Steffen Thomsen is the founder and director of Copenhagen Flames. He recently made the decision, not to mention impressive commitment, to leave his position at Danske Spil Oddset to focus on the Flames full time.
He spoke to Esports Insider about what it takes to build and grow an esports organisation in Europe in 2016, Overwatch and his aspirations for the Copenhagen Flames.
ESI: So Steffen, a big change for you recently… was there a trigger that went into the decision to commit full time to Copenhagen Flames?
Steffen: I’ve been contemplating this for a while and saw a window of opportunity for an organisation, with a strong domestic foundation as well as a new take on how to build it with a vision of lifting Danish esports.
We really don’t have that in Denmark. Astralis has more of a global presence while other organisations seem to have other approaches. We want to be the number one esports organisation in Denmark, measured by fans and giving back to the community. The competitive results will follow in the wake of that.
ESI: What is the Danish esports scene like, are there many LAN events and which games are favoured?
Steffen: There are quite a few events each year with a lot of participants. After a period of minor activity, LANs are appearing hard and fast across the country once again. CS:GO and League of Legends continue to be the favoured games, but Overwatch and Hearthstone are popular too. The Overwatch scene in particular is starting to build with more and more teams launching.
ESI: You currently have rosters in Hearthstone and Overwatch. You’re seemingly a big believer that Overwatch can continue on its current trajectory and become a major title?
Steffen: Absolutely, I am. Overwatch has already surpassed what most believed was achievable in a short time. Overwatch has found a good place among other esports titles, and will only continue to grow.
Most of the big organisations have teams, and the ones which were created for Overwatch so to speak like Rogue and Reunited are growing rapidly. You have huge tournaments and the Twitch viewership is high. Blizzard are eager to listen to and engage with fans and that approach will help Overwatch grow as an esport title. They just need to work on the viewer experience and then Overwatch will be able to challenge both CS:GO and LoL.
ESI: How do you go about finding players and selecting them for the Flames? Do you have a scouting network or is this something you do personally?
Steffen: As Overwatch is so new, the scouting you can do besides looking at solo queue rankings is limited. After recruiting the best team in Denmark, called Low Noon at the time, the players have been an active part of the recruitment process. They do know best, and their opinion counts for a lot.
I do interviews with the players to be sure that their commitment is based on ambition and wanting the Copenhagen Flames to grow with them. I want players to want to play for me. The relation between the players and I is friendly, cooperative and with a common goal. Those requirements need to be met.
“Overwatch will become a major esports title. It has already surpasses what many believed was achievable in a short time.”
ESI: What is the most important thing in attracting players to sign for your club over others?
Steffen: I actually believe the vision I built the organisation around is the most important.
To be the the club all Danes want to cheer for and feel passionate about. To be part of something bigger than just winning some games. To feel involved. I involve the players in a lot of the business decisions to make sure we are aligned, and because I feel they have invaluable knowledge which I can use. Finally I believe we handle ourselves very professionally and look to improve the players’ conditions every single day. From my former work I’ve met plenty of people who simply don’t know how to work in a professional environment, and that’s an important factor as well.
ESI: What can be done to improve the lifespan of team line ups in esports as a whole, or is this not necessary?
Steffen: I think we have to start thinking a bit differently as they already do in Asia.
For instance, why are rosters mostly the exact number of players needed to play the game? Subs create competition, larger rosters encourage players to work harder and to handle working with different people.
I believe we overstate the issue around team chemistry. Of course you would like your 5 or 6 players to stay together and play the same lineup every week, but that is unrealistic in my opinion. We are mostly dealing with young people here, who are inclined to sometimes do the unexpected. You must get to know the people you are working with, build a competitive and cooperative environment and you’ll find your overall squad strength increasing far more rapidly than it otherwise would.