German esports organization BIG cemented themselves among Counter-Strike’s best in CSGO’s online era. Now, they’ve invested heavily to become the latest partner in the BLAST Premier circuit.
2020 was unusual in CSGO, given that the majority of official matches were played online. But there’s no doubt that it benefited BIG’s German roster, reaching the top of HLTV’s world rankings midway through the year. After proving they’re among the best, they’ve now joined forces with one of CS:GO premium leagues.
Sources have informed Dexerto that BIG’s investment in BLAST Premier was in the seven figures, parting ways with over $1 million to rub shoulders with the world’s best squads. This bold move sees them take over the vacant spot previously held by 100 Thieves, securing top-tier competition for the year ahead.
As BIG’s CEO Daniel Finkler explained to Dexerto in this exclusive interview, this is firmly an investment in the future of the organization, as they look to establish themselves as a major player in the overall esports landscape.
A BIG investment in BLAST Premier
“BLAST has established itself in recent years as a world-class league that attracts top teams from all over the world. As a leading esport organization, you want to be a part of BLAST,” Finkler told Dexerto. “This membership and attendance at events will help us establish BIG as a force in CS:GO and continue to grow as a brand.
“The fans are offered world-class Counter-Strike at the highest level at BLAST, which is again proven by the significant and rising audience figures. The tournament model focuses on investing in the ecosystem and teams competing in it, with their participation fees a prime example and this will help us to build a sustainable future for the organization. The investment we made is 100% worth it, because BLAST will shape esports in the coming years, and we want to be part of their success story as a permanent member team.”
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It wasn’t as simple as just coughing up millions of dollars, though. With many tournaments that utilize franchising or long-term partnerships, tournament organizers are careful about the companies they allow into their ecosystem. BIG’s involvement in BLAST Premier as a partner. only came after a strenuous and stressful pitching process.
“All applicants had to go through an intensive process,” BIG’s CEO said. “In addition to the financial bid, strategic business operations and esports aspirations were of course also important. To be honest, it was very nerve-wracking because the demand was very high, and we couldn’t be sure until the end. However, BIG has developed excellently in recent years, both in terms of performance as an esports organization and the business side. Fortunately, we were able to prevail over other top teams in the bidding process in the end.”
There are narratives traversing the industry that CS:GO esports is in a rough patch. While the casual player base is has remained impressive, there’s no denying that the scene has gone through some changes. A lot of North American rosters have been dropped and plenty of professionals have transferred over to Riot Games’ Valorant — most notably, nitr0 departed Team Liquid to represent 100 Thieves in the new shooter.
BIG CEO: “It’s a very emotional, but well-thought gut decision”
Finkler isn’t worried about the future of the franchise, which is demonstrated by the fact that his organization is continuing to invest in the title. It’s not cheap to sign good players, nor to buy in to a circuit like BLAST Premier. He remains confident despite the changes 2020 brought upon the landscape.
“Counter-Strike has been a leading esports title for 20 years, and there are good reasons for that. I firmly believe that CS offers many advantages that other games do not in the same way. For me, there is no other title that can create such emotions, and the entertainment factor is incredibly high. Even spectators who don’t play the game themselves are quickly captivated.
“I firmly believe that Counter-Strike will continue to significantly influence esports in the coming decades. We can see that the demand is still clearly there with the number of viewers tuning in for every event, this month’s BLAST Premier Global Final showcased that, with the tournament posting the most-watched online CS match in history. We want to be a part of this continued growth in the years to come. The main reason we did it is simple: we just love the game, and we really want to play at the top in the coming years. So it’s also a very emotional, but well-thought gut decision.”
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A bet like this, a seven-figure amount, is no small feat. Especially in a title that some believe is “dying.” It’s actually symbolic of a wider play by BIG, who are looking to establish themselves in the conversation among the most prominent of organizations — alongside the likes of Team Liquid, Cloud9, TSM, and FaZe Clan. The fact they’re continuing to invest major amounts of capital into esports during an unusual, unforgiving time (the result of bans on travel and large-scale events) demonstrates how keen they are to raise their profile and be competitive. They’re being calculated in their moves despite their bullish behavior, however.
“We will do whatever is needed to become one of the most prominent esports organizations in the industry,” Finkler told Dexerto. “That means we are willing to invest further in the future, but at the same time, we want to run a healthy business. We have succeeded with this approach since being founded in 2017. Marc Staperfeld, who supported our ambitions to invest in a membership slot at BLAST Premier and provided the budget, is also heavily involved. I am happy that we have so many passionate people on board.”
2021: Go BIG, or go home
Now BIG have established themselves as one of CS:GO’s finest — at the time of publication they’re sitting in fourth place behind Natus Vincere, Team Vitality, and Astralis — what are BIG aiming for now? The aforementioned teams are used to being ranked at the top of the scene, but that’s not quite the case for BIG yet. They’ve had a taste of success and, understandably, hope to keep the ball rolling as LAN events (hopefully) start to return later in 2021.
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“We will continue on our path and learn from previous mistakes,” he said. “BIG has had difficult moments in recent years, but we overcame them and are now in an even better position. It is precisely these experiences that help us on our way. In Berlin, we now have an excellent infrastructure for teams, partners, and employees — which is a crucial success factor for the future. We will continue to build on this. It’s our goal to become the most successful Counter-Strike team in the world.”
The jury is out on whether BIG can climb back up the rankings to reclaim their title as the best, but their investment in BLAST provides plenty of opportunities to practice and compete against titans. BLAST Premier has a bevvy of exciting events planned for the year ahead, and the German organization can now count themselves as a staple in the top flight of Counter-Strike.