We sat down with FACEIT co-founder and Chief Business Officer (CBO) Michele Attisani ahead of the Major announcement to discuss what the company has in store for the $1 million competition.
Earlier on Thursday, FACEIT was officially awarded its first Counter-Strike Major, which will culminate with a live event in London at the prestigious SSE Arena, Wembley, from September 20-23.
It is by far the biggest project in FACEIT's history, so we quizzed the company's co-founder and Chief Business Officer (CBO) Michele Attisani on a number of topics, including the bidding process, the difference in approach between ECS and the Major, the streaming platform for the competition, and more.
This will be the first CS:GO Major awarded to FACEIT and it represents your most ambitious project. What is the general feeling in the company?
We feel both excited and honored to be hosting a Major. CS:GO is in our DNA. We started supporting it soon after the release with our grassroots competitions on our platform and $1,500 monthly tournaments, so being able to host a Major is a huge milestone for our company.
There were some other big-name tournament organisers in contention, including some who have organised Majors in the past. What do you think that made Valve pick your project?
We’re aware of very competitive proposals from other organisers, which makes it even more special and keeps us even more motivated to deliver the best possible product.
Our team has produced over 2,000 hours of live CS:GO content. With ECS, we have been focusing on creating an entertaining show with top teams and talents and a new, innovative way of watching the game and events. We’ve introduced features such as our new HUD (custom for different in-game situations and in the arena), dedicated stats and analysis segments, loot drops, as well as innovative tournament systems which are more open for the community through the FACEIT Platform.
We want to bring all these things, our experience and a lot more to the Major. Starting from the online qualifiers we’ll announce all the changes in the lead up to the tournament. While for some companies CS:GO is one of many games, it has been our main focus for the last few years and we invested a huge amount of resources to improve our product.
What ultimately made you choose London to host the event and not another city? For example, the most recent Major had different tournament stages in different cities...
The UK has a large CS:GO player base and viewership. Our London-based ECS tournaments have seen significant growth in attendance over the last two years, and that gives us the executional experience we need to take the event to the next level.
This will be the largest esports event in UK history, which makes it stand out even outside of the CS:GO community. On top of that, it is a city that is easy to reach from all corners of the world and will be able to give the attendees and players a great experience beyond the tournament itself.
Historically, Minors and online qualifiers have been a mess. FACEIT has a lot of experience in terms of qualifiers, so should we expect a better system this time around?
Our aim is to create a stable and clear path for teams participating in the qualifiers, as well as several different ways to progress through the different stages. We’ll make sure that everyone has a chance to participate, announcing format and dates well in advance and designing a fair process. It is also important to create similar qualifying processes for the different regions, while respecting the different infrastructures in place, to create equal chances for all the teams.
The Major is a celebration of CS:GO, we want to make it as engaging as possible for the fans, including having the largest possible number of teams in the qualifiers.
Could it be possible that the Major will be streamed on YouTube? The ECS Season 4 Finals already had a drop loot feature (connected to FACEIT accounts, not Steam, though).
It’s great to see different streaming platforms investing in their products and fighting for broadcasting rights as competition eventually provides for better platforms and content for the fans/community. We have worked very hard with YouTube to help them improve the experience and creating new features together, such as the loot drops and player statistics. We’re very happy with the progress but we still have work to do for ECS.
Regarding the Major, we’re talking with different platforms and assessing which value each can bring to the CS:GO community as well as possible exclusive features for the Major.
The recent ELEAGUE Major was also broadcast on TBS. Is there any TV deal in the works for your Major?
Over the past two years, many TV broadcasters have dipped their toe into esports. We had the privilege to be a part of this process working directly with NBC Sports, ELEAGUE and ESPN in the US, and many others internationally.
With the Major, we have already seen substantial interest in linear broadcasting from a lot of different regions, including the US. You should definitely expect to hear more about this over the coming months.
In your recent interview at the ECS Season 4 Finals, you mentioned that, if you succeeded in getting the Major, you would like to try a different approach, more focused on the community. How will this materialise?
Our team is made up of huge CS:GO fans, and everyone has contributed ideas, which means our approach will be fun and different as we want to make sure this is a Major to remember. You’ll have to watch this space if you want to find out more!
You said that, from a content point of view, you tried to make the show "more as a general form of entertainment”, something that was clearly visible in Cancun. Considering that the Major is a completely different type of event, one that represents the developer of the game, will you go for a 'soberer’ approach? How will you find the balance between strict and innovative?
The ECS Season 4 Finals in Cancun was a special kind of event, with it being player-only, at a resort in a tropical paradise. We embraced that in our broadcast with video content and the talent commentating in a more relaxed style.
With the ECS Season 4 Finals, we managed to put a large amount of focus on the extra video content and interaction with the players, which is something we’ll definitely keep for the Major as well. The Major is not only a celebration of the game, but also of the community. The style will definitely be different and a bit soberer, but we’ll keep a good dose of fun as well.
The UK has never had a single player representing it at a Major. How do you plan to engage with and appeal to a community that may not be represented at the event?
Technically, this is incorrect as both James and Dan have played several show matches at the Majors [laughs].
The attendance and viewership of ECS Season 3 Finals last summer demonstrate the potential of the UK community. The number of players in UK-focused tournaments, such as in the UK Pro League Hub on FACEIT, has also continued to grow, as have other initiatives from Gfinity and ESL UK, to name but a few. They have a great passion for the game and enjoy watching the best teams in the world, regardless of where they are from. We are more than confident that we will have a great turnout for the event, especially when you consider that we sold out the arena for ECS 3.
Recently, FACEIT announced an overhaul of the qualification system for the ECS, with the introduction of the Challenger Cup. What made you decide to drop the Development League? What has the community’s response to these changes been like?
This is the first step we have taken to improve the qualifying process for ECS. Making it more open, giving more relevance to the content of the Challenger Cup and offering more visibility to up and coming teams.
The decision was made based on feedback from the community, smaller teams, as well as the teams and players who are representatives on the ECS Governing Committee. So far, the feedback has been positive, but we’ll be looking to work on enhancing the format together with the ECS Governing Committee and the community.