Esports.gg had the pleasure to chat with Leo Matlock, Chief Business Officer at BLAST, following the multi-year deal with Epic Games.
BLAST is one of the most well-known tournament organizers in esports. From their world-renowned Counter-Strike production for Valve to their competitive Fortnite operations for Epic Games, BLAST continues to push the envelope.
Just recently, they struck a deal with Epic to be the exclusive home of the FNCS and RLCS. A furthering of the successful Fortnite partnership and a lengthy Rocket League partnership are now etched in BLAST's identity.
With the news of this partnership, we sat down with BLAST's Chief Business Officer, Leo Matlock. He gave us insight into the formation of the deal, the overall BLAST library of titles at this point, where he wants to take BLAST next, and more.
How Fortnite opened the door for an expanded BLAST x Epic Games partnership
We've already gotten a look at the 2024 FNCS roadmap. The Fortnite Championship Series has been in the hands of BLAST for some time, but now exclusivity makes it all the more special to the tournament organizer.
That set the standard, outside of the likes of Counter-Strike and Rainbow Six, for exactly what BLAST can do with a gaming product. It also opened Epic Games' eyes to what is achievable and pushed forward the partnership that now includes the Rocket League Championship Series.
"We've done their [Fortnite's] biggest events since the World Cup. In-person and all the online broadcasts. Everything else that goes around it. And we built a great partnership. . .
"We knew how they operated on Fortnite, and we have always loved Rocket League as a game. We've always wanted to get involved in it at some point.
"Then this opportunity presented itself, to potentially expand into Rocket League. And we seized it with both hands."
With the deal between BLAST and Epic Games set, we were curious for Leo's thoughts on how this larger partnership will see an improvement upon the FNCS and RLCS. What are the expectations for the esports?
"Expectation. Interesting word. I think we're focused on aspirations. We're really bullish on Rocket League. We're bullish on esports, full stop. . .
"We've been bullish about where we think it's going to grow and what we think the realities of what achievements and expectations can be in esports.
"We think we can bring them to life through this partnership brilliantly. We think we can deliver fantastic events. We think we can do fantastic productions. . .
"So, our aspirations are exceptionally high. Our expectations are that we are here for the long term. We're going to listen, we're going to learn, we're going to try things.
"We're going to adapt, we're going to improve, and we're going to continue to iterate on what RLCS means to the Rocket League community and what FNCS means to the Fornite community."
The importance of having a vast genre of games under the BLAST banner
BLAST has done work with several gaming titles, with VALORANT and Apex Legends as examples. Of course, their well-known presentations have been in CS and R6. Those are all first-person shooters of some sort, but now they shift to other genres.
Fortnite is a third-person battle royale with loads of creative capabilities. Rocket League is a team-based sports title when you put a broad label on it. And now that BLAST is responsible for producing the esports for both of these Epic Games titles, how does the spread of genres assist in the organizer's future?
"We're an incredibly ambitious organization. We have quite a lot of ambitious individuals, myself included. We established ourselves in Counter-Strike, and we always have a year or two horizon ahead of us.
"It's impossible to predict the future. It's hard to have 10 year horizons in gaming and esports, but we like to look a little bit ahead."
Leo brought up how BLAST is now an ever-present entity in the Counter-Strike scene. How they looked at Dota 2, VALORANT, Apex Legends, and even FIFA 22. Then came Ubisoft with Rainbow Six, branded into BLAST Rainbow Six.
"That was probably the first big mulit-year, truly integrated publisher esports organization. People like to call us TO's, esports league, or leader, whatever you want to call us, that was the first fully integrated one.
"That was a huge moment, where we could start to really plan out and build out that ecosystem. And collaborate and look at the objectives of what we bring to the party.
"What the true game publisher objectives are for their esports together. Collaborate and share those goals and how we achieve them.
"So, that was a brilliant moment for us and super important. In effect, we've done something not too dissimilar here with a different publisher on Rocket League and FNCS. . .
"We want to find the right partnerships, with the right games, with the right communities, and the right programs. And we imagine that in the next couple of years, we'll be adding more into that. . .
"A huge source of pride for our organization is, we look into 2024 and we'll be running RLCS and FNCS, BLAST Rainbow Six, BLAST Premier in CS2, and there might be another little surprise or two later in the year, or in 2025 that people should look out for."
Where do they go from here with FNCS and RLCS locked down
Leo Matlock and company have definitely not understated the impact running FNCS and RLCS will have on BLAST. It's a step even further in the right direction, but in gaming and esports, there's always more to obtain.
That's why we asked Leo what his hopes for BLAST are now, looking towards the future with the Epic Games deal shaping up to be a success:
"Did you say hope? You can quote me on this, I don't think we've gotten this far at BLAST by hoping for things. We've set goals and aspirations, and wanted to go out and achieve them.
"Candidly, we'd love to see what we can do in the mobile space in the years ahead. I think we've been quite focused on a bit of console, but predominantly PC, big multifaceted esports. . .
"I think mobile is definitely something we are looking at wanting to grow into in the future, as well as further our global aspirations.
"So, when I look ahead for the next few years at BLAST, that's where I'd like us to be. And we'll be working towards how we do that."
When asked to expand on that and detail any mobile titles he might have his eye on, he simply put that there are a few.
Publisher and public perception
To finish things off with Leo Matlock, we asked him to touch on how the BLAST and Epic Games deal has been perceived. Whether that's eye-opening to additional publishers or feedback received from the community of the games involved.
"A really key point to get across is that we haven't built our business and achieved the success we've got by seeing things as stepping stones. . .
"We're not laddering up and trying to do something in Game A to appeal to Publisher B. We are an aspirational growing business, which is why we want to expand into more, such as mobile. . .
"However, we would never let our aspirations and where we want to be in the future detract from anything we're doing in the present."
He reiterates that thought by pointing out that BLAST's growth is never a sales beacon for future growth. While it is lovely to receive support and compliments, and he's proud of that, it is never the reason behind what they do.
It's a slight reversal when it comes to the community of gamers who play the titles they operate, though. Millions of people enjoy games casually and competitively, so of course, their perception and reaction matters when it is about the opportunities BLAST holds in its hands.
"When we put our announcement out, there was a lot of positive feedback about what BLAST is going to bring and what we can do.
"And I think it's always an amazing moment where, we talk about esports as broad topics. We have individuals that may only love and play one game.
"They might love and play another or watch another, but, for example, to have such an awareness amongst the Rocket League community of who we are and what we're all about.
"From our work over the last few years, it's an amazing moment of pride. There wasn't much, 'Who is BLAST?' there was a lot of, 'Oh, wow, BLAST are coming. This is going to be exciting.'
"And I think that's incredibly inspiring for us. Everything following on from that, we are going to just keep working on building the best ecosystems we can.
"We're going to try things, we're going to learn things, and we're going to improve. We like to listen, we like to adapt, and we're going to see where this fun journey takes us."
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