It’s never been popular in Counter-Strike to play with people from other countries.
I was in the UK scene for a long time and UK organizations always wanted to sponsor full UK teams – now it’s changed a bit. With Kinguin there were four different countries represented which brings a lot more fans into the mix. In CS:GO, the sponsorships are starting to make a big difference when it comes to going international. It’s actually possible to do it and find sponsors now.
Everyone looked up to Kinguin when they first went full international because there hadn’t really been a big team of differing nationalities or languages before. When they found success from that, a lot of other players thought “maybe we can do this too”.
Denmark and France are the only countries that have kept to themselves really, and that’s because there’s more than enough talent going around in those countries, meaning they don’t have to try going international to make it work.
There are at least three good-to-decent teams in each of France or Denmark so there isn’t really any need to go international. Some players have gone off and started playing with other people but normally there are enough players to just kind of swap them between the teams – like the “French Shuffle” that happens like once or twice a year.
I had been hearing that NBK was going to join Cloud9, but I’m not 100% sure about that now, but Apex seems to be making a team with Happy and some other French guys. NBK should really try going international or even to North America. Cloud9 would be a great fit for him, I think he’d bring them back to their peak when they were major champions even.
It’s the right time for him to go as well, I think he’s tired of the French scene and going to North America could definitely give him the motivation he needs to sort of “revive” his career. His English is great too, which is something else which sometimes holds players back from leaving their national scenes. He’s fine in that regard so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him leave the French scene for a while at least.
The plus side of going international with Imperial was that we wanted to get players who were hungry to play. Bringing in a player from Lithuania who doesn’t have a chance to play nationally, because there’s no talent in Lithuania, means he is going to be more dedicated to making it work. For us, it was the way to go and I think it’s the way most new teams will go. To have the most success, it makes sense to start as an international team, because you have more options.
Take the UK as an example. There will never be five players from the UK that make a team and qualify for a minor. The attitudes suck compared to people in Denmark and the Benelux region even, so it just wouldn’t work. There’s no point for a UK player to be in an all UK team if they seriously want to make it big in this game. The same thing applies to the smaller countries because the amount of talent going around just isn’t enough.
The only problem is that sometimes there are culture clashes, I guess. When you’ve got players from different backgrounds all speaking English (usually as a 2nd language) it can cause some problems. In Imperial, we have one Serbian, one Dane, one German, and two Lithuanians. So when the Dane says something he might use a different tone or a different accent which means the Lithuanian takes it the wrong way. It’s nothing more than a misunderstanding but it’s still an issue and they end up moaning at each other a little bit.
How come the Optic international lineup never worked out? They tried twice and failed. They tried bringing in k0nfig and CajunB and that lot, and it felt like a forced project. The Danes really only went over there for the money, they thought the NA scene would be easy for them. They were probably getting something like $20-$25K a month and they didn’t even really want to be on the team. I think if you want to make a successful international team you have to have players who want to play with each other. K0nfig obviously wasn’t thinking “oh yeah I can’t wait to play with Stanislaw and Shazham”.
It wasn’t going to work from the start because it was just way too forced. Now they’re back in Europe with a national team, not really surprising. Making an international team shouldn’t just be about forcing people together and giving them a load of money to be happy about it. It needs proper planning and finding the right people who will want to work together. Optic definitely didn’t do that. They just threw money at the problem and thought it’d work.
There are some countries, like maybe some of the Eastern European or Baltic countries that won’t have many players going international because of the language barrier. In Bulgaria, there are not many players apart from Cerq in NRG that have actually gone off to join English speaking teams. I think it’s probably a language thing since there are some good players in Bulgaria. Cerq is a good example of how, with the right organization and support, a player from anywhere can join a team in North America and it’ll work out… but it’s definitely not always like that.
Take Stan1ey, a UK player who got asked to join Ghost Gaming in NA. They bought him out of his contract and then said to him “we’ve booked your flight for tomorrow, you’re going tomorrow”. He didn’t get a choice in that, he just had to tell his family and his girlfriend that he was leaving the next day. He flew over there and had no idea where he was meant to be staying. When he got there Connor, his teammate, came and got him from the airport and took him back to his house. He still didn’t have anywhere to stay so he ended up just sleeping on Connor’s floor.
He thought it was only going to be for a few days and that he’d get an apartment eventually, that didn’t happen. He was in Canada initially, since you don’t need a visa to be in Canada from the UK. He was waiting for his Visa when Connor got kicked from the team a month later and so Stanley got kicked out of the house and bounced around some Airbnbs.
There was no sign of the Visa, nothing happened, and then after like three months he just decided to go home. He had no friends over there, nothing to do, no proper set up to play on and not really any support from his organization, so he got depressed. The way he was treated was so fucking bad.
On the other end of the spectrum, there was someone like Cruc1al, who went to Splyce. He was doing his last year of college and he managed to take a break from college before he decided what he was going to do. The house he would stay at in LA was already there and ready for him. He waited until he actually had his Visa before he went over there, he knew exactly what was going to happen. He even saw pictures of the house before he went, so his move to Splyce was a good example of how to move a player from Europe to North America properly. Cruc1al knew everything, Stanley knew nothing and was given no support.
People don’t really understand that the environment a player is put in has a massive effect on how they play in practice and in proper games. Things like housing, finances, social life, teammates, all make a difference. So when someone like Stanley is in Canada with no one he knows, sleeping on someone’s floor or on his own in an Airbnb, it’s pretty obvious he’s going to hate it.
Never ever move countries for a team without knowing where you’re going to stay, how much money you are going to earn and what the plan is regarding your Visa. It doesn’t matter who the team is – they could be the biggest name in the scene or someone you’ve never heard of – always treat it the same way.
Players will think like “oh I might lose my chance if I don’t go right away” but if you’re good enough then they will wait for you to be comfortable with it. You’d never jump into a job outside of games and not have a clue what’s going on, or where the job even is. You need to know all these things set before you set foot on the plane.
Image Credit: Jennika Ojala and Adela Sznajder for Dreamhack