Last month’s DreamHack Open tournament in Leipzig showcased some great Rocket League action, but it also highlighted sharp Rocket League casting work, as well—and one of the highlights was Mike “Gregan” Ellis.
As part of the Gfinity Elite Series team, Gregan (above right) has been a rising star in the world of Rocket League casting, and was widely praised at DreamHack for his measured commentary, deep knowledge of Rocket League mechanics and strategies, and his strong back-and-forth with fellow Gfinity caster Callum “Shogun” Keir (also of the RLCS).
However, it will be the last time we see Gregan in front of a microphone for a while: yesterday, he was announced as the manager for Renault Sport Team Vitality, the new home of the former Mock-It Esports team led by Philip “Paschy” Paschmeyer. Gregan will take a year off from casting to help try and guide the EU threat into a true championship-level contender. Following the announcement, we asked him a few questions about leaving the casting life behind and why he was surprised about his own reception at DreamHack.
First off, congratulations! How did this managing opportunity come about with Renault Sport Team Vitality?
It was a long time in the making! I met Team Vitality last summer when hosting the Clash Royale Crown Championship Global Series. I was impressed with the way they looked after their player and started chatting to them about Rocket League. A few months later, they contacted me saying they wanted a top-4 EU Rocket League team—so I helped them get one. I also connected them with Gfinity as I could see a great opportunity for them there, and essentially created the management role I am now doing!
— Gregan (Mike) (@Gregan25) 12. Februar 2018
What makes this team and opportunity so special that you’re willing to leave commentating for it?
This is a tough question, and one I could spend hours answering. But the main point is: I didn’t realize people liked my casting that much. Simple as that. I had never casted a major event in Rocket League, and consequently I believed I wasn’t wanted and started thinking about other things I could do. I always liked the business side of esports, and knew after having a bit of fun casting, I would start working on this side of esports.
I will be honest and say if I had casted DreamHack Leipzig and was offered the management job after that overwhelming positive response, I probably wouldn’t have taken the management job, and gone on to cast as much as possible. I don’t regret my decision however; Team Vitality have a great future after this huge investment from Renault Sport, and I could see the great potential for moving my career forward in a different direction—and I still stand by that. This year will be very different, but incredibly exciting and rewarding!
“I didn’t realize people liked my casting that much… I believed I wasn’t wanted and started thinking about other things I could do.”
Given all of your experience analyzing the game, how do you think you can help this squad excel in the packed EU scene?
It may surprise people, but coaching isn’t my job for these guys—I am their manager. I will be happy to offer pointers where wanted, but my job is to help them represent the brand and get to and from events as smoothly as possible, and make sure they are looked after at the events. I have a background in sports coaching, psychology, and obviously Rocket League theory, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a part of the team dynamic if wanted.
My other role in Team Vitality is to manage the Gfinity Elite Series project, so I will be looking after the FIFA and Street Fighter players during this event. I still have another six months to finish off my dissertation at university, so it’s fair to say I will be keeping myself busy this year with logistics!
Paschy suggested that Mock-It’s negative perception impacted their ability to draw fans. How critical is integrity for an esports organization and its success?
Well firstly, Mock-It was a tough one… they supported the players both with money and the management very well, but the outfacing hated brand that became associated with the players meant they had a harder job gaining fans. Now when people see Fairy Peak’s amazing play, FreaKii’s cheeky stage presence, or Paschy’s beautiful face (many other reasons to love them!), they will feel comfortable rooting for them. That’s how you make fans, but it’s tougher when the org brings its own haters on you. It can be quite draining.
Team Vitality has a great family of fans and supporters (#VforVictory), and this should help keep the boys positive and motivated to be the best in the world—and hopefully I can make sure they feel as well looked-after as they did before at Mock-It. Ultimately, if you feel good, feel loved, and people want you to win, you will put the work in to be the best.
Today is a day that is going to change the path of my life hugely in esports.
I hope you are all ready for a big suprise 😊
— Gregan (Mike) (@Gregan25) 12. Februar 2018
What will you miss the most about being a caster for the Gfinity Elite Series and other events?
I always used to really enjoy the makeup sessions—having a personal chat with a lovely girl/guy whilst they make you pretty was so calming… I kid. To be honest, everything about casting was great fun: backstage banter, hotel breakfast, entertaining and informing thousands of people, and making them love Rocket League as much as you do were all incredibly rewarding.
I must admit seeing people talking about mine and Shogun’s casting from DreamHack was pretty special. To have such a unanimous love for the performance you give is very rare as a caster, and I really hope it improves the state of Rocket League casting for the future as people recognize what people love.
I also got incredibly close to all the people I worked with, whether it be everyone at Gfinity, all those I worked with on Clash Royale and at NGE, or the short friendships formed at events like DreamHack. Everyone is amazing, and that is what gets you through the long, energy-intensive casts. I will definitely be finding all these people when returning to these events as a manager!
Lead image: Jennika Ojala/DreamHack