Esports Insider is proud to announce THESPIKE.GG, the number one place for competitive VALORANT news and data, as Silver Partner of next week’s ESI Digital Summer (#ESIDIGITAL).
Named after the win-objective of VALORANT matches, THESPIKE.GG is positioning itself as the end of the internet for all things VALORANT esports, providing professional player and team news with coverage of worldwide online & offline events for the ravenous competitive scene fan base.
Esports Insider caught up with Artur “m1nac” Minacov, Co-founder and CEO of THESPIKE.GG, to learn about Minacov’s journey to starting the company, the success of the competitive VALORANT scene, and what’s next for the company.
Planting The Spike
Minacov’s journey towards founding the one-stop-shop for everything competitive VALORANT, starts at a young age. “I’ve been a serial entrepreneur since I was fourteen years old and have been involved with gaming, Counter-Strike, since I was five years old,” he shared with Esports Insider. His entrepreneurial beginning started with hosting game servers and web servers for competitions and communities, his first attempt at turning his love for gaming into a business.
At 19, he left college after taking inspiration from Montreal’s startup scene, veering away from gaming to found a tech startup in the fashion industry. “Long story short, I took on a debt of, like $20K, didn’t want my parents to pay for it and didn’t have any other jobs so I ended up going bankrupt at 19,” Minacov admitted. Swinging back to what he knew best, he bounced back to found OPSkins at 20, which during its heyday, was the biggest digital marketplace for digital goods – specialising on Counter-Strike items and Steam games.
After bringing himself out of bankruptcy with the company, he sold OPSkins to a group out of Silicon Valley and busied himself with a new project, EnVision Esports competing in Overwatch Contenders, a sort of pre-season before the Overwatch League launched. He shared: “It was a good experience, it allowed me to know exactly what it takes to build an esports org from scratch. It didn’t work out, (we) lost a lot of money, but at least, you know, it was a good learning experience, to know exactly what makes an org and the issues that come with it.”
After his stint as an esports organisation CEO, Minacov sought to create his own video game, The Forge Arena, investing over $1 million dollars of his own money over two years. “That didn’t work out either,” Minacov sighed. “It was a very expensive learning experience, let’s say. Very expensive. A lot of mistakes, obviously, that I learned from, obviously – but at least it let me know exactly what it takes to make a game from scratch.”
Today, at 26 years of age, Minacov counts himself as a collection of informative experiences, “It’s good for me to know anything that has to do with the esports side of things, and video games – like how to make one – things like that.” With VALORANT’s closed beta launch in April, Minacov knew that the tactical shooter would be something special for his life. “With THESPIKE.GG we’ve seen three thousand percent growth over the past three months. We went from, like, fifty (thousand) page views, up to a million last month – so things are going well. We just acquired last week our main competitor, VALORANTIFY.com, so now we basically dominate the market when it comes to event coverage.”
VALORANT event coverage, team and player data, world rankings, and news are at the forefront of THESPIKE.GG’s clean interface. The team was one of the select few who were granted access to VALORANT’S API. “We’re new, and we were one of the only companies that got the API without really being involved with Riot Games in the past. It’s definitely good to know that Riot Games is backing us, or looking at us and like what we’re doing. We’re going the right direction for sure.”
THESPIKE.GG is in contact with the Riot Games’ North American API development team on a daily basis, working together on troubleshooting bugs and improving the experience of the interface. THESPIKE.GG has positioned itself as the premier resource for VALORANT data relevant for esports and tournaments, the team has allowed tournament organisers across the world to utilise the website’s data – proving as a valuable resource for commentary and comparisons.
Riot Games has been generous with its newest baby, carefully selecting third-party content creators, players, teams, and tournament organisers across the world to host VALORANT Ignition Series tournaments shortly after the game’s public launch. It’s these tier-one events that Minacov and his 18-person team are focused on supplying the most support during this phase of the competitive scene’s development.
Featuring an Editor-in-Chief managing a small team of full-time writers and editors, Minacov’s partner, Josef “hex4” Orland, as CTO, leads the team of back-end and front-end developers, among multimedia designers and video editors – all working remotely. “Basically anything that you could think of for a news and media website, we have it all. Content mods, forum mods. Right now, with the API things will become automatic, but now we do everything manual, to update scores and [other] data entry it’s all manually done so we have people doing that.”
The team plans to grow up to 25 by the end of autumn, but Minacov wants to keep the team small, close-knit, like a family. Following the success he found with his 30-person team at OPSkins, he attributed the success to the qualities of the team and the concept of eating steak on the company. “If we’re successful, then you’re successful,” he touted. As THESPIKE.GG begins to generate revenue over time, Minacov wants to share the pie with the team.
Being the world’s destination for all things competitive VALORANT, Minacov can glean a lot from the data his site processes. Not just from the game and its top players, but from its web traffic and who he collaborates with for tournaments and broadcasts. For example, he explained that North America is performing strongly on nearly all fronts, while Europe’s VALORANT ecosystem seems to be facing a bit of turmoil. Many organisations don’t seem to be seizing the opportunities that Minacov sees.
“Surprisingly, Japan is a pretty good region for VALORANT right now with their most recent Rage Invitational, that we covered – we covered the first one too. We were surprised with the quality of the production, as well as the scheduling and the teams as well (sic).” Minacov was surprised that the Korean scene has been so quiet, considering how active Riot Games is in the region.
Focusing on the top-tier events doesn’t mean that the team isn’t paying attention to the smaller and lesser-known tournaments and scenes. The team hopes that once their VALORANT API is implemented that they’ll be able to expand their reach and impact across the competitive scenes, regions, and skill-levels.
“Down the road, we want to have some analytic tools, in three different categories. First, organisation – we want to provide them with a specific login where they can analyse a player’s matches and data and everything so they can understand where they stand in the scene.” The ultimate goal of this product is to allow organisations to make moves backed by data, Minacov said.
“We want to also provide tournament organisers with analytics for a specific event. We want to give them more power so they can edit their own page, add to it, add sponsors and stuff like that. And all the analytics that come with it, of course,” Minacov continued.
“And the other one, which is interesting for us on the revenue side, is for brands. We want to give them also a specific login so they can make marketing campaigns on our website. A little bit similar to Twitter, Reddit, or Facebook or really any of the social media (sites) out there. So you can create your business account and create campaigns and target specific regions, target specific (audiences), to forward your brand.”
The idea is to extend this option only to those involved in esports and gaming. Minacov maintained that the plan on being very selective with the brands they want to access to their audience and this functionality when they are able to roll these out in early next year. He also hinted at an upcoming merchandise collaboration with all profits designed to pump back into the THESPIKE.GG and VALORANT communities.
“A lot of ideas, a lot of plans, a lot of interesting stuff happening,” Minacov said. “The future definitely looks bright, we’re the number one website when it comes to VALORANT event coverage, there’s no doubt there. THESPIKE.GG is here to stay.”
Catch Minacov’s panel discussing VALORANT during ESI Digital Summer’s North American programming on August 21st.