Fabian ‘Fabian’ Hällsten is a legendary name in Rainbow Six Siege esports. A two-time world champion, he ranks as one of the game’s greatest players. After his skills declined from a prolonged benching at the top level of play, he founded his own team, Delta Project, to get himself back to the level of a top player, and take on the esports status quo.
Fabian’s professional career in Rainbow Six Siege is nearly as old as the professional scene itself.
In 2017, he found his first taste of major success, winning multiple titles with PENTA Sports. Their success continued into 2018, as the team won that year’s Six Invitational.
In September 2018, PENTA’s roster was acquired by the team that Fabian would become most associated with – G2 Esports.
In his first event with the iconic organization, G2 won the Six Major Paris. They followed that with the third Pro League title of Fabian’s career, a win at the DreamHack Winter event, and the title at the Six Invitational 2019.
To date, Fabian is one of just six players to have won multiple Invitationals, and one of four to have taken back-to-back titles.
But that would be the peak. G2 saw a few more podium finishes at major events but never reached the heights they once had.
Fabian joined Team Vitality in June 2020 but rarely saw regular playing time.
After nine months on the bench, Fabian left Vitality. Not for a team with name recognition, but for one of his own.
Delta Project was born.
What is Delta Project?
Team ownership is an avenue that entices many esports athletes after their retirement.
100 Thieves, one of the most recognizable names in esports, was founded by Matthew ‘Nadeshot’ Haag following his retirement from Call of Duty.
However, not every team is founded after their owner’s playing career ends.
G2, Fabian’s former org, was founded by League of Legends player Carlos ‘ocelote’ Rodríguez Santiagos after he left SK Gaming in 2013. In 2014, ocelote was the starting mid laner for G2’s first year in in the League of Legends EU Challengers Series.
Fabian started Delta Project as a way to utilize the brand and following he had built up over many years in the spotlight.
“I wanted to give back to the community after the community had been supporting my entire career,” Fabian told Dexerto, “and when you have a brand as big as mine, you want to use that as a force for good if you can.”
But like ocelote in the early days of G2, Fabian is far from retired. Currently serving as the IGL for Delta Project’s men’s team, he also founded Delta Project as a way to work on his own skill.
“The other reason [why he started Delta Project] was because, to be honest, I wasn’t good enough anymore, mechanically, to stay at the tier one level. I hadn’t played competitively for nine months, so while it is about giving back to the community, it’s also about getting myself back on track so if I am offered the opportunity to get back to tier one, I can be ready for it.” he went on to say.
For Fabian, there is no reason why he cannot own a team while pursuing a return to the heights his career once held.
However, aside from a player-owner, what sets Delta Project apart from the hundreds, if not thousands, of grassroots esports teams?
Players as people
“What is really important to us is that our players know that we want to treat them as human beings, rather than as products or ways to make money,” Fabian said. “Having been a player in many big organizations, I know what it’s like to feel that way. I did not want the players at Delta Project to experience that.”
Delta Project works to achieve this people-centric ethos in several ways, including prioritizing their players’ physical and mental well-being,
“I don’t think many people understand what the day of a professional player is like. Usually, you are waking up at one or two in the afternoon. And then you immediately go into practice with the team, which can be seven or eight hours on its own. Then maybe you have individual practice and VOD review. And at the point, it is already midnight or one in the morning.”
With Delta Project, Fabian sought to implement a new, healthier routine,
“Our days begin at 11, which may sound late but is very early for many esports athletes. Because of this, we try not to run too late into the night. And four evenings a week, we have no team activities – no evening practices, no VOD reviews. Instead, we encourage our players to get away from their computer. We think it’s important to let our players spend time with their families, go do things with their friends. We do not want them working and playing 24 hours a day.”
Fabian’s approach is a stark contrast to the grind culture that is so often seen in esports.
“If all you do is play, and all you see your organization wanting you to do is play, that’s how you end up burning out,” Fabian explained.
But beyond caring for his player’s well-being, Fabian wants them to be able to feel invested in the success of Delta Project.
“When people started to join, we offered them a way to buy shares in the company. We want them to feel that the organization’s success is their success,” he said.
Engaging the community
Fabian’s home is the Swedish town of Piteå. It lies in the far north of the country and has a population of around 23,000. It’s a place that means a lot to Fabian.
“I’m not much of a traveler because I like where I am. I live in one of those places where it feels like you know everyone. Why would I want to live in a city where if I got hit by a car, people wouldn’t care because I was just some stranger who was hit by a car?” Fabian said.
But Fabian wants to grow Delta Project beyond just the scope of the Rainbow Six community.
“I want to work with the town to help Delta Project grow,” he explained, “I want to become part of the local culture, and embrace the local culture.”
Esports exist in a strange, almost unique, space. Unlike traditional sports, esports teams aren’t tied to a specific place. The organizations are nebulous, carrying abstract names and sometimes, managing rosters in multiple countries. But Fabian wants to reduce the scope, and make Delta Project something that Piteå can be proud of.
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“We don’t want big risk investors that only see us as a way to make a profit. If people want to put money into Delta Project, they need to share the values that we have as an organization. There’s a big hotel in Piteå that wants to build this gaming center and it would be cool to work with them on that.”
Fabian wants Delta Project to have a tangible impact on the world around the team. By working with his hometown, he wants to create an identity for his team that simply goes beyond a brand.
“I just don’t understand why everyone isn’t given a f*cking chance,” Fabian said of the sexism prevalent in esports, which often leads to women missing out on opportunities to play with major teams.
Women have long struggled to break into the esports industry, especially as players. While individuals such as Eefje ‘Sjokz’ Depoortere and Jessica ‘Jess’ Bolden have found success as broadcasters and analysts, the number of women playing at the highest levels of their respective esports remains low.
While programs such as the Game Changers circuit in Valorant and CCS Women’s League in Rainbow Six have started to provide high-level opportunities for women, but these events come at the price of being women-only, thus segregating esports by gender.
“We want to help develop women in the Rainbow Six pro scene,” Fabian explained, “not just so that we can have a really good women’s team, but so that there is more and more high-level women’s talent available”
Delta Project, which only fields Rainbow Six teams at this time, saw their investment pay off as their women’s team won the first season of Project Athena, a league set up by OPL and Jess Bolden.
However, Fabian has plans for making Delta Project synonymous with fighting to give women a place in esports.
“We want to be able to pay our women’s team fair salaries. We extended the offer of shares to all the women who play with us,” he said, “But we also want to set up our own women’s tournament in the first quarter of 2022.”
He also hopes other organizers will follow Delta Project’s example in creating more tournaments for women.
“Right now, there needs to be more tournaments and leagues for women that are taken seriously and treated as serious events.”
However, the issues extend beyond competitive matches.
“You can even see it in practice,” Fabian explained, “When you compare the teams the men’s team plays against and the ones the women’s team plays again, people take it less seriously when they play against our women’s team.”
Fabian’s desire to push for gender parity is a direct result of his upbringing.
“Piteå actually has a team in the top Swedish women’s football, and for many years my father was the CEO I guess you’d say, of the women’s team. So I’ve always been surrounded by the idea of giving women their chance in sport,” Fabian said.
However, it is esports’ culture, in Fabian’s eyes, that is holding back more widespread progress.
“A big part of the problem is that you have these guys who have been raised in a certain environment and they are still very young, usually 18 or 19,” Fabian explained, “and because of how they’ve been raised, if you put a girl on that team then those guys are going to end up wanting to be more than just teammates. Because that happens, the guys who run those teams, who are only like 21, 22 themselves, just don’t give women a chance.”
Some women have broken through the obstacles, especially in the Rainbow Six scene. Lauren ‘Goddess’ Williams spent time with Soniqs in 2019, and rejoined the org as a coach in 2021.
But despite success stories such as Jess Bolden and Goddess, women struggle to through breakthrough in Rainbow Six, as with every other esport.
Fabian is doing his part to change that with Delta Project, and the results are clear when you speak to women who play for the team.
Marieke ‘MissMarie’ Denise has been playing Rainbow Six almost as long as the game has been out.
“I remember picking it up in 2015 or early 2016 because I had seen something about it,” she told Dexerto, “and after my first game, I was hooked.”
Over her many years as a ranked and professional player, MissMarie has developed a reputation.
“They call me the clutch queen,” she said proudly, “I’m just really good at clutching out rounds. The proudest moment of my career was last year. I clutched out a 1 v 3, and the other team was flaming a little about it and telling me I had just gotten lucky. Then the next round, I clutched a 1 v 4, and that completely shut them up.”
MissMarie worked her way through the regional Benelux League in her native Netherlands, countless LAN and online tournaments, and the first season of the CCS Women’s League before landing with Delta Project in 2021.
The atmosphere that Fabian strived to build immediately stuck out to MissMarie.
“Delta Project is really great because they don’t see us as women,” she explained, “they just see us as players, like the men’s team.”
The women’s team has access to all the same resources as the men’s team, despite being a part-time occupation for its players, as they all prioritize work and education first.
However, the of the biggest things that stands out for MissMarie is the autonomy the team is granted.
“We are not treated like we are owned by the organization and have to do everything they say,” MissMarie said, “we are given the freedom to decide so many parts of the team.”
Fabian revealed that the women’s team had selected their own coach, a perfect example of the autonomy they are able to work with.
But the autonomy also has a much more personal impact for MissMarie.
“I am more focused on content creation than being the top player in the world. Streaming, YouTubing, all of it. And Delta Project allows me to pursue that while also being able to play at an extremely high level,” she explained.
The ability to be herself with Delta Project has also allowed MissMarie to promote one of her biggest personal mantras.
“I am completely myself when I stream because there’s no point in pretending to be something you aren’t. There is a certain way that people think women in esports are meant to be but I hope I can show other women that they can be themselves too.”
She expressed her admiration for fellow streamer Imane ‘Pokimane’ Anys as someone, who also unapologetically sticks to their style and brand, while also showing off high-level gameplay. In September 2021, Pokimane reached the rank of ‘Immortal’ in Riot’s FPS, Valorant.
However, MissMarie doesn’t want people putting her on a pedestal.
“I don’t see myself as a role model, but if people see me living as myself and want to do the same in their lives, I think that’s great.”
Delta Project’s focus on player wellness is also a major reason that MissMarie is so fond of the team.
“Mental health is one of the biggest things we talk about on my streams. It is so important to me,” she said, “And the way that Delta Project also makes it a priority is so great to see from an esports organization. The nights off, the connection to the people in charge, like I can text Fabian anytime and I will get a response. It just makes me feel like they really care about us.”
In 2022, Delta Project will look to expand their place within women’s Rainbow Six, continuing to build their own women’s team, as well as undertaking plans to launch their own women’s tournament.
“I am really excited for Delta Project to launch a tournament,” MissMarie said, “and hopefully there is another season for the CCS Women’s League and Project Athena. I want to play in them all. It’s what we need right now, just as many tournaments for women as possible.”
The future of Delta Project
Delta Project is undeniably a different sort of esports organization. While still in its infancy, Fabian is confident about the goals he wants the organization to achieve.
“I want to get Delta Project to a place where we can pay everyone a fair wage. Obviously, we cannot pay them top-tier team money but we want to be able to pay them enough that they can live comfortably,” Fabian said, “I don’t want Delta Project to be something that doesn’t care about its players, and only cares about profit.”
Whatever the future holds for Delta Project, its iconic owner is ready for it.