TCM-Gaming (TCM) is a professional gaming team and marketing/media company that are considered one of the leading eSports organisations within the UK. Today we talked to TCM Director, Craig Walker about his career within the eSports industry and TCM.
Would you like to introduce yourself to those who do not know you?
When did you first get involved in eSports?
Craig Walker – As with most individuals, my first involvement in esports was as a casual gamer and then ultimately a pro player. My particular game was in the Battlefield series, namely Battlefield 2, which in my opinion was one of the most under-rated games to date! I played for a good few years as a pro before finally retiring in 2008 to focus on my management activities.
How much has the eSports scene developed since you started?
Craig Walker – It’s quite amazing when I take a step back and consider how far the industry has evolved during the time I have been engrossed in it. When I was competitively playing, the idea of streaming and broadcasting was still a very limited option, wherein you’d have to be really tech-savvy or atleast know someone who was. There was no real streaming platforms, which are now ultimately part of the backbone of modern day esports as we know it. In terms of simply prizemoney, esports has went from competing for £1000 to competing for regular 5 and 6 figure amounts!
Mainstream media attention for esports has organically grown over the years and the scale of the industry is now immense, although it’s still unbelievable that we have so many entities that are unaware of our existence as an industry. Nobody is a stranger to the video games industry but the esports industry is still, in my opinion, totally under appreciated. Publishers are now starting to actively get involved in esports and are recognising ways in which to increase awareness and really interact with their customer base. I think this is one of the biggest steps for getting to the next level, and I hope future publishers follow the lead of the likes of RIOT Games, Valve and Blizzard, amongst others.
How did you get involved with TCM Gaming becoming a co-director and how has your role developed since you first started?
Craig Walker – Well that’s a long story but lets keep to the short version! As I mentioned, I started as a pro player and my first taste of TCM was being signed to them in early 2007 as their Battlefield 2 captain. At the time TCM was actually named after the title sponsor, CoolerMaster, ofcourse named Team CoolerMaster (hence the TCM!). As time went on I became increasingly involved in the day to day administration/marketing and then ultimately the management of the team, working alongside Jim Maguire, who at the time was the manager of the Team Fortress 2 team in TCM.
In 2009 we both took the reigns and experienced some rapid growth after taking a radical new direction. We decided to rebrand the whole business in 2010, removing the title sponsor from our name in order to further expand the TCM brand itself, creating ‘TCM-Gaming‘. The final move came when we bought out the two other Directors, leaving us as sole partners moving forward, and the rest is history!
How much commitment does your position in TCM Gaming require?
Craig Walker – I would say that any position within esports requires huge dedication and commitment, whether it be as a player, journalist, staff member, event organiser or the various other roles that make our industry tick. Owning a team brings its specific challenges, and combining that with a demanding full-time job essentially means you easily find yourself ultimately working 2 full-time roles in your life.
Your phone never stops. The emails flood in. Players cause you countless problems. You fight for every bit of revenue. You sometimes feel you might as well be a travel agent. You have many sleepless nights. I could go on and on! Finding time to sleep more than 5 hours a night can be a challenge but just like any business owner, your passion for your business usually keeps you going through the tough patches and you reap the rewards in the long run.
What has been the best and the worst moment in your gaming career within TCM Gaming?
Craig Walker – This is a really good question and one that I honestly had to think long and hard about, as there are so many memorable moments during my time at TCM. Without a shadow of a doubt, the worst moment was when the recession hit in us in late 2008. The 2-3 years that followed would prove to be the most challenging years we both faced in running the business. Marketing budgets were sliced almost overnight and that impacted us massively. I am so proud looking back that we managed to keep the business growing through this difficult period, especially when we saw many fellow teams and companies folding under the pressure. Ultimately I feel we came out of it even stronger and more resilient.
In order to find the best moment during my time at TCM I had to think long and hard. I have traveled allover the world to places and cities that I never thought were possible, and during this time have experienced so many tournament wins and fantastic moment with my staff and players. So unfortunately I am going to have to dodge the question as trying to pick a sole winner was simply not possible!
What advice would you give to any aspiring managers within eSports that wish to develop a successful organisation?
Craig Walker – This is a common question that is asked of people who are in my position in esports, having worked in it for many years. I have always said there is no easy way to answer this question as I don’t feel there is a simple enough answer to this. I could honestly write a novel based upon all the different bits of advice I would give to aspiring managers, especially based upon mistakes that I have made and therefore learned from during my time managing a team.
But my one key piece of advice would be to have a solid business plan and strategy, and be in it for the right reasons. If you’re looking to own or manage a team in the hope of ‘getting rich quick’ then you’re definitely chasing the wrong role within the industry. Creating, managing and ultimately growing a team into a lucrative business requires huge dedication and sacrifice. So really sitting down and setting yourself realistic targets and not trying to grow too fast is very important.
What are your hobbies outside of gaming?
Craig Walker – Outside of running TCM I am your typical bloke, I love my sports, both playing and watching. I am religiously addicted to football and a proud season ticket holder at my beloved Newcastle United, even though all they seem to do is cause me disappointment season after season! I love both playing and watching snooker and I am a qualified FA Goalkeeping Coach, having worked and coached both kids and adults in my local areas. Ofcourse I love spending time with my friends and family, I’m sure that goes without saying.
Do you have any shout outs?
Craig Walker – First of all, thanks for the interview Elliot and goodluck with the growth of your website.
The first and biggest shout out goes to my very close friend and ofcourse my business partner Jim, without whom we could not have made TCM what it is today. I would also like to give a shout out to all the players, staff and other guys that work with us, who really graft tirelessly throughout the year to help achieve our goals.
Big thanks obviously go to all our current partners, namely BenQ, GT Omega, Dino PC, SCUF Gaming, Online Keystore, Twitch and Multiplay.
Make sure you follow Craig on twitter: @wa1kah