Yeah, that’s the biggest annoyances like not knowing and then like, you know, I have to stay away from my kid and my wife. I’m like, I’m basically I’m, you know, I’ve stuck in my office and I’m not allowed out is

Harold  20:12

Yeah. Yeah. Sorry to hear it, man. So, I mean, you know, we’ll probably get to a little bit of COVID. But let’s ask this first. So I remember Cloud9’s League of Legends team is really on a roll this year and it is this team as good as Hai, Lemon, Sneaky, Meteos and Balls at their prime. How are they similar in how are they different?

Jack Etienne  20:42

So that’s a really good question. I think I think I mentioned last time, like the three most dominant splits and LCS history are all are all Cloud9 splits, with the most dominant by win percentage being our last is our very last split and so It’s really kind of tough to say which team was like better because they were both incredibly dominant in their time. I feel like Hai’s team was a lot of their success to scrim came from them naturally being just really good smart players. And, and although they did put in work, they don’t have the same mind. They didn’t have the same mindset this current team has. And I feel like the mindset of this current team is much more sustainable, so that I wouldn’t really say one team was more dominant than the other. I feel like the current team just has the proper mindset to keep winning for a long time where the last team was able to do for two splits and that was it. And the other teams just caught up because they weren’t putting in the work to stay ahead.

Harold  22:00

And personality wise, how do you compare the two? I mean, I know there were, you know, there’s always ups and downs with teams, because they’re five or six people together with coach and, you know, things go from week to week, but how would you compare their personalities?

Jack Etienne  22:17

They, you know, they all have very different personalities and the way the way the team operated in and individually, and I loved it at first, it was so much fun, it really felt like a felt like a family and the good, the bad and the ugly, and we had amazing heights. But with like this current team, we still have fun, but the expectation that we have on each other is much higher. Everyone expects them, you know, they need to bring they know that they need to bring more work to the table. And they they need to do their part and they expect all their teammates to work just as hard as they are. And so there’s a different feeling with the current team where they just you know, they work card because they feel they owe it to the team and they expect their teammates to bring the same thing. And that’s something that no other team I’ve had really had before.

Harold  23:09

I mean, almost you can compare it to the, although the time is only like five, six years, you can almost compare the difference to the earlier days of football, maybe like Green Bay, Jerry Kramer team to a Green Bay team today in the sense that in those five years, there’s a lot more stats and figuring out of mental state and physical state than there perhaps was five, six years ago.

Jack Etienne  23:37

Yeah, it definitely feels like you know, we’ve grown up as an industry and as an industry has grown up to keep a competitive edge. Cloud9 has had to push harder than everybody else. It definitely feels like going from a family business to to a major corporation where it’s just, it’s just different and the same. It’s the same with Cloud9 as a company too like it used to be like me, my wife and my dad. Like packing shirts and sending them but like the expectations and requirements of the jobs have just grown so much. And there’s, there’s a lot more people involved expectations of our fans are much higher and expectations of our employees are much higher stuff, very different situation and we have a lot more information to reflect on as well when we’re making our decisions.

Harold  24:19

Right now the audience has thrived on being there live in an auditorium setting, they’re not able to attend events now. So we know the fans miss it, how much do you and also the players miss the fans?

Jack Etienne  24:30

So there’s definitely feels like going back to our roots, like the current online tournaments. But before actually, I guess, you know, before Cloud9, I was at TSM. And all of our events for the most part were were online except we do four or five LAN events a year. With my current players, a lot of them don’t have that perspective at all. You know, they they looked up watching LCS on stage as I grew up, and that their expectation is to be playing In front of an audience. So those guys, they definitely missed the excitement, drama passion of like the fans that they bring to a live event. And so although when winning this last split was very meaningful, and definitely check the box on the things we were hoping for, they’ve expressed they felt like an emptiness on not having the crowds to be in front of and to hear the audience’s cheer. And so that’s definitely disappointing. And I know the fans really liked those events too. And I do hope we get to a world where those the those things come back, but I’m not counting on it for a while.

Harold  25:37

It’s gonna be a while I think we all kind of pray for the day that this happens again, because it’s, it’s so exciting to be in the audience. So Cloud9 is valued by Forbes at between 300 to $400 million could esports survive and thrive without a live audience until we get a vaccine for COVID-19. And during that time, with valuation take a hit.

Jack Etienne  26:01

That’s an interesting question. Like, when I did this my last capital raise, and we completed it in 2018, I believe and like the valuations back then were like around 300 or 400 mark. I did that raise with the expectation that, hey, I think that there’s a I think we’re about to see a financial hit. I expected it to be like in 2019. And I wanted to be able to ride out any negative, like financial impacts that I could have while still being able to expand and take advantage of opportunities that were good. It took a year longer than expected. But the interesting thing that’s happening right now is that I have multi year partnerships with fantastic companies that aren’t backing down on their marketing. So my sponsorships aren’t going away and my viewership is high and it’s going actually higher. I think because people are stuck at home looking for events to watch, and my merchandise and breaking records on sales like every single month. It’s It’s surprising and obviously, you know, I’m pleasantly surprising to see that, hey, we’re still in business, we’re still doing well. And I think a lot of it has been around that instead of like, going into a bunker and just trying to like wait out, like all the bad things are going on. So we’re really trying to engage with our fans digitally by having, you know, digital, like fan beats, viewing parties, events and interactions with our fans trying to make more products they can buy online since they can’t go outside. And it’s really generated increased fandom and increased merchandise sales, like our partners are really happy with what we’re doing. We’ve been doing a lot of like digital meet and greets with like with fans of our partners and doing events with them digitally as well because they’re trying to figure out how to interact with their people. And it’s been very positive. So I’m feeling I’m feeling great about the future right now. So obviously, a lot of things going on in the world. But like financially speaking, if I was just to look at just the books were fine.

Harold  28:05

What would the ultimate success would be for Cloud9?

Jack Etienne  28:09

It’s an interesting question. I have my own personal things that I want for out of the company. And then obviously, like, there’s things that my investors and I obviously see like a really good financially for the company and they’re not always aligned me personally, like I just want to, I’m very interested in youth development and building really good programs around that and figuring out a way to interact with with kids and teach kids how to be you know, better teamsmanship and sportsmanship, online and physically. So that’s something that’s really important to me, and I want to see that take off and us, you know, become a leader there. I want to be dominant in every game that we’re involved in. We’re doing great here, regionally, but we need to be better internationally. So that’s a huge goal for me. Those are things that are really important for me. I think Cloud9 as a company needs to find revenue sources that are outside of just like sponsorship, and you know, so we have our merchandise slide, but like, I would like to find more revenue streams that just diversify how we’re getting money. And and so that just it just leads to more stable business. So that’s, you know, that’s more goals for the company,

Harold  29:16

It’s important that you mentioned, youth getting involved. And that kind of leads into the next question. But even you know, we, the purpose of this podcast is to raise money for our New York Video Game Critics Circle to mentor homeless students in the Bronx. And so I was doing that yesterday, and there was a bit of a tete a tete between two young women who were playing a game and I said, well, the thing here is, is to enjoy the game, but be good gamers at the end and congratulate your competitor, whether you won or lost. That’s the way we play here. That’s the way to do it. And that’s just way to continue in life generally. So I hear you, man, I think it’s important.

Jack Etienne  30:05

Yeah, I think it’s like and I think, you know, the things that make a great Cloud9 diet athlete will definitely resonate well with parents who are trying to teach this you know, their kids good life skills, which is you know, getting to bed on time eating like proper, nutritious food, working out you daily being a good like teammate and by me by that like, when they give you feedback, like don’t take it negatively, but try to take like the learning points out of it. And then when you give feedback, you can give feedback without being a jerk and try to figure out how to to to get feedback in a constructive method. If you nail down those skills not only will you be a better teammate and a better team as a whole, but you’re you’ll be really well equipped for success in life.

Harold  30:47

In January, Sneaky left the team but remains as an owner, what is ownership status actually mean? I mean, I, you’re the main owner, but is it like there are other owners In that scenario, sneaky gets a small piece of the ownership pie?

Jack Etienne  31:04

Yeah, I mean, so he has the same type of equity that I have. And so as Cloud9 grows in value, he’ll be able to participate in any upside that that brings that’s like that the like the major financial benefit to it. So Sneaky is an advisor of Cloud9. And what that means is there’s some duties that he’ll have where he’ll be coming to events will be looking to we had planned to having come out to a spring finals in Texas, so it was a total bummer that he couldn’t come out because I thought I think that people would have really loved that and seeing him, you know, support the team, you know, at that historical event would have been really special. And so I was super unfortunate it was canceled. But the idea is that, you know, whether it be youth programs we do or or other Cloud9 events, I want to have him involved and his involvement helps these events be more successful. So it’s definitely like a win-win situation.

Harold  32:07

Also, I think about hi from time to time, and I know he’s got his own thing going on. But do you think he’s ever regretted selling the team? Does he still have a small portion of ownership? What do you think?

Jack Etienne  32:20

With Hai, although he was like a, you know, one of the first players we signed, he was never an equity holder of Cloud9. He never like he wasn’t an owner at Cloud9. He was just the first player we ever signed. And although he had a huge part like in the naming of the team and personality of the team, it wasn’t something at the time that he was at all interested in being an owner of. I actually offered him okay do you want to have like, some equity in his team and he was like, ‘hey, you know, I just really want to have a dollar sign with more zeros behind it. So to be frank,  here show me the money Jack, what is this equity stuff?’ I don’t think he’s ever regretted it because he always had his own vision of how he wanted to run things. I don’t think he was ever comfortable to necessarily. I don’t think he wanted to negotiate on how he wanted to do things. He saw things the way he wanted to do things. And I totally respect that, because that’s how I am too. So we’re very similar in that we both had our own ideas about how things should be run. And he’s now has his own team Radiance that has its own sponsors, and it’s growing. And I think it’s a really good brand. And I think it’s more in line with what he was hoping for. So I don’t think he really has regrets. I’ve never asked him that. But I don’t think he has any regrets because he’s doing what he wanted to do without being beholden to anyone else. I think that’s what matters to him.

Harold  33:48

Great. And I think you’ve dealt with this question a little bit, but how can gaming truly become more inclusive at all levels?

Jack Etienne  33:58

Yeah, I mean, I think every company needs to look themselves in the eyes and figure out everyday like, hey, am I doing everything I can to make sure that I have an inclusive environment. And it’s like, it’s literally something like, especially with everything going on right now that I’m evaluating, you know, I think in our management like non pro player, you know, hires, we’ve done a really good job. They’re not necessarily with like, Hey, this is the intent, it just naturally happened. And I’m really proud of that been like that since the day one because I know like, when we, you know, when we go to like, owners meetings, we definitely have a different look. But I feel like all the rest of the teams probably need to look at their own organization and make sure that they’re actually doing everything they can there. For me the most visible gap is really on the actual players themselves. And how can we make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to play.

Harold  34:44

Jack again, thank you so much for your candor and your time, and I hope you get well really soon.

Jack Etienne  34:50

Thanks. Me, too. I feel good. Hopefully results will show I’m good.

Harold  34:55

It’s great, man. Well, thank you. Thanks again for taking the time and hopefully we’ll talk soon.

Jack Etienne  35:00

Thanks, guys appreciate it.

Harold  35:15

Reggie, that was an insightful conversation indeed and I hope jack feels better really soon.

Reggie  35:21

Yeah, I agree. I mean, it’s, you know, we’ve we’ve all been there, you know, trying to power through something and I really hope he gets better really, really soon. We learned a lot about Cloud9 and the drama behind the scenes of esports.

Harold  35:35

And it was compelling stuff all around. Reggie also compelling is the work of Mythical Games. And this week, we have news on Blankos Block Party, mythical upcoming game that allows you to make money while playing. You can register your account at blancos comm for the chance to be part of an upcoming beta Blankos Block Party allows you to build the world you want. And the game gives you complete ownership of what you create. Also, you can collect and play with limited edition Blankos digital vinyl toys, they’re really cool and designed by top artists, including John Paul Kaiser, and James Groman. Just as Mythical Games made a sponsoring donation to the podcast, we hope you yourself can donate at NYGameCritics.com/Reggie. Every $10 or more, really helps us mentor underserved students. Finally, Reggie, we have two questions for you. Jade Entien has been taking our journalism and games courses in the Bronx for a couple of years now. And she’ll be a regular contributor to the NYGameCritics.com Jade’s going to be an excellent writer.

Jade  36:51

Hello, my name is Jade. And a question I have for Reggie would be what’s something memorable your former employees will remember you buy for the upcoming years?

Reggie  37:02

You know, Jade. That’s a great question. And there are a lot of Reggieisms that I left behind at Nintendo. I still see colleagues from time to time now via video conference more than in person. And I really do look forward to seeing them face to face sometime, hopefully in the very near future. And it’s always fun to see the tidbits of Reggieisms that they’re now exhibiting unconsciously. For example, when we would be having big discussions, I would always have three reasons from my point of view, and this is from my training at Procter and Gamble, where one or two reasons is never enough. But for more is overkill so that the number was always three to support a direction or a decision. And also for my years of training, I always started discussion with a simple question. What’s the objective? It sets up any debate or discussion by focusing on the desired outcome? I love it when other people at Nintendo would pick up on this approach and do it too, but I’m mostly proud of the lasting legacy I left on the pursuit of diversity and inclusion at Nintendo of America. The work is predicated on one simple belief that were made better by valuing the variety of backgrounds, experiences and perspective of others. And I’m just so proud of that, and it continues to live on this day.

Jade  38:21

This question comes to us from Cedric Schmidt. Reggie, how are you impacted by Japanese working culture? And what did you appreciate about it the most.

Reggie  38:31

Cedric thanks for that question. You know, I’ve done work throughout Asia before joining Nintendo, I was well experienced with the working cultures of China, Korea, and then obviously, Japan during my time over the last 15 years at Nintendo. Specifically dealing with that tenure, you know, Nintendo has its own unique culture. Part of it is because Nintendo is based in Kyoto, the old Emperor’s capital, and not Tokyo. There’s a story that I love about Kyoto craftsmanship. And what this means is that even back in the Imperial days, the Emperor of Japan would buy the porcelain and the linen from Kyoto craftsman, because it was known throughout the country to be the very best. And that culture continues to permeate Nintendo. Their maniacal focus on quality. There’s a wonderful quote attributed to Mr. Miyamoto. And it’s that a game is late once. But a bad game is bad forever. And it just highlights the way Nintendo thinks about the product, the way they think about quality. And that really stems from the roots of the company being in Kyoto. And then obviously, Nintendo also focuses on fun. And it’s not just the software content, but it’s the marketing content, the social media content, and I could truly say that the the time I spent there was really grounded and having a lot of fun. Thanks for the question. Well, that’s game over for another episode of talking games with Reggie and Harold. We hope you enjoy these programs. And if you do, please donate at NYGameCritics.com/Reggie.

Harold  40:20

Talking games with Reggie and Harold is produced and edited by Annie Pei. It’s written by me. Annie Nguyen is our project manager. John Azzilonna is our designer. Whitney Meers and Imad Khan help with social media. And our music was written by Emmy and Grammy winner, Anton Sanko. We’ll see you next week with our technology oriented episode. It includes Sherri Smith, the editor in chief of Laptop Magazine and a Circle member and Jacob Navok, the CEO of Genvid. Genvid is changing the nature of the way we interact with strangers. I’ve seen it sction myself and it’s compelling. And this just in we’ll also have former Circle member Evan Narcisse, who’s been writing for games including the upcoming Spider-Man for the PS5. Until Reggie, and I’ll see you next week. Stay well and protests safely.

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