Fnatic is a multi-gaming organization based out of the United Kingdom and Australia. Named the e-sports team of the year in both 2006 and 2009, Fnatic houses divisions for popular e-sport titles such as League of Legends, StarCraft 2, Dota 2, and most notably, Counter Strike. Patrik “cArn” Sättermon, a retired player from the team’s Counter-Strike division, is now Fnatic’s Chief Gaming Officer.
Patrik spoke with ESFI to give us an update on the current status and the future goals of Fnatic’s StarCraft 2 division.
How does Fnatic look moving into 2013 and where do you see the future when it comes to StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm?
I’m confident that 2013 will be another record-breaking year for e-sports, as well as a great year for Fnatic. We have great talents across our divisions and it will be exciting to follow our teams and players throughout the year. The release of StarCraft: Heart of the Swarm will hopefully stir up things and make the game more interesting. New units, and therefore tactics, will change the balance, and I’m looking forward to a greater diversity in terms of races of the medalists, as well as their nationalities.
You recently said that, “Our aim for 2013 has been to refocus our efforts on our European expansion plans.” What will Fnatic do differently now that your main focus will be in Europe?
I think it’s already clear what we will do differently so I will elaborate on that. First of all, our current divisions are receiving greater support, and this can include everything from increased salaries, improved practice facilities and more chances to prove themselves at LAN events. I think we went a little bit too crazy on the amount of StarCraft players we roomed last year, so I think focusing on less players will improve the players’ experience and confidence representing Fnatic.
By focusing on more local players (Europeans), we hope to be able to reach out more in the community and create interesting content with utilizing our athletes. This was somewhat of a failure in 2012, and the reasons for this were lack of proper local management and the enormous language barrier between our staff and Korean players.
The announcement stated that Fnatic spent “over 250,000 USD in 2012.” That’s a substantial amount of money. What led to the lack of success in the Korean scene? Was a significant portion of the $250k put into Korea, and was the ROI from the team’s Korean operations just not what Fnatic was expecting? How much more is the organization willing to invest into StarCraft?
As the majority of our SC2 players in 2012 were Koreans, and the fact that we set up a gaming house in Seoul to accommodate them, a significant portion of our StarCraft 2 budget was indeed put into Korea. Even [though] people always will be early to ring the big failure bell whenever they see major changes in an organisation, I can honestly say our ventures in Korea were not a complete waste. To enter Korea in the first place was a decision we took along with some of our partners whom expected big growth in that market, and I think we proved courage and innovation by setting up one of the first gaming houses over there.New units, and therefore tactics will change the balance, and I’m looking forward to a greater diversity in terms of races of the medalists, as well as their nationalities.
Some of our players were less fortunate than others in 2012, but with such a high level of competition you find in Starcraft 2, it’s not really realistic to expect that all your players should end up among the silverware at every event. Fnatic was the first foreign team to compete in the GSTL, but the exposure this gave us was disappointing, despite the fact we managed to beat some strong local teams.
We look at StarCraft 2 as a fundamental part of competitive gaming, so we are not planning to go anywhere. Sometimes you just have to take your defeats, only to come back stronger carrying the wisdom from your mistakes. Expect at least a pair of new interesting names added to our roster in 2013.
Will there be a change in focus financially between how much you are willing to spend on StarCraft compared to other prominent e-sport titles like LoL, Shootmania, Dota 2 and CS:GO?
The easy and short answer here is yes, but I would like to emphasize that this can rapidly change depending on how well StarCraft 2 is doing compared to the other titles in e-sports.
What was the reason behind not re-signing Oz and aLive? Although you’re trying to move away from Korea, those two put up the best results and seemed to help keep the Fnatic name relevant within in StarCraft (along with Harstem, Naama, and NightEnd). Did it simply come down to the financials or were there other reasons?
I agree that Oz and aLive both showed some great results in 2012, and I’m very happy to have had the chance to work and know them as they are amazing characters with great loyalty and talent. Unfortunately, we were not able to come to an agreement with the players, and one of the main reasons for this was that we do not longer have a gaming house to lodge them. There are no hard feelings between the two parties and it’s going to be interesting to follow them, as well as our other former players, in their future careers.
Mousesports recently signed Illusion, an American Terran player. You’ve had two former Americans before in Gretorp and KawaiiRice. Have there been any talks of a small American division to have more of a presence in North American tournaments like IPL, MLG, and NASL?
We are open to the thought of signing American players, we have just not been able to find what we are looking for yet. And regarding our presence at IPL, MLG and NASL, I’m quite positive that Fnatic has sent more players to these tournaments than most non-American teams out there.
What were some of the original plans and goals for FNATIC when you originally announced the Korean gaming house? What was the long term goal of being in Korea?
As I mentioned earlier, we set up the house in cooperation with some of our partners who at that point also had expansions to realize in Korea. The plan was quite simple: to set up the coolest training facility for our growing lineup of StarCraft 2 players in order to prepare them for local and international events. I do think we [we were able to run] one of the nicest and most comfortable gaming houses, even [though] we could have used maid service a couple more times per week.
When it comes to a long-term plan, it was as simple as maintaining the house and developing talent from it, as well as utilizing the house for content and in-house events along with our partners. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that we can no longer justify the ROI, and add to that the fact that our main partner pulled out from Korea at the same time and was no longer interested in Korean exposure.
Can you give some more details of the new EU Fnatic gaming house? Who is going to stay there and what type of projects will Fnatic be working on out of the house?
The house is currently being set up in Germany and I would love to share more information about this project if I could. As I said before, we are very confident that this time around we will provide the Fnatic followers the content and insights from our players and teams they so much deserve.We are open to the thought of signing American players, we have just not been able to find what we are looking for yet.
Why wasn’t there more in-house content coming out of the Fnatic Korean team house?
I think the simple answer is lack of interest from the local management, and again, the huge language barrier between the players and managers. I think Fnatic has not been alone in having this problem.
Are you satisfied with the Fnatic Academy and how it’s been going? What kinds of things will you change now to foster more up-and-coming players in Europe?
We did see multiple drop-outs or non-successful Academy players in 2012, but overall I think it has been great and I’m sure the success rate of the program will be higher in 2013. When talking about success in the Academy project, I simply refer to when we scout, pick up and then promote a player to our pro team.
What do you think is the secret to an organization’s success in StarCraft 2? Is it more about results, personality, streaming, or something else?
In the current e-sports space it seems to me results are just secondary, if even that. When speaking about success, the community tend to refer to players that are popular, i.e. players with distinct personalities that reach out wide in the community via media such as live streaming – not necessarily as accomplished players.
It’s my hope that we should all strive [for e-sports] to become more as a sport, where athletes are recognized for their achievements as sportsmen are, and fame comes from success on the field and not from dropping one-liners on live streams. I think the current e-sports media and teams both share a big responsibility here to promote e-sports as a real sport by putting the focus and spotlight on the actual winner. Obviously we have to appreciate the intentions of the companies out there that are actually financing the teams and organizers. They do expect us to be “out there” even in the days we fail as sportsmen. It’s all a very delicate balance we must not lose ourselves in.
Thank you for the interview – any closing comments?
I would like to thank you for this interview, as well as the opportunity for giving me the chance to provide the readers with insight from Fnatic. As always, I would like to send my appreciation to our partners: SteelSeries, MSI, Eizo and Twitch, as well to all the Fnatic fans out there! Expect many news from us in short, and keep up the great work ESFI!