Fnatic have signed up for the third season of Gfinity's Elite Series, as the London-based esports competition grows from eight to ten teams.
It's great news for Fnatic, who operate out of their Shoreditch Fnatic Bunkr on the other side of London. We spoke to Patrik Sättermon, Fnatic's chief gaming officer, about the benefits of the Elite Series, and what it brings them.
"We have for years had a great relationship with Gfinity" says Sättermon. "We think that the Elite Series really fills a gap in UK esports, and at the same time offers a really great platform for competition at an international level."
Sättermon is enthusiastic about the event, valuable as the Elite Series is about to go through its most difficult transition yet, ditching Counter-Strike: Global Offensive from the event's esports trifecta and replacing it with kick-'em-up FIFA.
The move makes sense, Football is easier to sell to broadcasters than digitised terrorists shooting up the place but for the gaming community and those watching esports habitually, still Gfinity's core audience, it's hard to deny that watching people get shot in the face is part of the appeal. FIFA is fine, but the competitive scene isn't as much of a draw as you might expect from Valve's premier shooter.
Fnatic could well provide that draw. One of the world's biggest esports organisations, they add a bit of star power that perhaps has been missing so far. At the moment, the eight organisations competing in the league are Reason, Endpoint, Method, Prophecy, nV Academy — the academy for Team EnVyUs — xL, Epsilon and Infused. They're all decent teams, and throughout various visits to Gfinity Elite Series matches I've cheered for them all, but Fnatic could add something special to the new-look event when it kicks off in March.
Sättermon says the move could see meet and greets or other promotional events at Fnatic's Bunkr, but also mentions a new facility in Blighty: "We are looking to setup a permanent gaming studio in London which will accommodate our Elite Series players as well as any visiting Fnatic pro. This enables us to have more pro player present at Bunkr so you can definitely expect a lot of cool esports action there in 2018."
The Elite Series also offers Fnatic a way to make good on their commitment to grassroots esports. "We have seen a lot of success with Fnatic Academy which is basically our in-house route towards our pro team, from which players like Golden [Maikil "Golden" Selim, Fnatic's in game leader that was promoted from the Academy team back in August 2017] is a product of."
"We see Elite Series as an international product it does have a draft system which we are very excited about and we urge all aspiring pro gamers in FIFA, Rocket League and SFV to try out!"
Fnatic already have existing teams in Rocket League and FIFA, and in early 2018 they're planning to announce their full plans for Street Fighter V, but Sättermon says that when Fnatic look to invest in a new game, they think long term, and they think big. "Naturally our objective is to place in the top of Elite Series and other international tournaments in these games," says Sättermon.
From a press release, Gfinity CEO Neville Upton said: "Having established the Elite Series as one of the leading esports tournaments in the world, we couldn’t be more excited by expanding and bringing in a team of FNATIC’s calibre. With their inclusion, an already competitive roster and more announcements to come, this will be our most action-packed season to date.”
Providing none of the teams already signed up move away from the Elite Series, we currently know nine of the ten competitors. Could the tenth be another big name from the world of esports? I'm looking forward to finding out.