We had interview with Nicolas Estrup (BLAST PRO).
Gamerbase: When did you decide to make such tournaments around the world as RFRSH? Why do you organise tournaments which are getting completed on the same day like a show instead of tournaments getting completing in 3-5 days like the other tournament organisers?
Nicolas Estrup: When we sat down and looked at what we felt was missing in the tournament space, it quickly became clear that two things had high important. One was to make a tournament format that was more geared towards mainstream viewership, while still catering to the core community. We discussed the format with fans, players, broadcasters, sponsors and orgs and after discussing a lot of different formats with teams who had wished for shorter tournaments and fans who felt that week long tournaments was a lot of Counter-Strike to commit to, we ended up with the format that we have today. Short, compact, competitive but extremely cut throat.
The other thing we noticed had importance was consistency in locations and long term this is something we will work with to build a relationship with the cities and fans. For the first couple of seasons it is a challenge, but ultimately it ensures local fans that they know they can expect an event of our size, some what in the same period of time, which makes it exciting for them to look forward to.
Gamerbase: One of the most remarking comments about Blast Pro Series is about 3 matches being played on the stage at the same time. Some people think this is preventing them to be able to focus on the matches. Why all the matches are being played on the stage at the same time? Doesn’t this affect viewers experience in a bad way?
Nicolas Estrup: The reasoning behind the three matches at a time, came from the want of making sure that any fan attending would be able to see their favourite team on stage. At other events you could’ve had a group stage played, without audience, meaning when you finally get to the arena, the team you wanted to see on stage had been knocked out. That guarantee for the fans combined with a short and compact event, as detailed in the format answer above, we saw this as a great opportunity to help towards both challenges.
Gamerbase: You recently made an update announcement about the tournament format. Can you tell us more about the changes, will this affect the match amount viewers can watch?
Nicolas Estrup: As we were changing up the Los Angeles event completely, we also wanted to play around with the format, while still keeping it short and competitive. So the addition of semi finals, we feel helps with that, as it gives more Bo3 matches and a more focused day 2 as we will only have one game at a time.
Right now that is only for LA we’re doing that, but it’s an important learning session for us when preparing the 2020 Season. So when we go to Moscow after LA we will be back to the original format and most likely stick to that for the rest of the events, except for the Global Final. What we will be working with are things like the live experience, the qualifying format and the HUD,
Gamerbase: People say that this year, you will organize the second BLAST Pro Series tournament in Turkey. Can you give us more details about this? Are you really going to organize a tournament in Turkey again? Electronic sports enthusiasts in Turkey are looking forward to it.
Nicolas Estrup: We had a great time in Istanbul, it was a beautiful city with an amazing crowd and atmosphere. Fun fact is that I am daily being spammed with fans that want us to come back to Istanbul again. But when looking at our 2019 calendar, it does not seem likely, we can fit it in, so right now we do not have a plan for returning to Istanbul in that. It was an amazing experience to host the Turkish audience though, and we do hope that we will come back at some point as it was great to bring high level Counter-Strike to the fans there, and hey, I can always eat some Katmer.
Gamerbase: Why always the same teams are getting invited to BLAST Pro tournaments? Do you have an agreement with these teams? Or are you sending invitations to the top 10 teams in the world? What criteria do you consider deciding which teams to invite?
Nicolas Estrup: We do have partnerships with many of the big teams and organisations. That was also an important part of creating an event with a level of consistency, for storylines and to make sure we have some of the biggest teams in the world competing. We do however also work with qualifiers, as we did with two local teams in Madrid, and also invites of teams that are performing well at the time, as we’ve done with Ence.
When looking at teams to work with it doesn’t always come down to the line-up. A lot also ties into value that we can bring to each other, as an example many of the big orgs have players in other games, meaning a lot of eyeballs that might not watch Counter-Strike yet, those are the ones we want to give BLAST a go, as ultimately we just want more people to watch and enjoy the game that we love and by doing what we do, we have seen we can bring a new audience to the scene. Ultimately this will help growing the CS-scene and hopefully give everybody a healthier foundation.
Gamerbase: For the year 2020, are you planning to organize tournaments in countries that you have never organized a tournament in before? For example, do you plan to organize tournaments in populated countries such as China and India? Or will you continue to organize tournaments in Europe and America?
Nicolas Estrup: We’ve definitely had our eyes one some locations for 2020 that we haven’t been to yet, but it is still a bit too soon to say. China is of course one of those countries on the list, with Counter-Strike finally getting an official release, its of course interesting to see how we could help it reach the masses there. And it would of course be great to see a Chinese team rise to the top as well.
Europe will still very much be on our radar and we are of course also looking at north and South America.
Gamerbase: BLASt Pro Series is currently being held only for the CS:GO. Are you planning to organize tournaments for different games in the future? For example, do you have a plan to organize an electronic sports festival which has many game tournaments inside?
Nicolas Estrup: Right now and for the foreseeable future Counter-Strike is the game that we work with. When looking at other games we feel that it is the game that has the greatest potential of mainstream appeal. With the classic, easy to understand but hard to master, it makes it easy to also view. We often draw parallels to NBA, we can all see why a dunk or a contested three point shot looks impressive. Same goes for Counter-Strike and even more so when it comes to pace and general excitement in a match.
Gamerbase: Are you thinking of organizing a major tournament which is considered as the biggest tournament of CS:GO as Refresh Entertainment? Have you ever talked to Valve about this? If you have had organized such a tournament, what innovations would you develop?
Nicolas Estrup: We have a positive dialogue with Valve, also about Majors. It would of course be a great honor to do a Major, but in order for us to feel comfortable with making one we would like to revisit something like the format. Not that we would do it in the traditional BLAST format necessarily, but we would definitely have some thoughts on that. Something that also is extremely interesting is of course the possibilities with what we could do with such deep integration in the game as the Major allows.
Gamerbase: What is your opinion about BLAST Pro Series Istanbul 2018? Did the audience and Istanbul meet your expectations?
Nicolas Estrup: Istanbul in 2018 was a wild ride for us, as it was only our second event, it was a bit of a jump to all of a sudden doing it so far from home. As all we had did until then was in the comfort of our home town, now we were out in the world and that was definitely a challenge, in the good way.
When it came to the event itself we loved the crowd, there was a great energy and it was clear that fans was excited to see the biggest team in their home city and country. Also lowed that Space Soldiers had that experience, as I’m sure they’ll remember that for a long time, I know we will.
Gamerbase: Which BLAST Pro Series tournament excited you most especially with its audience?
Nicolas Estrup: Might sound tacky but I am honestly excited by all of them, but if I was to mention one that took me by surprise it was our event in Lisbon in the end of 2018. We took a risk on a city that is super cool, we knew there was a big fanbase but unsure if they would show up. But man they showed up, I remember doing rehearsals before doors open and we could hear them singing in the hallways and that of course exploded when in the arena with live games. Even though I’m not Portuguese I definitely got emotional when they began singing their national anthem during a break in the show.
Gamerbase: There are many electronic sports teams under the name of RFRSH. Can you tell us a bit about these teams?
Nicolas Estrup: So our business is somewhat divided into two different ones, we have the teams side of the business and then we have BLAST. My self as an example, I only work on BLAST, and same goes for the rest of my team and many others. So while I know that Astralis and Origen exists in another leg of our business, I have zero day to day about them, which is great, because then I can focus on BLAST.
Gamerbase: Thank you very much for accepting this interview. Is there anything else you’d like to add like a tournament date?
Nicolas Estrup: Thank you for taking the time and wanting to talk to us! I sadly can’t give you any dates, yet, but all I can say is to keep an eye out for our Global Final this year, it’s going to be something completely different.