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IL CEO DI BLAST ROBBIE DOUEK: “Sapevamo che portare il torneo in medio oriente era l’opzione giusta”

HLTC ha parlato con Robbie Douek, il nuovo CEO della BLAST Pro Series, e hanno chiesto come mai hanno deciso di ospitare l’evento Grand Final in Bahrain e sui loro piani per il 2020.

Venerdì scorso, è stato annunciato che l’attuale stagione della BLAST Pro Series si concluderà in Bahrain, dove la finale globale, con quattro squadre e un montepremi di $ 500.000, sarà ospitata a dicembre.

Sarà il secondo torneo di BLAST in Medio Oriente, dopo la fermata di Istanbul dell’anno scorso, e mentre l’annuncio è stato accolto con un certo scetticismo nella comunità, Robbie Douek che ha recentemente sostituito Nikolaj Nyholm alla guida della compagnia, ha spiegato che il Bahrain ha “una base forte e coinvolgente di fan” e “una scena emergente di giovani giocatori di talento”.

In questa intervista, condotta in vista dell’evento BLAST Pro Series a Mosca, Douek ha discusso di un’ampia gamma di argomenti, tra cui la decisione di ospitare un evento in Bahrein i piani dell’azienda per il futuro e la cancellazione della settima fermata regolare.

Come sempre l’intervista che vi riportiamo è in un inglese molto base

Bahrain has just been announced as the Global Final destination – how did the company land on the Middle East as opposed to something closer to home?

We had been thinking about the Middle East for quite some time, and in fact, it’s been a work in progress for most of this year, primarily because we know the gaming population in the Middle East is very active. Statistics prove that per capita there is an enormous number of gamers in the region, they’re very active viewers, very active players, and so we knew that bringing a tournament to the Middle East was the right option for us. We wanted to excite and entertain in that part of the world, and we had not managed to do that yet. For a Global Final, in a wonderful location – nowhere better.

Will you have the traditional BLAST set-up with the regular stage in Bahrain, or could we see something innovative there, more along the lines of what we saw in Los Angeles?

It’s certainly going to be a celebration – it’s our Global Final, it’s the end of the year, the teams will have played multiple tournaments this year to get there. We want it to be a celebration of everything that’s good, and get that sort of party feel. Ultimately, we’re talking about four teams qualifying for that final, so we’ll slightly change the format and make it much more exciting. We want the local audience to be engaged, we want the viewers at home to feel very entertained as well. We’re very excited about that.

Could you explain the reasons for canceling the seventh regular event of the season, which was supposed to be in Lisbon?

We looked at our schedule this year, and we wanted to be in a situation where we had seven tournament stops and a Global Final. With the planning and scheduling of the teams who are playing, it became apparent that forcing them to play five stops each was never going to be feasible, and we wanted to make sure there was an equal balance between all of them. Fortunately, now, they will all have played four stops each, so from a scheduling perspective, it made perfect sense. Rolling off the back of Moscow into Copenhagen, which are six weeks away from each other, seems like the right angle, and then the Global Final five weeks after that. It all fits together quite nicely at this moment in time. Of course, we had aspirations to be in Portugal, we will not rule that out going forward. We absolutely love our Portuguese fans, and we would love to go back there in 2020.

You have decided to go back to the traditional BLAST format in Moscow after introducing best-of-three semi-finals in Los Angeles. Was that a one-off thing? Why aren’t we seeing more BO3s?

This year you’ve seen various iterations of our product, and I think that shows the flexibility and our ability to produce. We are an entertainment business and we want to be able to provide competitive esports to the fans in various different forms. Los Angeles was a version of that, which we think was very successful, very intimate, and the feedback was very positive from the fans, so we’re happy about that. This format where we’ve got three simultaneous matches going on lends itself really well to this venue, and we think the show will be incredible as a consequence of that. The broadcasters also love it, because ultimately they’re taking the team that they want to follow at a specific time, but we’re not set on that format for perpetuity. We’ll look at other formats going forwards because ultimately we just want to make sure that we’re producing the right output for the fans to digest at whatever that point in time is.

 

In an internal email leaked by Dexerto, Nikolaj Nyholm, the former CEO, mentioned the possibility of RFRSH developing its own league in 2020. What sort of plans does the company have for next year?

Whatever that email, it was structured in a certain way. As you know, you’re aware, the business has been separated in two, and the Astralis group is now a completely separate entity to BLAST, and we’re very excited about that. The business is in a great space. All I can say is watch the space for 2020, we’re very excited about the development of our format, and we think that what that will do and bring to the fans is even more entertainment for the future.

You recently took over as CEO after Nikolaj left for the Astralis Group. Could we be seeing BLAST head in a different direction under you? What vision do you have for BLAST as a product?

I immensely enjoyed working with Nikolaj, we worked side by side. The Astralis group, as I said before, has gone from success to success, and congratulations to them. As a business, we think of ourselves as an entertainment company, we think of ourselves as a content business at the same time, and we want to make sure that we’re focusing on producing quality output for our fans and for viewers all around the world. We’re certainly going to be focusing on our competitive sports angle, but we’re also going to be focusing on what we do from a content perspective and further cultural activations that we’ve done in the past. We’re slightly diversifying our business, but it all stands behind one brand, which is BLAST, and everything we do as an organisation is BLAST.

We’re not set on the format for perpetuity. We’ll look at other formats going forward because ultimately we just want to make sure that we’re producing the right output for the fans to digest at whatever that point in time is
Robbie Douek, BLAST Pro Series CEO

We’re very lucky as an organisation because we’ve got a great hybrid of core esports fans, players, enthusiasts working for the company, and then we’ve got media people and sports people as well on the commercial side, too. We think that that mix really lends itself to creating a wonderful esports company that will hopefully build itself for the future. I would be nowhere without some of the core endemic population that works for us because I’m constantly looking to them for advice to be able to understand exactly what we should be building as a business.

What is your opinion about ESL’s efforts to limit the involvement of teams in events run by other tournament organisers next year?

Whatever ESL are producing from their perspective is their product. We’re going to go out and make sure that we’ve got the best format that we think works for the fans from an entertainment perspective.

Recently, RFRSH released its financial results for 2018, showing 48 million DKK (7.12 million dollars) in losses. Is this something that was expected and seen as necessary for the development of the project?

We’re constantly looking at our business model and working out how we best invest our funds in growing the ecosystem. Don’t forget, our premise is to excite and entertain and be able to produce something that fans of esports and mainstream viewers can really enjoy. We’re looking for further investment to make sure we continue in that direction – as we said before in this conversation, we’re going to diversify, somewhat, our output, but of course, we’re looking to get better results than that going forward, and so are our investors.

Again, Steen is no longer with the company, and Nikolaj isn’t either, so I can’t speak for them, but what I can say is that we are interested in the consumers and fans in Australia. We actually have in our team a very active, very young caster from the region, and he’s loving working for BLAST. We’re always exploring destinations, I do not have enough fingers to count the number of cities that want us to visit. We would love to be able to engage populations around the world, we think of ourselves as a global product, and we’ll make sure that we’re able to broadcast from that perspective.