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Changing of the guard: Dota 2, Evil Geniuses and the next eSports upheaval

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Changing of the guard: Dota 2, Evil Geniuses and the next eSports upheaval

When I talked to Colin DeShong, Evil Geniuses’ chief operating officer, he was in the middle of a hectic week. They had just recently dismissed longtime team member and StarCraft 2 star Greg “Idra" Fields, and they were in the midst of a major promotion with the Papa John’s pizza chain. On top of all that, StarCraft 2 numbers haven’t been strong in a while, and Blizzard’s WCS has not yet proven to be the cure for what ails pro StarCraft.

So you might expect DeShong to be worried about what the future will bring. Instead, DeShong said he was actually feeling optimistic, maybe more than ever before. The reason surprised me: Dota 2 was about to release, and it might be the strongest foundation for an eSports team yet.

“Without a doubt, Dota 2 will be one of the most valuable games to EG in the coming year or two. There's just no way it won't be, and that's true for every team," he said. “There’s no reason why it won’t be a 10 year game. And if it’s a ten year game, that means it’s probably going to become one of the biggest focuses for EG."

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Evil League of Evil Geniuses: How Alex Garfield and Stephen Ellis brought EG into League of Legends

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Evil League of Evil Geniuses: How Alex Garfield and Stephen Ellis brought EG into League of Legends

Evil Geniuses CEO Alex Garfield wasn’t posturing when he talked about his disinterest in taking the Evil Geniuses eSports team into League of Legends. He was so unengaged with League that when he received an email from Stephen “Snoopeh" Ellis last summer, he didn’t really know who Ellis was, or why Evil Geniuses should be interested in his League of Legends team.

A few minutes with Google not only told Garfield that Ellis was the squad captain for one of the best and most prominent western League of Legends teams, but that suddenly he had a “very attractive opportunity" to bring EG into League on terms he could be happy with.

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Evil Geniuses rumored to be getting into League of Legends, recruiting former CLG.EU team

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Evil Geniuses rumored to be getting into League of Legends, recruiting former CLG.EU teamThe Evil Geniuses eSports team has been conspicuously absent from the League of Legends competitive scene, and CEO Alex Garfield told us in December about some of the reasons he has hesitated to move his team in LoL. Now it sounds like Evil Geniuses may be preparing to make its move into pro League of Legends by recruiting the former CLG.EU team, according to a report from GameSpot.

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Evil Geniuses CEO Alex Garfield on managing and marketing a fledgling eSports dynasty

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Evil Geniuses CEO Alex Garfield on managing and marketing a fledgling eSports dynasty

Evil Geniuses are sometimes described as the New York Yankees of eSports, a backhanded sort of compliment that both grants that EG consistently field one of the strongest, most star-studded lineups around, but also that they owe their reputation to their deep pockets. It also suggests that the team’s results are not quite in line with its roster, the old sports morality tale of money being able to buy talent, but not success.

Team CEO Alex Garfield is hardly the kind of owner-tycoon you’d expect to find managing a team of star players and eSports celebrities. He’s reserved and softspoken, seemingly better suited to a graduate seminar room than the dubstep-blasted arenas that eSports call home. He doesn’t aggressively chase media, and he doesn't brag about results or publicly push EG players about their performance. While Forbes recently named the 27-year-old to their “30 under 30" list for “Games and Apps", he’s generally content to work in the background, quietly building the sponsor relationships with companies like Intel and Monster (among many others) that allow Evil Geniuses to pay top dollar for top-shelf talent.

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