Flipsid3, The Journey of CSGO Hi guys and gals, I have been wanting to do this for a while and I think some of you may enjoy the story. One of these days I hope to write a whole tell all story about this weird journey we have had in eSports, but for today I really just want to reflect on the path we took to have the opportunity to compete at the $1,000,000 MLG Major. What makes eSports special is the opportunity for anyone and everyone to have an opportunity to be involved within an organization, to compete for a championship, or to just enjoy witnessing the birth of a new industry.
Disclaimer: This isn’t trying to promote anything or anyone in a positive or negative light, it is purely a story about how grinding hard, having a dream, and remaining persistent can pay off. I also totally understand this is really long and not for everyone, but it was something important to me and I hope a few of you find it entertaining.
Hi My Name is Finch Let's start with me, just so you can get a better understanding why I think this is a crazy story and a story worth telling. I currently work as a behavior analyst and as a therapist at a inpatient drug rehabilitation program. I am not some eSport veteran or some fancy investor with a big background in business. Back in 2013, I was doing a podcast called Dota Insight and one day this guy named Frost hit me up and essentially said, “Hey, you are a good looking dude. We are running a LAN, would you be interested in hosting it?” Shortly after Frost decided to start F3 with the idea of creating a player first organization, he wanted me to be a part of it and I couldn’t say no (especially after he said I was good looking). At this time, we were just a group of people wanting to create something in eSports so we set out to do the best we could do. Nearly 3 years later I am still here and get to have my hands in many aspects within F3. For our first year we were pretty much 100% focused on Dota 2 as we had a solid Dota squad being led by Mania and I was doing more Dota specific content to help build our brand. (There are plenty of crazy Dota stories, but I will share those later if I am able to write a “Tell All” book)
Despite my job and grad school, F3 was more of a dream of something we could potentially build someday. I have had many friends and family over the years tell me that it is a waste of time, that video games are a waste of time, and that I just need to stop doing any F3 related activities. There were times when things looked like we had no more fuel left in the tank to keep things moving, but somehow we are still here and still fighting. To all those people who told me those things, you should watch MLG Columbus and watch the world's best Counter Strike players compete at the highest level for $1,000,000. One of the few things that kept us going was each other. I know there were times that Frost, wuvs, and I were all down...but somehow we kept one another inspired. Without Frost or wuvs, I would have left eSports years ago and I am lucky to call them my friends and extended family.
F3’s Entry into CSGO In 2014, I started to really pay attention to CSGO and interested in its potential to grow. Personally I never played a Counter Strike game in my life, but I did enjoy watching CSGO. At the end of 2013, we lost our Dota team to a big investor promising to sink $200,000 into the squad and they became Team Sigma (Spoiler alert, they never got paid). This was my first lesson in eSports, “It is a shitty business filled with shitty people, disappointments happen and you have to take a punch sometimes.” Lesson two was, ‘When things are too good to be true, they are too good to be true.” It was near the end of 2013 and we had no Dota team and a sponsor who didn’t want to remain in Dota.
After a while Frost finally listened to me and let me begin our CSGO expansion project. We had no experience in CS, so I made this Reddit post From that post I got at least 30 applications. I conducted interviews and narrowed it down to a few people. We started a CS show called The CS Academy with Foritzio and then Mats helped me scout potential rosters. We ended up speaking with Hydrox and loving his personality, so we decided to pick up Highgrade at the end of March 2014 (2 years later to the date we will be playing in a $1,000,000 tournament...crazy.) The roster was Hydrox, relik, zape, windster, and barsiC. After a few months Jumpy joined and replaced windster. We competed in the lower ESEA divisions and any open bracket tournament we could to work our way up the ladder.
The Swedes Our main goal with this roster was to attend Dreamhack Summer 2014 in which we hoped to battle through the open bracket. At the event we did just that, we made it out of the open bracket and into groups. That alone made us satisfied, but in our group match we took down NaVi...THE NaVi. We won 16-14 on Dust 2 (watch the end, Zape with the clutch still gives me chills) I was at my Grandfather's house for a 4th of July BBQ and watching this on my phone, literally losing my shit and no one there understood why. Ultimately we ended up dropping our next sets to Lemondogs and NaVi and finished 3rd in the group, but we still were ecstatic. Our sponsor was so excited he wanted to give the team a new salary and a long term contract. “This was it, we made it, we are on the fast track to success” is what I thought. Not so fast, after the event we learn that Jumpy has received offers from big teams after his great DH performance and was leaving. Our sponsor would only sponsor the whole team and Jumpy just jumped out, so we were back to square one.
After Jumpy left, the guys never were able to find a strong 5th so we began to look for our next move. We learned that Schneider was a free agent after his stint on Fnatic and was looking for a new organization. After some talks with him, we felt like the roster he was putting together would be great. So we hit the sponsorship hunt hard and got them their money. [The squad was Schneider, Moddii, cENTRYZ, Pyth, and Twist.] (http://www.hltv.org/news/12807-moddii-returns-in-flipsid3-tactics)
The guys are all funny and lighthearted, the team chat was great. We all thought they would be able to really hit the ground hard and put up some good results. But as I said earlier, when things are too good to be true...there is a really good chance they are too good to be true. After a few weeks, Schneider approached us and said something along the lines of “things are not working out, we are having a ton of disagreements, we need to make some roster changes to fill the support role.” Discussions were had with the players, and honestly we didn’t resist as much as we should have because we wanted to keep our players happy, and eventually (to my great disappointment that we didn’t get to work with him long term, because Pyth was an awesome dude) we release Pyth and bring in Spitfire. So roster swap is made, so things are good now right?….NOPE. Shortly after the change, Moddii makes a post on his Facebook saying he is leaving the team. This is without consulting us so we were pretty much in the dark. (I was at work at this time and got a call from one of our sponsors asking what was up with the roster. Let me tell you, THAT was an awkard discussion when I had no clue what happened…). We investigate, obviously, and find out that there were still major roster disagreements so we ultimately decided to part ways. The next domino to fall was Twist also wanting to leave, so the roster basically imploded. This time our sponsor is done, they dislike the inconsistency of rosters in CS:GO and do not see how they can get marketability when players keep coming and going. What we thought was such a sure bet for success blew up in our face. This caused people to walk away from the organization, staff to be discouraged, and the future of F3 to be uncertain.
Swedes 3.0? In September 2014 we get another chance to take a stab at another team, this time Twist approached us about his new squad wanting funding to get to GIGACON. They win the whole damn event and end up wanting to stick together longer and remain under our tag. The roster is Twist, Berg, Dumas, Bendji, and Robiin.
In November 2014, we were part of a charity event called Gamers Impact. Part of this was us hosting a tournament and running giveaways / production on the event. At the time, the funding source said we were not allowed to have the F3 CSGO team play in the tournament, so we had to find other teams. This made me FURIOUS and know I complained a ton about it at the time. Yet, ironically enough, this is the first time that we met B1ad3 since dAT Team took part in the event.
Dreamhack Winter 2014 Qualifier time comes around, and we’re pretty hopeful that we can make it through. Less than 48 hour from the start of the qualifier we learn Robiin can not play in the qualifier...BOOM panic sets in. The guys scramble and decide Zende will have to be the stand in. We fall short in the qualifier, the dream is over. The squad decides that it is time to call it quits since there are not any more majors in 2014 coming up. BUT WAIT, a miraculous 2nd chance emerges. Kqly gets a VAC ban and Titan is disqualified for the DH Winter 2014 major. We then get a slot in the Last Call qualifier and get matched up against the solid London Conspiracy lineup... and just play fantastic. “We did it, we are in the dance. Surely this will be our time to shine.”
At Dreamhack Winter 2014 Twist and crew continue their form and show some great play at the event. Once again we run into NaVi in our first CSGO Major and take them to the brink. We have a 15-14 lead and NaVi is on a CZ buy. “This is it...we finally have gotten lucky, we are going to get Top 8, get the guaranteed sticker money, land new sponsors, and move on in the world!” we choke to the eco and go on to lose in overtime.
The event ends, we think we will be solid for the future but once again roster issues plague us. Twist, Zende, and Berg are certain it was time to part with Bendji and Dumas to instead bring in Schneider and Pauf. We feel like this roster can really do things so we make the call and we begin to prepare for 2015. We line up two new sponsors who want to support this team, and are all set to move forward with the updated contracts for the existing 3 players with extended terms as well as new contracts for the 2 new players to match. We then find out through some outside sources that this new team has no intention to resign with us at all, but rather are in talks several other organizations through the two not yet signed players. This was confirmed when they guys let us know they were leaving for Team Property when their contracts with us expired. Once again, team is gone, the two new sponsors walk because we don't have that team. The well might have dried up for the last time. After nearly a year's worth of rosters coming and going, people are discouraged and disappointed once again. Whenever we feel like we are on the cusp, something out of our control happens and the whole house of cards comes toppling down.
A New Hope At this point it is January 2015, we have begun to search other permanent solutions. There was this mad grab from organizations to lock up rosters at this time, this was when big brands such as TSM got involved in the scene and the more established “proven” rosters were all being scooped up. It was at that time we reconnected with B1ad3 and learn they were searching for an organization. We really enjoyed working with daT team during the Gamers Impact tournament, so we continued to figure out what we could do to make it work. In what seemed to be a match made in heaven, they agreed to take a chance on an NA org they didn’t know much about, and we agreed to take a chance on a new region and a new roster as they had just swapped out adreN and flamie for Markeloff and s1mple. Things worked out and we announced the roster on February 1st 2015.
At this point, I assume that most people began to recognize our name and see us more in the public eye. I'll write the whole story about the 2015 year when I decide to write the whole book one day. But TL;DR 2015 was a hell of a great year for us and the guys. We qualified for EVERY CSGO Major, despite having really a roster of 4 people, with a 5th slot that was being switched back and forth between 2 players because of tournament restrictions on s1mple. We got to compete in the first ever ESL Pro League and other major international events who had record breaking prize pools. Most importantly, we got to build relationships with people all over the world and have been on this miraculous journey to a $1,000,000 CSGO event. Blad3, Bondik, WorldEdit, and Markeloff have remained such a strong stable core through all of 2015. Most importantly, they were just good solid dudes that we are insanely lucky to be able to call apart of the F3 family.
Hey Finch...Wrap it Up…. What this story doesn’t do well to highlight is the amount of hours that go into a project such as this and how crazy talented some people are. Part of our philosophy of being a player first organization is that this whole machine thrives on people who are dedicated to helping us achieve the next level. Sure there have been sleepless nights and terrible days, but there have also been triumphs. The fact that after nearly 3 years of keeping this weird machine called Flipsid3 Tactics moving forward, we are now going to be in our home country at a $1,000,000 tournament at MLG. This alone makes it all the struggles and disarray worth it. (Fun fact most people don’t know, we are a North American organization with a large chunk of our staff living in North America)
Every time something went wrong in these past 3 years with a roster, a sponsor, unanticipated expenses that were over our budget, or being told we were told we are too small and never will amount to anything, it all hit us right in the gut. It all hurt and caused us to second guess this project we have sunk countless hours into day in and day out. But somehow we persevered and found a way forward. If Hydrox told me no, we don’t get to compete in DH Summer and no one sees our brand and established CSGO players are hesitant to take a chance on some small organization. If we had our own CSGO team play in our tournament, we would never have met B1ad3 and daT team. If not for our former roster choosing to leave for an organization closer to home, we would never have had the chance at this new roster taking a gamble on us, an NA org far away from their home, and blessing us with the best year of F3s lifetime. The most important thing you can do when you run into a road block, is to find away around that roadblock without feeling sorry for yourself.
Thank you to Frost for roping me into this crazy world and being a stubborn but persistent visionary. Thank you to wuvs for being the momager that we all needed and for always finding a way forward when things look bleakest. Thank you to B1ad3, Markeloff, WorldEdit, Bondik, and S1mple, for giving a NA organization a chance and sending us on this awesome journey and for continuing to work hard every single day. Thank you DavCost and Shara for showing up every day and giving it your all even when you weren’t sure if you would officially become F3. Thank you to Foritizio and Mats on trusting some dude on Reddit to start a CSGO division. Thank you to Hydrox for helping open the door for us within CSGO and proving that open brackets have a place in major tournaments. Thank you to the rest of F3 who are too many to mention here for your tireless work in building what we have built; the staff, designers, players, managers, volunteers, and everyone across all of our divisions. Thank you to our sponsors, past and present, we would not be here without the support you guys have given us. Lastly, thank you to any of our fans who have supported F3 at any point in our 3 years, it truly means a lot. If there is anything that you can take away from my story, please understand that life can be rough, difficult, and at times seem like you are out of options to continue forward. However, with the belief in yourself and the persistence to grind away day in and day out regardless of results, you CAN achieve your goals and aspirations.
If you have any questions for me about F3, about eSports, or anything on your mind, drop them in here or hit me up on Twitter. I'll do my best to answer all of them. If you are going to MLG Columbus, look for me there and let's grab a beer, I would love to hear your eSports story.