9INE, Swedish CS:GO organization with a Turkish roster, have recently been making serious progress on the European scene. We’ve sat down (well, not literally, we are in the middle of the pandemic after all) with Fredrik Belstad and William Lövqvist, org’s main duo, to talk about their plans and give you some insight into the crazy world of professional esports.
*You are a relatively new organization so let’s start from the beginning: how do you even start getting into esports on a professional level?
Even though 9INE is a new brand, the journey for us has been very long. Fredrik’s passion for owning and running a team arose in early 2014 when he first formed Team Arqade, which William joined. We signed up to free2play and premium tournaments on ESEA and FaceIt. William decided to leave Arqade and pursue his career in Esports at GosuGamers, while Fredrik immediately began his work with Monarch, an organization which later got rebranded as 9INE. William joined him again shortly after.
*What are some of the processes included in forming a team if you are starting from scratch?
It all depends on the goal. There are multiple amateur tournaments and leagues on Faceit and ESEA that anyone can sign up to. But first, you need to find your players. If you are interested in a professional team there are a lot more challenges.
The biggest challenge is building the best team that you can afford. Initially you will not be able to offer them a salary so you will need to motivate them with other incentives. We have consistently gone the extra mile to ensure that our players understand that what we are offering them is an opportunity. Initially we had to spend our own money to get our players to events, tournaments and much more. This is hard, and most people that create teams give up due to a lonely, expensive journey, so finding the most passionate people who can do that extra mile with you is key.
We are currently focusing on interacting with our community. Having a community and fans is going to help you gain sponsors and allow you to grow.
*You’ve recently changed your whole roster. Can you tell us something about that decision?
Our previous Swedish roster, that we parted ways with in March, had many positive attributes. We miss them all, they were unique players and people. Sadly, playing with each other for quite some time and their performance not meeting their own expectations, created a complex environment. On top of this, the main sponsors pulled out, and we had to look at different options.
*What does a transfer process look like?
Mainly it’s about keeping up to date with the scene. We mainly scout players and teams on a regular basis. Usually our players are also studying opponents and can inform us if there is someone special to keep an eye on.
When we discover a talent, it’s all about getting in contact with the player. After that we try to understand what the player’s goals are and if he/she is a good fit for our organization.
*What would you say is the most important part of your organization?
The fans, the players, the staff and the brand.
*Can you tell us something about the training process your team goes through, schedules, tasks, or just basic structure?
They practice Monday to Sunday and have a day off on Saturday.
*How would you describe the CS:GO community to a complete beginner?
It’s a great community, but it’s also unique with a lot of sub games and subgroups. You can’t really define the entire community within an interview, you need to invest yourself in different groups that you enjoy and make up your own place in it. Don’t give up, there is so many groups and game mods within CS:GO that there is a fit for everyone.
*What do you think about the European scene, its flaws, its weaknesses, its strengths?
The issue with CS:GO is that the money within the esports scene is stuck at the top. It’s difficult to make a living from CS:GO if you are not in a Tier 1 team. It would be better if an increase of money was being shared from the game publisher from the in game purchases. Spread this to the grass root movements that are producing a lot of content in the scene.
*What would you do to improve the current system of tournaments?
I believe my previous answer is an answer to this one as well. Increase money from Valve in prize pools and leagues and spread it out among tier 2-3 tournaments and such.
*How do you comment on recent scandals around some of the most prominent teams and coaches with bug exploits?
First and foremost 9INE will always take a firm stand against cheating. We do not agree with any form of cheating. Now, when it comes to bug exploits this becomes a grey area. Why did it take so long for someone to report on the exploit is the question we would ask? We didn’t know about this exploit but if we did we would have reported on it immediately.
*You are very active on social media. How important is communication with fans and what does it mean to you?
Having an active social media feed is one of the most important parts of what we do. We are motivated, engaged and determined to provide an entertaining and engaging atmosphere in our community. Communication with fans is important since without the fans there is nothing left, just 5 guys trying to play a video game.
We want to make sure that the fans feel as if they are a part of something bigger, they are a part of the 9INE family. The least you can do is interact with them and make them feel as valued as we believe they are. Having fans that support our team motivates us to work harder and keep going!
*Do you think there is a way to popularize CS:GO even more?
There are many players that stopped playing because of a toxic environment. There are kids that are playing CS:GO without guidance from responsible adults. Kids that start cheating and lack moral guidance will have problems not only inside the game, but outside, in real life, as well. Parents need to take a bigger interest in helping young kids to find good influencers, role models and to understand the fundamental morals in esports. This is not just a game, it’s an entire community. If we compare this with football (European), kids play little leagues, they have coaches, and they have family cheering them on and taking interest. The adults are almost none-existent in esports, this needs to change. If the environment becomes friendlier, the game becomes more popular automatically.
*What would you do to improve the game?
Something winning a few rounds and then loosing one round and pushing you to an eco round or potentially a double eco. This is extremely annoying, especially when your opponents have been on full loss bonus for quite some time and managed to buy multiple times in a row.
*What does it take to be one of the best in the game?
If you want to be the best chef, physicist, or CS:GO player you need hard work, dedication and talent. The same as in every other aspect in life.
*Where do you think the strength of the current no.1 team in the world, Vitality, lies?
CS:GO scene is extremely difficult. To understand this difference we need to look at the smallest possible marginals. We have focused more on our own performance, but it would not come as a surprise if it comes down to less than 10 rounds over the past few months. It could have been just that one clutch that made the economy change, one over peak of the opponents or one small mistake. The margins are small and to really understand the difference you need to follow every match.
*How did Covid-19 affect the community and the game itself or the way you prepare?
We need to play online tournaments and not focus on offline tournaments. It’s difficult to boot-camp or do other team building exercises.
*Single out one of the biggest problems in the community.
Esports is still fairly new in Turkey and this affects the amount of followers and fans. With that said, the community in Turkey is far more engaging and amazing than we could ever have imagined. They are simply awesome.