Go BIG or Go Home: BIG's Savvy Approach to Esports
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The history of many esports organizations, especially in the open ecosystem disciplines, is like the history of indie rock bands trying to break into the elite, get their big debut, and conquer the whole world. They like the way they play in their garage; they imagine that their next project is 100% a future mega-hit that will put them in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — just as long as people see it. But it turns out that the bassist does not keep the tempo, the drummer runs in front of the team, the guitarist has no understanding of what is happening whatsoever, and the vocalist gets nervous at half the song. After a whole year of fruitless performances the members of the lineup decide to disband: some move to other rock bands, the others turn out to be quite talented, they are taken in by the representatives of the world elite, and the rest create their own groups — and the cycle begins anew.
BIG fits into the latter archetype in many ways: the trinity of NRG Esports players — Fatih "gob b" Dayik, Nikola "LEGIJA" Ninic, and Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz — have left their previous "rock band" to found their own and gain worldwide fame. The esports organization Berlin International Gaming was founded on January 2, 2017. Johannes "nex" Maget and Kevin "keev" Bartholomäus have then been added to the core roster of ex-NRG players.
BIG started its official performances at the second-tier tournaments such as DreamHack Open Leipzig 2017 and Copenhagen Games 2017. The team won the silver medal at home in Germany, and in Denmark, they had to settle for 3rd-4th place. Not a bad start for a new organization. The team also won at two weekly local online ESL Meisterschaft: Spring 2017 events. However, the players were much less fortunate in the qualifying stages for prestigious tournaments: in the half a year of its existence BIG lost in six qualifiers out of six. The first tangible success was reaching the minor in Krakow. Qualification for the Major was guaranteed for the first three places, but the roster went all out and, passing through the lower bracket, won the entire tournament. After the successful qualification, the club set its course towards the first major.
All the CS:GO fans from the CIS remember the PGL Major Kraków 2017 mainly for one reason — Gambit Esports became its champion. BIG performed well at the tournament, even won the 5th-8th place and the "legend" status at ELEAGUE Major: Boston 2018, but the audience remembered them for a different reason.
Many top clubs in any discipline become trendsetters. They create, invent, show something new, and the rest follow in their wake. BIG players found themselves in this role without even being an elite team. In the match against FaZe Clan on the Inferno map, the players of the German team used a visual bug that allowed them to get information without giving away their location. They won this match, and the community had obvious questions. However, instead of any sanctions towards Berlin International Gaming, the commissioners of the tournament sanctioned the use of this exploit in the game. According to them, the bug was known to many for six months, but everyone's attention was drawn to it only after the BIG match.
It is easy to call BIG a failing team, a team of the second or even the third echelon: in the first three years of its existence the main successes were achieved at the ESEA MDL series tournaments — not quite Intel Grand Slam, that's for sure. But to call them that would not be entirely fair. The players took part in four Majors in a row, and in two of them, they reached the quarterfinals stage — not every team can even boast of reaching a Major in the first place. Also, over the past three years, BIG has only dropped below thirtieth place in the HLTV world rankings twice and spent a total of eighty-nine weeks among the elite.
There is no way to avoid the effect that the global coronavirus pandemic has had on the CS:GO pro scene. The official tour was canceled, we lost the Major in Rio, the teams began to play at random events, the rankings have lost any kind of coherence. In a year when most are trying not to lose too much, BIG has found the strength to have its best season in history.
The German team began the year of great achievements for themselves with a failed qualification for Intel Extreme Masters XIV - World Championship. However, less than a month later, the "big predator" smelled blood. BIG won the DreamHack Open Leipzig 2020 — the tournament where the team's history began. During the tournament, the team did not concede a single map. Their next “victims” were #HomeSweetHome: Week 1 and #HomeSweetHome: Week 2, Merkur Masters Season 1, and the crown jewel of this run was the victory at the prestigious DreamHack Masters Spring 2020: Europe, an event they gained a slot with a victory in Leipzig. In an incredibly tense final that reached overtime on the last map, BIG proved to be stronger than G2 Esports led by Kenny "kennyS" Schrub.
The players did not stop there and also took gold at cs_summit 6 Online: Europe and DreamHack Open Summer 2020: Europe. As a result of all these victories, the BIG world ranking has also risen — from thirtieth place in mid-May to eight weeks at the very top in Summer. Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz, Tizian "tiziaN" Feldbusch, Ismailcan "XANTARES" Dörtkardeş, Florian "syrsoN" Rische and Nils "k1to" Gruhne did what Berlin International Gaming was created for — they broke into the global CS:GO elite.
#1 @HLTVorg global ranking! 🏆— Daniel Finkler (@danielfinr) July 6, 2020
After a difficult 2019, with so many challenging moments and frustrating results, it's such a redemptive feeling to look at this chart.
I feel so happy to see our players & staff being rewarded for all the work they put into their passion. pic.twitter.com/9d684haOZp
From the very beginning, the goal of the German club was “to become the leaders of the German Esports scene and compete with the international elite”. These words of the club's CEO Daniel Finkler are the first thing that catches your eye in the "About us" section of the team's website. Nevertheless, the club's management never had the popular Machiavellian mentality, when “the end justifies the means”, and the members are only expendable tools to achieve it. BIG believes in a solid approach with the systematic development of both its teams and esports in general. In support of this, the youth team named BIG Academy was added to the existing main CS:GO roster in 2018. Most of the time this roster appears at the local 99Liga and ESL Meisterschaft tournaments, but sometimes it reaches the international ESEA MDL and Legend Series events, too.
In addition to the youth team, BIG dug deeper and got into the grassroots — creating the GoBIG League platform for young CS:GO players from Germany. In this league, they can hone their skills and win cash prizes.
Bringing up young players is also a hallmark of BIG in League of Legends. Their team there competes in the German subdivision of the European Masters — Prime League Pro Division. The members of the roster do not have an absolute goal to win — the squad is used as a platform for player development. Such players as Janik "Jenax" Bartels, Risto "SirNukesAlot" Luuri, Matyáš "Carzzy" Orság, Labros "labrov" Papoutsakis, and Dirk "ZaZee" Mallner went through it and reached the major league LEC.
BIG is not afraid to support individual players in less popular disciplines: StarCraft 2 player Tobias "ShoWTimE" Sieber, Quake competitor Marcel "k1llsen" Paul, and Trackmania racer Dennis "Massa" Lotze are among its ranks.
At the same time, the organization never ceases to keep pace with the times: Fatih "gob b" Dayik, an ex-player of the CS:GO team, and now one of the club's leading managers, founded a division in Riot Games’ new FPS — VALORANT. Former CS:GO players were signed for it, but in a short time BIG has not yet been able to achieve any success in the new discipline.
It's probably fair to say that BIG is unlikely to ever reach the heights of organizations like Astralis, G2 Esports, Fnatic or T1 — The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Metallica, and The Rolling Stones of the esports world. But they do not need that. They became a music teacher. One that all their students will be proud of.