The North Rebranding: Analysing the desperation - Dexerto
Opinion

The North Rebranding: Analysing the desperation

Published: 7/Jan/2020 17:43 Updated: 7/Jan/2020 19:43

by Richard Lewis

Share


It was only yesterday that Danish esports organisation North went dark across all social media. Even their website went down and served up the dreaded 404.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and are not necessarily shared by Dexerto.


Was it a hack? Well, we can rule that out as whoever had gained access to all the accounts hadn’t posted any pathetic racist nonsense. Had they shut down? It would honestly have been a plausible scenario, coming after a long string of poor results and announcement of new management in October. Esports orgs are like the terminally ill… They have a tendency to rally before they finally die.

And yet an interview from December did say that there were going to be some “super exciting announcements” in 2020. You might have missed the jubilation since that quote was buried in a news post announcing the sale of their star player Valdemar “valde” Bjørn Vangså. So then, it had all the hallmarks of a rebrand. Mother of god.

Just twenty-four hours later and the unveiling has taken place. The word “underwhelming” might be the first you reach for but that would be strangely flattering given how bad it actually is. Just give me a moment. 

NorthNorth unveiled their ‘big announcements’ on January 7.

Despite being a fledgling industry esports is full of proud traditions. Retirements that last for a few months. Heads of organisations who publicly declare bankruptcy to avoid paying their players that then go on to return next week with a new brand promising the world. Professional players declaring that the latest patch of their game is the last straw and they will never play it again before slinking back as if nothing had been said because honestly what the fuck else are you going to do? Now we can add awful rebrands to that list.

There have been a few notable examples recently. NRG’s name and logo would be generously described as “high concept” but it had things going for it. The striking pink and grey colour scheme in a world where brands are like the crew from “Reservoir Dogs” (“you get four guys all fighting over who’s gonna be Mr. Black…”) was honestly enough to stand out. They went away and came back with a logo that looked like it belonged on big screen behind an 80s cartoon villain. They followed that up with creating merchandise with a misspelling of “unapologetic” on it, creating the clothing equivalent of the “no ragrets” tattoo. 

The Evil Geniuses rebrand is spectacularly awful. Imagine replacing the iconic circular “E” and “G” with just the words “Evil Geniuses” with an oversized “V.” It’s hard to comprehend, even more so when you consider there is a graphic designer that got cut thousands of dollars for the conceptualisation and execution of doing it. In fact, if the logos of the teams involved in the Call of Duty franchise league are anything to go by I think we can rule there’s an entire cottage industry of people serving up clip art under the guise of excellent design.

Evil GeniusesEvil Geniuses logos, old (left) and new (right).

But North’s… Oh man. Where to begin with this? I think by saying I actually liked their original branding even if it wasn’t spectacular. A Nordic depiction of a roaring lion (a dragon in the style of those that adorned the Viking langskips would have been better honestly) was hardly a game-changer but it was recognisable and the art style immediately conveyed what they were going for. This new logo? Fucking hell. It’s like they took the same lion when it was an awkward spotty teenager before it got it braces. That or is it a warthog?

People have told me it’s supposed to be a dragon, that they are actually enacting my original branding suggestion. Well, not all dragons are equal. I was thinking Nidhogg. They’ve gone for Puff. Inexplicably toothy, goofy and about as intimidating as a chicken korma, maybe it’s actually an appropriate logo given how the Counter-Strike team has performed lately.

North / Puff the Magic Dragon

Perhaps it’s part of a genius plan. The management came down and said “right lads, you’re playing like shit so you’re stuck with this logo until we get some results” and with each podium finish the dragon will level up and eventually get to a point where people can look at it without being doubled up with laughter. If that is the case we’ll be staring at Toothy McToothface for a long fucking time.

It’s not just the logo. I am utterly perplexed at the whole strategy. Talking directly to you now North, yes, you’ve massively overspent for failure and in a territory dominated by the best team in the world. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, especially for the big investors behind the brand. Yet what does deleting three years of tweets and social media output achieve? Do you guys not know how hard it is to accumulate and retain history and credibility? You just wiped yours out with the press of a button because you think all your failings will disappear along with it. That’s the actions of someone going through a bad break up, not the actions of people that really understand the esports landscape.

In addition to that, weren’t we promised big announcements? Let’s break that down: Your marquee talent announcement is that you re-signed a player, Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye, that you already had. Okay. Well, that’s exciting. You realize that, for your fans, a much more tantalizing announcement would be that you had dropped Jakob “JUGi” Hansen. That’s not even to shit on the guy (too much) but that’s just to put it into perspective. Your team is busted and constantly falling short of expectations. Your fans want change, not “good news guys we kept our best remaining player.”

StarLadderConfirmation that 21-year-old Kjaerbye had resigned was the big news from North’s January 7 announcements.

Throwing in you’ve got a performance coach really tells its own story, doesn’t it? The hidden message here is “we know we’ve been bad and we’re going to try and see if this guy can hypnotise the players into being better.” Meanwhile, a future hall-of-famer in-game leader that you used to work with, Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen, is sat twiddling his thumbs, despite his iteration of the team being the one that won you a trophy over Astralis. Get your kneepads dusted off and get crawling back to him. That’s step one. That’s an announcement that might have got fans perked up.

Alongside this lackluster reveal, you also mention you’ve signed an Apex Legends team for that game’s Global Series with a $3 million prize over twelve events. I won’t labour the point and will just say enjoy that while it lasts. However, if you’re curious as to why the announcement isn’t setting the world on fire, following that link might be a good start, unless of course, we’re on the same page. Ram raid esports I call it. You get in, grab as much as you can, get the fuck out before the police turn up.

So overall what a let down this was. An erasure of a history that had only just begun, an announcement that trumpets about how not much is going to change and that logo. Let me tell you that this is worse than the “#stoptoxicity” campaign you launched last January in a bid for attention, and the reception that received was for your fans to spam “#stoplosing” in return. Maybe that’s why you were so eager to delete the past. There’s some pretty cringe-worthy stuff in there. 

The great David St. Hubbins said “It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.” North has a way to go before it can even see that line.

Business

Caster speaks out about G-Loot’s late payments despite $56m investment

Published: 25/Nov/2020 17:49

by Adam Fitch

Share


Mark ‘Boq’ Wilson, an esports commentator, has spoken out against tournament organizer G-Loot due to alleged late payments.

Over July 3-5, G-Loot operated the Trovo Challenge — a $10,000 event for Riot Games’ new shooter Valorant — on behalf of the live streaming platform. For the North American arm of the competition, Boq was hired to cast alongside Leigh ‘Deman’ Smith, Alex ‘Vansilli’ Nguyen, and David ‘SIMO’ Rabinovitch.

Weeks after the event wrapped up, complaints were posted on Twitter regarding G-Loot’s tardiness in paying for the work fulfilled. Dexerto learned that the casters agreed on a Net 60 payment term, meaning they should be paid within 60 days of fulfilling their duties.

G-Loot don’t appear to be short of cash, having raised an investment what they describe as “one of the largest esports fundraisers globally” of $56m in October 2020. While this is indeed after the event, in which it’s possible they didn’t have a lot of money prior to securing the investment, they’re now looking to grow their player base and optimize their service. Players and casters are still allegedly going unpaid despite said agreements, however.

Trovo Challenge Valorant
Trovo
G-Loot were responsible for the competitive operations of the event.

Vansilli publicly revealed that he invoiced the tournament organizer on July 9 and was clearly disgruntled on October 1 when sharing that he was yet to be paid. They stated that he may have to wait until October 23 to receive payment, which is weeks after the agreed term.

Vansilli confirmed to Dexerto at the beginning of November that the payment had finally been sent, but that’s still not the case for Boq.

As of November 25, he has been waiting for 143 days to be paid. He spoke with Dexerto about his experience with G-Loot, the struggles of trying to get the money that’s owed to him, and the typical circumstances casters have to operate within to get hired for events.

The Payment Challenge

“My experience with GLL has almost been no experience,” Boq told Dexerto. “They’ve been quiet, unresponsive, and unwilling to work with us to get things resolved. Everything has been on their timetable, not ours. They were very sporadic with responses, an email would come once every 20 or so days and they’d point out an issue then we’d hear from them again 20 days later.

“It’s clear that they don’t really value talent; forcing us to jump through hoops and giving us crazy dates, far in advance, that related to funding rounds and giving us the run around in general. I am still actively pursuing payment. I’ve given them everything that I was told was needed and they said payment was going to be sent.”

One of the major problems across many esports titles, from the top tier of competition down to amateur events, is the loose use of contracts for broadcast talent. Agreements are made through platforms like Twitter and Discord, with talent being reluctant to request for arrangements to be made official for fear of seeming ‘difficult to work with’ and potentially losing out on future opportunities.

“Like many situations, I did not receive a contract,” he said. “It’s pretty common that I don’t get a contract for an event and if I do, I’m actually blown away by the preparedness of the talent manager. I’ve signed contracts after an event has concluded and had to wait on contracts to send invoices before. It’s definitely common that I don’t get a contract, it’s all verbal or a Twitter DM. Once the flight is booked for a LAN event at least there’s a guarantee, but online there are no guarantees.”

There’s an emerging topic among freelancers in esports regarding the application of late fees to invoices, theoretically deterring tournament organizers from either paying late or not at all by charging them extra for any delay. As of now, there are often no repercussions for such actions and that again is due to the leverage these companies possess according to Boq.

“It’s hard for talent to enforce late fees because the concern is that they just won’t use you again in the future, they’ll be frustrated because you’ve enforced a rule,” he said. “We don’t have as much leverage or power as them. There are a million casters out there who all want to work and get these gigs so it doesn’t matter how large your brand is, ultimately you can easily damage your name beyond repair. The smaller your name is, the easier that is to do.

“Tournament organizers have this tremendous power over some of the smaller names in broadcasting because they don’t have the leverage to get the payment that they’re due. This happens constantly when you look at Tier 2 or 3 scenes and in collegiate and high school when tournament organizers pay late, or at all, and the only option that these people have is to go public.

On why he has chosen to speak out against G-Loot, and why a better system with increased accountability for all parties needs to be put in place, the caster explained that this is more than wanting money — it makes esports a worse place and damages the industry as a whole.

Marq Boq Wilson Caster
DreamHack
Boq is best known for casting shooters such as Counter-Strike and, more recently, Valorant.

“It destroys the ecosystem that’s in place,” said Boq. “It’s important that we don’t allow tournament organizers that practice those behaviors to continue to survive because the ones that don’t are competing against them and sometimes losing. I hate to see companies that raise millions of dollars because I know they can crush a lot of the competition, some who actually do pay their talent but perhaps don’t have the same budget so they can’t increase their exposure with better hires.”

While other broadcast talent may now have been paid for their work on the event, that is not the case for Boq. Who knows if there are others out there across titles and tournament organizers that don’t feel as if they can speak up and still get hired going forward?

Dexerto has contacted G-Loot for comment.