Apeks announced their Valorant roster on January 10, featuring former Fnatic and FunPlus Phoenix players. Dexerto spoke with the architect of the team, Einar Grannes, a business developer for Apeks, about the organization’s entrance into the esport.
Apeks made a splash with the signing of an impressive Valorant roster that is bound to raise eyebrows in the region’s tier-two scene. The team is headlined by Martin ‘MAGNUM’ Penkov and James ‘Mistic’ Orfila, both of whom saw international play with Fnatic and almost won the 2021 VCT Stage 2 Masters tournament in Iceland.
Joining them are Enzo ‘Enzo’ Mestari, another player who plied his trade for Fnatic, Tobias ‘ShadoW’ Flodström, a former FunPlus Phoenix and Giants member, Georgio ‘Keiko’ Sanassy, an up-and-coming teenager who previously played for Bonk.
With a strong combination of experience and talent, Apeks are looking like a strong candidate for a spot in Ascension, the year-end event with the best teams in the EMEA Challengers circuit. The winner will qualify for the region’s international league for two years, joining ten partner teams.
“We’ve been looking at various esports titles and kind of establishing what the most sustainable titles are to be in and Valorant was very high on that list,” said Grannes, who was brought over from Team Liquid help with the organization’s expansion into new esports titles.
“We were initially looking at potentially entering in through Game Changers, but with the announcement of the new format changes and the Ascension spot being announced, we thought it was an exciting opportunity to kind of go through [the Ascension] route.”
Apeks are coming into Valorant with a plan for the future
Apeks will compete in the Valorant EMEA Challengers League Northern Europe Polaris for a chance to enter the region’s international league via Ascension. The organization chose this league to stay close to its roots as a Norwegian company and because the roster meets the competition’s residency requirements.
Only three of the eight teams competing in Polaris have the support of an organization. With the sort of investment that Apeks are making, with players who have competed at the highest level in the game, the expectation would be for this team to reach Ascension in the first year and perhaps even qualify for the VCT partner league.
However, Apeks are not coming into Valorant with the mindset of ‘qualifying for the top league or bust’, according to Grannes. He said Apeks are already planning out the second and third years of their Valorant strategy and have other ways to be involved in the esport, including content creation, event hosting, and other initiatives.
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“This is not a Hail Mary on our end,” he said. “This is planned as a long-term strategy, and a lot has gone into the planning and preparation for this initiative. We are definitely looking at a long-term plan, and we’re not dependent on winning right away.”
With the players on Apeks’ books coming from VCT or high-tier Valorant Regional League teams, it is believed that the Norwegian organization is sparing no expense in its first Valorant investment. Grannes told Dexerto that while the players do not have VCT-level salaries, they are on the higher end of the Challengers pay scale.
“We went through very tough negotiations,” he said. “I think a lot of these players really wanted to play together and at one point they realized that this team was going to look really strong, and everyone’s ambition is to make it back to VCT…
“But aside from that, we also have ambitious but also very strict business plans. And the business strategy for [Valorant] also kind of mitigates a lot of the risks in terms of our salary spending.”
Fans will be able to see if Apeks’ team is worth the hype or not when the first split of Challengers Polaris kicks off, on January 16.