DreamEaters coach and CEO: "We focus more on sports results."
DreamEaters coach and CEO: "We focus more on sports results." ⚡⚡⚡ Esports and gaming news, analytics, reviews on WePlay! The latest news on WePlay!
Russian esports organisation DreamEaters has recently won a slot to participate in StarLadder Berlin Major 2019. We spoke with the organisation’s CEO Anton "Nagval" Vinogradov and CS:GO team coach Aleksandr "zoneR" Bogatiryev about how they achieved this result, what are small teams managing difficulties, the development of young players and some details of the past Minor.
You are a somewhat young organisation but multi-gaming at the same time. You have Rocket League, Rainbow Six Siege, and even PUBG Mobile rosters. Quite a list. How did you realise that you are capable of competing?
Nagval: First, let's figure out what's "young." How can you understand if the organisation is young or not? Where's the line? An organisation that has existed for three to four years is young or not?
A banal example: we have legendary clantags, like pro100, who were recently revived, Virtus.pro, NAVI, Vega Squadron. They can be safely labelled as adults. But you exist only a couple of years.
Nagval: It's three! Even a little more. Of course, if we're speaking of “full-fledged organisation” title, it is probably around two and a half years. It was the moment when I began spending at least some money here. Before that three years ago it was just a hobby. Probably yes, indeed, the team is young, when compared with other tags.
Multi-gaming. Those disciplines that we now plan to develop are somewhat a test; we are looking what we can do. We have not yet decided whether we are ready to contract the rosters of Rocket League and Rainbow Six fully. We think and watch because the most important thing now is the numbers. By them, I mean what a discipline can give us.
In terms of costs, both Rocket League and Rainbow Six are not even nearly comparable to Counter-Strike, but in terms of numbers, they may be even more enjoyable. We are now at the stage of inspecting these disciplines until we make decisions whether we want to sign a squad or not because for now, it is difficult to tell. I think that only in the autumn will we finally understand whether we want to fully hold players with good salaries in one discipline or another. So far, we are just testing the waters only because you can’t go now with one discipline.
That is, now the choice of disciplines for your multi-gaming is profitability rather than prestige?
Nagval: Absolutely. Profitability is now a critical point because the cost of, for example, a Dota 2 team is very high. We already had an experiment in Dota. But the team showed nothing while we spent lots of money on it. It is simply too expensive. At the same time, PUBG Mobile can get colossal media coverage figures — more than Counter-Strike — for very modest money.
Another thing is that the popularity of mobile esports is a very controversial topic. Counter-Strike has existed for 20 years and will exist for some time; this is obvious. What will happen to mobile esports is not clear, so once again, everything needs to be tested. Now we are doing everything by trial and errors because we do not have the opportunity to rush into battle immediately. After all, some large organisations even get several rosters for the game they want to go into and watch them doing fine or not. We can’t afford to do it for a long time and purchase some kind of expensive squad right now. This, unfortunately, is not about us.
Aleksandr "zoneR" Bogatiryev
So what is your current situation with sponsors? After participating in Forge of Masters LAN finals, your tag has gained some popularity which is only growing. Do you have any investment suggestions that would help to support multi-gaming rosters? Don't disclose any trade secrets!
Nagval: Well, all the trade secrets are just the numbers in sponsorship contracts, offers, etc. As for such proposals, up to a certain point, probably even before this Minor everything was very complicated. The sponsors are only interested in numbers. It is clear that if we are talking about large organisations, a sponsor who wants the brand to be associated with a company may come.
A simple example — Audi and Astralis. Moreover, even if this team starts fading as it is now, they are still popular and are always associated with the brand. This story does not work with us at all, because for now, we are not a brand at all. We can’t give the numbers, because they are generated by the popularity of the players, as the result and also due to the work that the organisation does in terms of the quality of posts, self-PR, etc.
So you have to choose. There are several teams in the CIS, Aleksandr will probably understand who I'm talking about. They do not show any result at all, but at the same time, they have sponsors. Since these teams have media players who gather 300-500-1000 people on their streams, it is enough to make money.
We have a slightly different situation. We focus more on tournament results. Originally, DreamEaters as a team was aimed at achieving competitive results, growing. But after some time I can say that this was generally the wrong course from the beginning. The right direction is to make money first and then invest it in the organisation. Because now it's complicated to find cash at our level. From the outside, it seems that there are players, they participate in tournaments, and everything is excellent. In fact, to make all this possible, you need a lot of money. First of all, because players sacrifice a lot to become professionals, people drop out of school, leave work because otherwise, they will not be able to achieve results.
If you want to get a diploma and at the same time enter a Top-8 Major team, the probability that you will fail is about 90%, because you have to sacrifice something. These sacrifices mean that we need to pay our players. This task is incredibly difficult. There's not a lot of organisations in the world who are such profitable. You can forget about profitable companies at our level. The exception is if you initially have a huge investor, a sponsor who understands that they will not receive money immediately — they give cash to make the brand recognised, etc. In the CIS, as I said, there are such teams.
We are a team that has grown on its own. We initially invested in a competitive result, the team managed to grow, but now we can’t economically catch up with ourselves, so it’s not easy, but we're doing our best.
Speaking of financing. I've noticed that you now have your own merch. Since you are a young team that has its own fans, tell us about it because this is one of the ways to make money for the organisation.
Nagval: Yes! As for the merchandise, in my opinion, this is a direction that is currently not very developed in esports. It is clear that each top team has its own merch (jersey, hoodie, etc.). Moreover, only our Western colleagues learned to make money from it. An example is FaZe Clan because now it’s no longer even an esports organisation, it’s rather a kind of holding with content-creators. Simply put, a collection of talented young people who stream, play and people purchase their merch.
You can pre-order the jersey at DreamEaters official VK page
It's not that developed in the CIS, so we decided that we need to fix this somehow. Of course, for now, we are far from the point when we can excite with our decent figures of merch sold, but by the way, Sanya! [to zoneR] What do you think of releasing DreamEaters merchandise labelled with "КУДА ЛЕЗЕМ" [where do you think we are going — tr.]? [laughs]
zoneR: Affirmative! [laughs]
Nagval: We had an idea yesterday that after this "minor adventure" of ours, it would be foolish not to take advantage of the fact that Sasha drew attention to himself and the team.
Yeah, you had the hype.
Nagval: Just wait for the Major to begin — everything will be great! As for the merchandise, we launch it. There will be cups, badges and everything else. Since we do not have a large fan base, we will try to make something creative with cool decisions that may please people because it will be unusual, funny, etc. Let it be for now.
Let's move on to the Minor. The first thing I would like to know is the difference in the shape of the team a year ago and now. What changed?
Nagval: At the very least, Sasha is now with us, not like last year! [laughs]
zoneR: Yes, I came only six months ago.
OK, then let's take the Forge of Masters League, which ended in early May, as the starting point. What was happening then?
zoneR: We played with an incomplete line-up there, Krad didn't play with us (the player couldn’t get into the League due to visa issues, so Sergey “Starix” Ischuk was the stand-in — ed.). We understood that we wouldn't get much, so the main goal was to gain some LAN experience.
Did you get it?
zoneR: Sure! The whole situation when you play on stage in front of an audience. At this moment, you need to learn to find peace. All this affected Minor, since we came there with experience, not as whipping boys at all.
Nagval: Haha! You've said the least of it! [laughs]
That is, the guys already feel confident on stage?
zoneR: Not quite yet, of course, but compared to some other teams, we have taken a step forward.
I remember that LAN. Speed4k was very excited after the matches as if he had lived his whole life for these couple of games on stage. He was anxious about the result. What has changed?
zoneR: He works every day. Probably even more than the rest of the players. The result is visible every month.
Nagval: By the way, I can also tell you something about speed4k. He was a part of the team for a long time. More precisely, he's the one I've worked the most time with of those who are now on the side. I absolutely agree with Sasha, because this player has been with us for more than a year, and he is really progressing. His main attribute worth working on is psychology, and he did severe work there.
Moreover, again, when it became possible to take part in the Minor, and now we are going to the Major, I think Anton will become only stronger. And the team as well. Anton is doing great.
In your interviews after Forge of Masters, you mentioned that you were very nervous on stage. The players did not hear each other morally. Captain's calls were delayed for almost 30 seconds, or not at done all. Was there anything similar with you during Minor?
zoneR: Yes, there was such a problem, but at Minor, never ever. Two different teams! At Forge of Masters, we felt like a mix. It was simply not very convenient for the captain to call something, because all the players were attached to each other.
How did you prepare for Minor? Did you have a bootcamp?
zoneR: Yes, we had a bootcamp. We met ten days before the tournament. All this time, they simply built the shape without any tactics. Tactics are tactics, but you need to shoot in the head. Scrims from dusk till dawn, you know. They just needed a decent shape to go out there and put it in the head with the first shot.
By the way, regarding scrims. Who do you usually practice with? The CIS teams or are you playing with someone from Europe?
zoneR: We have a very good practice experience. We often play with many top teams. It doesn’t always work out, of course, but after that Minor, I think, we will scrim with good teams, because they will reckon with us. In one day we can play against North, BIG and other teams of a good level from Europe.
Nagval: By the way, I want to add my comment here from the CEO's point of view. It became much easier for us with the scrims after participating in Forge of Masters, right, Sanya? [to zoneR]. When Sergey played with us. Because before that, we were in the situation when the team had a high level of play, but it was quite hard to receive an invite to some good scrims. First of all, since it's unreal to reach people who administer these groups. They are, to put it mildly, busy.
That's when we found ourselves in a situation where the team's skill is high enough, and we can only play scrims with teams either below our level or the same as us. So, there was no progress. Without going into details, I can say that I even had to invest money to provide training. This is actually total chaos. I believe that it is something the professional scene should not have.
I urge all people who are related to helping a particularly young team to have good scrims to be more precise. And to look for the teams that shine and grow rapidly, because they — like us in a certain moment — need help with it. You should help the youngsters!
Let it be! Let's then go over your performance in this Minor. For example, matches against Team Spirit. You played two games against them, both victoriously, and both times no one believed in you. Neither bookmakers nor the audience. How did it happen?
zoneR: We are used to it. The most important is that we believed. I do not pay attention to all this distrust. We knew we could. Moreover, they were sure that we were the favourites of this meeting. Even, I think, Team Spirit were sure that they were not favourites [laughs]. I don’t know, it was easier for us. Nobody believed in us, but we proved ourselves.
It's wonderful. What about your second rival, Syman team?
zoneR: Well, we lost to ourselves here, as I say. Our worst enemy is ourselves when we are nervous. I think if we played online, no problems would have occurred. But when we show our nerves — at Minor semifinal — we lose to ourselves. We make so many silly mistakes that when we revise the record afterwards, there are no words.
That is, all these lost comebacks are the consequences of nerves and emotions?
zoneR: Yes. Nerves and their consequences. At a higher level, pro teams don't know what that is. We are only crossing the line between Tiers. For example, in the matches after Minor, we will be even more confident. It seems to me that the team has made it through a lot of stuff already. After Major, we will get more experience, and we will be comfortable in every game.
In the last match against Syman, you had technical problems on Dust 2. You've been playing confidently, but after a long pause, something changed. Many agreed that you lost precisely because of this.
zoneR: Yes, this greatly influenced our result. We caught the courage on Dust, and we were even ready to win them 16:2, 16:3 and after that — fight on the third map. We didn’t want to give up this Dust, and after the pauses, we simply lost the pace, it’s true.
After reaching the play-in, you learned that the Brazilians from INTZ would become your opponent. In your opinion, how much do they differ from our teams in terms of the playstyle?
zoneR: Ooooh, they are very different. In my opinion, they are not quite deservedly in the Top 30 rating (at this moment, Nagval starts laughing behind the scene). It was terrible. Only close contacts, no flashbangs, no team play at all, purely individual skill. Before the match, we had the call to take two AWPs, and we did it, taking them down easily.
That is, it was a deliberate procurement and not a spontaneous decision?
zoneR: Yes, we watched the Brazilians play and noticed that they practically do not use grenades. They rush the spot without any ideas. They throw one smoke per game, and that's all. It was just shoot-em-up at medium distances. Well, we had to win them with 16:6 and 16:4. The comeback we allowed them to do when the score was 15:4 is our pure psychological feature, which always disturbs us.
First is the excitement of anticipation of victory, and then the tilt?
zoneR: Not excitement. We were better thanks to our own skill. And not even the tilt, we just wanted to take that last round so much that we lose to ourselves and hope for a miracle that this round will be finally taken. In this case, the brain is disconnected from the players, and we think so frivolously "Nah, we'll take it".
At the same time, the opposing team with each round taken has their morale strengthened, and ours only faded. So we got to 15:15, which is not surprising. It felt that we could go on extra rounds.
Nagval: Yes, I experienced several clinical deaths at this moment.
zoneR: We took two pauses, we wanted to somehow break with quick rounds. As a result, nothing happened. The Brazilians are great, but again, we lost the second map to ourselves. For me, this team is not very strong.
Even though kNgV- played there, who is rumoured to be very wanted at MIBR?
zoneR: Who is this? I don’t know him! [laughs]
Why did they give you Overpass? Wasn't it clear that this is your signature map?
zoneR: By the way, about the picks in the entire Minor from other teams and the Brazilians in particular. Some coaches or captains, I don’t know how they decide it, pick maps very incorrectly. We are 100% fit for this, and our battle begins at the pick stage. It happens even three days before the match after we get the opponent. We win many games precisely because of this.
I viewed this Minor from the side: the teams are picking terribly. Sometimes I just don’t know what they are guided by. They often simply choose their opponent’s favourite map. I can’t say why this is happening. Of course, I wasn't there, but they are terribly suited to this matter. I don’t really want to give specific teams as an example, but many organisations in Minor do it wrong.
For example, Team Spirit. We play Mirage very well, but for some reason, the guys picked it and wanted to compete with us on this map. Even though they had a couple of good trump cards up their sleeves, but they just decided to play our two strong maps.
Brazilians are the same. We knew that they would pick Mirage, so at night we were preparing for it. They could have made a different pick, but for some reason, did not pay attention to it also. I have the feeling that they are just too lazy to open hltv.org and see what kind of teams they play and what they pick.
Aleksandr, let's talk about your expressive behaviour at Minor, which has already become a meme of this tournament. Sports anger, as it has already been labelled.
zoneR: My behaviour is normal! [embarrassed laughter] This is not even sports anger, I just have fun. I’m a crazy person. Now, after all, I'm talking to you usually, and in real life too. And when I'm in CS or somewhere in the coaching room — I don’t give a damn about everything.
How do the guys react to such support?
zoneR: Generally normal. All in all, we have a team that you need to ignite. Our players need to be unleashed, and I’m doing this because they can just fall asleep in three rounds [laughs].
Nagval: Yeah, that's true.
zoneR: They certainly won't relax with me!
Nagval: Yes, Krad’s an example. If you look at the cameras, he sits calmly, such an unemotional dude, and there was a moment when they took a big round on Dust. Then he just rips off his headphones and starts yelling something to the Brazilians.
zoneR: There were three similar moments there; only one got into the camera. And so he had such a good word there.
That is, Krad really got lit up thanks to it?
zoneR: Yes! He started to scream, and I’m pressing him even more, I start to push him with the words "Come on! Press them! Do not spare!" [laughter]. True, it is also necessary to choose the moment so that the player does not spend his strength. Sometimes he needs to be a little calmer.
Do you mean that it helped for three maps?
zoneR: Yes. It is also necessary to watch out for this. Well, speaking of Krad's case, when everything was already over, and it was going to the last map, I think it didn't stop him from throwing out his emotions. After that, he generally wanted to flatten them, which we did.
Dank memes over here
By the way, I noticed that you had MechanoGun written on your T-shirt, although we all know you as zoneR. Is this some kind of rebranding?
zoneR: How to say... I always played as zoneR, even the HLTV profile is named that way. MechanoGun, I don’t even remember where it came from, I think I signed up for some LAN. You can say that this is my coaching nickname now. Player ZoneR is dead but rose again as a coach.
Let's move on to the upcoming Major. I understand that each participant in this tournament has very big ambitions and usually the question "What results do you expect to achieve?" is answered standardly — the prizes and the top spots. But there is always some kind of bar, which you still can't jump over. What result will be satisfying for you?
Nagval: There are two aspects. Sasha will tell you about the game. I'm speaking about the other one. From my point of view, I can say that this bar has already been passed in fact. Now it’s difficult for us to set a goal because any result that the team will show now will automatically be more than the result that we expected. That is, any organisation sending players to Minor wants them to go to Major. This is logical, because if the company does not count on this, then why does it exist at all?
On the other hand, we have not so many chances there, so anyway, for us, this is already a great achievement. And from the play shown, and with the fact that we have attracted quite a lot of attention, this is important. From the organisation's position, we are already satisfied. As for the players' point of view, everything can be different here, because everyone has their own ambitions and there is no limit. I think Sasha will agree with me here.
zoneR: You are reading my thoughts. We've got this bar removed. Now we will just play CS in our style, gain experience and try to move on. Of course, all other teams also have their own ambitions; therefore, first of all, we want to leave our mark in history. With stickers, games - no matter how.
Are the players currently worried about Major?
zoneR: No. Since we have fulfilled the goals that we had set for ourselves; there is no pressure on us anymore and we can approach the games with maximum comfort.
What about the next bootcamp, is it planned for you before the tournament?
Nagval: Sure. I think that we will meet on the 14th of August, the bootcamp will start on the 15th and right here, from Moscow, we will fly to Major. I almost said, "to Minor"! [laughs]
zoneR: Yes, we are already starting to take shape. On August, 5th we leave from vacation and immediately begin playing the official games, but for us, they will again be like a training process. As I said, tactics are good, but you have to shoot well.
Are you satisfied with the organisation of this Major?
Nagval: By the way, I would very much like to speak out about Minor and Major. I think this is important. As a person who not only manages an organisation but has been leading it for several years, I consider all aspects necessary, and I want to talk about organisational issues too.
I am very unhappy with the way the organisers approach flights, and I won't remain silent about this. It's about how it should be. At least it seems to me that way since I have visited not so many international tournaments.
If you take WePlay!, for example, the organisers compensate the flight tickets for the team, the coach and the manager. After all, everyone understands that a team is a living organism, and each person has a role. If we take five players and one coach, send them to another country without the support of a manager, these people will have to not only do their own job — practice and perform — but also solve some organisational issues, which, due to some reasons they cannot do. They could just lack the necessary knowledge.
It seems to me wrong that we are forced to pay for our manager's ticket and hotel. For us, a small organisation, that's a lot. And what if, for example, we decide to send an additional operator, etc.?
Great teams, such as forZe, Team Spirit, are a little easier for them; their budgets are more serious.
Plus, I can add that the organiser's direct concern is to deliver the player from his house to the venue of the tournament. We buy return tickets for our two Crimean players, and we buy them with our own money. The organiser pays for tickets only to Moscow. I think this is absolutely wrong. I could understand if it was a Tier-2 or Tier-3 tournament, but hell, this is the world championship, which is held by Valve itself with the support of StarLadder! Young teams suffer from this very much, and I think we should speak this out.
Nobody says that you need to carry a bunch of people with you. There are seven slots: five players, a coach and a manager - that's it! Everyone else, if they want to go - a director, an accountant or someone else - let them go for their money, but I consider the situation described fundamentally wrong. We would rather spend this money on something else. For example, we would close some debts or buy advertising.
That is, the organiser of such a global tournament can refuse to take team staff?
Nagval: In this case, “staff” is a big word. One man! We need to bring Artyom, our manager, who helps the team a lot. It's terrible not to send the manager because the guys there will be completely disorganised. Let's take Sasha, and he has enough worries and what he needs to think about. If he also goes to the reception desk and asks at what time and where to arrive, this will not end in anything good. A simple request, dear tournament operators, please calculate budgets for seven slots. If you don't want to pay — don't to organise tournaments.
You had no such problems with WePlay!, had you?
Nagval: With WePlay! It's just ... Well, many may think that I praise you for some selfish motives, but nothing like that! Night and day. We are talking about a tournament with the prize pool about $50,000 versus the entire Major with a million dollars.
At Forge of Masters, we were met, accompanied, had a lot of attention to ourselves. Moreover, we arrived as underdogs at that moment, as a team that made its way, and we were all happy even with that. The attitude towards us was ten times better.
Sasha can also tell us what scrim-rooms we had at Minor. Of course, we will not criticise anyone, but in short, the conditions were not the best. At WePlay!, the conditions were much better. This applies to everything: relationships, compensation, and more. No questions.
Please, have your final words and greetings to fans, spectators and sponsors.
zoneR: I say hello to my haters! I want to say that without you, my life would be boring, write it down as I told [they both laugh].
Seriously, I want to say hello to the fans, too, if we have them, of course.
Nagval: You know, they exist. I’ll even say more, and we have several loyal fans who are some kind of ultras, they are like 20 people. These guys just follow DreamEaters from the time when I played in pubs with the tag. These are the people who remember how it all began and what it turned into. As a team, we are very grateful to those who sincerely support us. I believe that those people who spend their emotions on a team are more important for any sports team than those who simply made a bet and were glad that they won or were upset that they lost.
We want people, first of all, to get some emotions from our play. No matter what, positive or negative. This is still a show, so thanks to all the fans and a huge hello! But as for the sponsors, we will separately communicate with them later [laughs].
If someone is interested, we are ready to make the coolest advertising. With a separate option in a sponsorship contract, you can purchase an advertising spot on Aleksandr's T-shirt, an individual order. Only the best companies, only the best slogans.
zoneR: Yeah, "bring in the bags, take out the trash," huh? [everyone laughs]
Thank you guys for such a frank interview. I congratulate you once again on entering Major and wish you good luck. I want to say that you have a lot more fans. We all sincerely hope to see you in the second season of Forge of Masters.
Nagval: Thank you very much! We'll be very pleased.
zoneR: Yes, we really liked your tournament. Thanks!
On the fourth of August, Aleksandr “zoneR” Bogatyrev celebrated his 32nd birthday. WePlay! Esports congratulates him and wishes good health, mutual understanding with his colleagues, self-confidence and more vivid emotions!