Adam Fitch: The true tragedy of North’s closure

Adam Fitch
North closing doors column

In the early hours of February 5, it was announced that Danish esports organization North have ceased operations — a stark reminder that endless investment isn’t a sustainable business operation.

Parken Sport & Entertainment, the parent company of F.C. Copenhagen, and Nordisk film founded North in January 2017 as they picked up a successful Counter-Strike: Global Offensive roster. They quickly made a name for themselves, especially in the Nordics, as a contender to the likes of Astralis.

The brainchild of a football club and a media company, the organization was primed for nothing but success. If you look at the genetic makeup of a successful current-day team, you’ll understand why. Let’s take FaZe Clan and 100 Thieves as examples.

Both North American organizations are known for competing, whether that’s in Call of Duty or CS:GO, but a lot of the attention that comes their way is generated by content. They each have a solid roster of creators and influencers that bring eyeballs to the brand, which then is also represented on the biggest stages across many of the premier titles.

North FIFA eSuperliga victory
North’s FIFA players, who have won twice in the eSuperliga, will now represent F.C. Copenhagen.

Parken Sport & Entertainment and Nordisk Film, in theory, have the experience and know-how in their respective fields to replicate the model utilized by the two organizations I’ve mentioned. I don’t think it’s a lack of resources that meant they never quite got there, either. North did indeed have some success in the server, it’s the media side of the equation that faltered.

The brand felt pretty empty, and that was somewhat acknowledged by those behind it when they felt the need to entirely change their ethos and visual identity. In early 2020, they unveiled changes that they believed would propel them into a better market position — unfortunately, the new branding fell flat. Dexerto’s own Richard Lewis did an immaculate job explaining why that was the case.

While the official announcement for North’s closure places a lot of responsibility on the global health situation for their demise, it seems more like mismanagement. New management took over in October 2019 and it only really felt like they hit their stride in the past couple of months, potentially setting themselves up for future prosperity. Today’s untimely news proves that it was too little, too late.

The co-founding entities tried to find investors to keep the organization afloat for the foreseeable future but failed in their search, according to their announcement. Now, why could that be? Either the terms of the potential cash injection were unreasonable or everybody they courted deemed North to be unworthy of a gamble — in a world where esports is more hyped in the mainstream than ever after an unusual 2020, this again suggests to me one thing: Mismanagement.

North cajunb playing
North’s recently-finalized CS:GO line-up are now forced to hunt for a new home.

I heard from a couple of sources that those involved with the project only knew of the organization’s impending closure just two hours or so before it was made public. This, alongside a couple of tweets recently published about future content, suggests that the decision was made last-minute. They left things too late, exhausted their options, and failed to make things happen.

Whether this was indeed a case of blatant mismanagement or travel restrictions truly was to blame for their demise, the case of North is a mark against those who claim that the health situation was a net positive for the esports industry.

I wrote about this in a previous column; there are so many roles in our industry rendered unperformable with the absence of events. It’s a damn shame. It almost invalidates their misfortunes when snake oil salesmen run around exclaiming that esports will now go mainstream because of perfect, unbelievable, amazing 2020 filled with nothing but growth.

Regardless, the point of this week’s musing isn’t to point fingers and blame people. North had the foundations for monumental growth and success and failed to reach that point, sure, but right now there are players and supporting staff who have just had the rug pulled from under them. When you think of the effects of 2020 on esports, it’s worth noting instances like this alongside the viewership metrics you’re showing off to people. I hope everybody lands on their feet and this serves as a stark reminder that vast financial backing isn’t the golden ticket to profit.

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