Professional FIFA player Kurt ‘Kurt0411’ Fenech has hit back at EA following their decision to ban him from all FIFA 20 tournaments, after a clip surfaced of him insulting the company and spitting on their logo.
Followers of the competitive FIFA community will probably know of Kurt0411; an inherently talented individual, with a passion and temper that shines through, sometimes too strongly.
Fenech has been on the receiving end of bans from EA in the past, being suspended for two months in October 2018. He was again banned in March 2019, and received a ‘Final Warning’ for frequent infringements of EA’s Code of Conduct.
Kurt has been a well-known FIFA pro for a number of years.
However, it appears Fenech failed to register these regular warnings from EA. A couple of clips surfaced over the course of October – first on 10th and then on the 19th – which show the Malta-born pro being verbally abusive towards EA and its members of staff.
In one clip, he can be seen spitting on an EA logo, after vocalizing his anger towards the latest FIFA installment.
Following the clips surfacing, EA released a statement confirming that Kurt has been banned from all future FIFA 20 competitions.
The clips are described as “vulgar” by EA, who also state that Fenech’s behavior goes “beyond acceptable “smack talk” as the consistent harassment targeting fellow competitors, EA employees and a previous on air-talent during the live broadcast, are unacceptable.”
EA’s statement in full.
Following the announcement of the ban, Kurt responded on Twitter to convey his “shock” at EA’s decision.
“The only way for me to not get banned was to not make any videos and to never stream again,” he said. “I’m a pretty emotional guy, I will say the first thing that comes to my mind and in today’s world that is deemed a crime.”
He also hardens his stance against FIFA and states that EA “should be ashamed of the product you put out.”
He concludes his response by stating that: “I have no idea what’s going to happen moving forward, all I know is this “esport” has officially died.”
There was a mixed response on social media, with some arguing that EA are failing to allow players to express their opinions fully, while others condemned his actions and sided with the developers for banning him.
Regardless of the community’s response, it seems impossible to imagine we’ll see Fenech competing until at least FIFA 21.
A trend that’s emerged over the past couple of years in esports is organizations rebranding, but why do they deem it necessary to change a visual identity they’ve had in place for years? It’s considered counter-intuitive to some, but there are some merits to a brand refresh.
When it comes to selling your company and its services or products, branding is a crucial decision. It communicates your company and its offering to the audience you’re looking to tap into, hopefully providing a connection point and keeping it top of mind when prospective consumers are scouring the market.
In an industry that’s predicated on competition, there’s additional nuance. There’s a need in esports and sports alike to create an identity that fans can root for; a brand that’s relatable or aspirational that helps to foster long-term supporters.
In 2020 alone, over a dozen prominent entities in the esports industry opted to ditch their logo (and in some cases, their company’s entire identity) in place of something fresh. There are plenty of reasons these decisions were made.
Why do esports organizations keep rebranding?
If any organization knows what it’s like to upset a diehard fan base due to a rebrand, it’s Evil Geniuses.
The conception of esports happened at different times, depending on who you ask, but it’s very clear that entities housing competitive players really started to emerge in the early 2000s. At this time, though, these teams were made up of friends who enjoyed playing alongside each other — it was remarkably rare for a tournament to have the life-changing financial incentives that are commonplace today.
These teams weren’t established as multi-million dollar companies or media giants, and thus time and resources weren’t funneled into branding. These organizations, which were actually just gaming clans, were simply a product of the times. As the industry has professionalized and become more economically lucrative, the functions and demands of such brands have changed.
The likes of Evil Geniuses, Fnatic, and Ninjas in Pyjamas have been around for years and, as such, they’ve had to develop in every area as the industry too developed. No wonder companies that were once present-minded inventions have had to change their branding, they needed to adapt to the new environment surrounding them as they blossomed into professional operations.
“With the esports scene moving at lightning pace, it’s not uncommon for brands to rapidly outgrow their original branding,” designer Owen M. Roe told Dexerto. “If you’re founding a team with limited resources at your disposal, you’re not going to be able to afford world-class designers.
“Eventually, there will come a point where a bad logo will begin to hurt your bottom line, whether it’s with brand recognition, merchandising, or because it just plain old looks dated. Fans strongly identify with logos, so it’s important to give them something to be proud of — but that’s also what makes esports rebrands so hit or miss.”
Even DAMWON Gaming changed their name and logo just months after establishing themselves as the current League of Legends world champions.
“Tenets of great design are timeless, but the market is so dynamic that sometimes rebrands are necessary — for example, if an organization switched regions and the old branding no longer effectively represents them,” Theorycraft founder and creative strategist Lauren Gaba Flanagan told Dexerto. “Also, if brand architecture wasn’t built correctly at launch, a rebrand is a good opportunity to correct and refresh that.
That said, observing shifts in design trends is the wrong reason to rebrand.
Organizations have to consider what their brand communicates to consumers, and also how well it serves its purpose across the board. These days, branding has to be well-suited to digital channels, on merchandise and branded accessories, in broadcast graphics, and supporting assets across their entire operation.
Creating a timeless brand
Esports is a digital-first industry that’s evolving at a rapid pace, so it’s impossible to ensure that a brand is able to stand the test of time in every application. It’s more sensible to try and represent what your company is right now and where you envisage it being in the short-to-medium-term.
Should we, as an industry, simply expect constant iterations of recognizable brands organizations attempt to communicate their ethos while staying in line with current design trends and norms? Despite not knowing how things will develop in the future, Roe believes that companies should still be aspirational.
“The goal should always be to make timeless logo designs,” he said. “Frequent & unnecessary rebrands are probably indicative of a larger problem within the organization. We see brands like Evil Geniuses and Dignitas throw away their iconic logos in favor of a hollow corporate rebrand, only to return to form with an updated iteration of their original branding.
“There’s a reason they made the decision to go back to their original logos, that’s what the fans identify with, there’s history there. Esports rebrands should aim to build on & improve what has already been established.”
It’s not uncommon to see new owners come in and change the logo (and overall direction) of an organization, as Roe stated. HBSE with Dignitas and PEAK6 with Evil Geniuses are perfect examples, only realizing that changes they felt were necessary would alienate their fan bases when the damage had been done. In these cases, they reverted back to the original designs, but attempted to modernize them.
Dignitas moved away from their iconic DIGI logo in 2018 just to bring it back in 2021, much to the delight of their fans and the wider industry.
“I hope we don’t see organizations with beloved branding pushed to rebrand simply because they feel pressure to modernize,” Flanagan added. “From the practical (what do I do with all my old merchandise?) to the emotional (I have fond memories of the old logo), any organization planning to rebrand has to do the work of appropriately retraining and reconditioning people on identification and association. A lot goes into that, so rebranding is a card you can pull maybe once. If the same org is rebranding multiple times, that’s a bigger problem.
“Brands can’t be futureproofed unless they’re composed of solid fundamentals, so organizations need to invest in great brand identities upfront — but that investment also must be ongoing. You need great designers who will continually think of ways to creatively apply the identity — through apparel design, photography, social, motion graphics — because that’s what can really keep decades-old branding feeling fresh and inventive. Org branding should be consistent and distinct while remaining flexible enough to incorporate changing rosters, games, and trends.”
The jury is out on whether the recent rebrands in esports will stand the test of time — though there are some that have been disappointing, to say the least — but it’s clear that this trend has emerged for the right reasons. Organizations want to optimize their potential for growth and success, and saying branding is part of that formula would be an understatement.