"Nobody paid anyone in CIS esports for a long time" — Interview with Likkrit

Oct 07 2019 10 min read

"Nobody pay anyone in CIS esports for a long time" — Interview with Likkrit ⚡⚡⚡ Esports and gaming news, analytics, reviews on WePlay! The latest news on WePlay!

After the end of the esports career, some pro-players switch to coaching and analytics. Other ex-pro-players disappear from the scene in an unknown direction, even world-known stars.

Kirill "Likkrit" Malofeyev's esports path has ended after a showdown with Riot Games, where he got a long-term ban. What does the most famous LoL-player of the CIS region do after leaving the pro-scene? Many amazing facts about Kirill's career and more in his interview:

Kirill, hi! Tell us about your esports career from the start. 

Hi! I was seriously interested in games in school after a classmate mentioned Warcraft III. I played it in elementary school, but then I decided that games are for children, I need to read books, do sports and other useful things. But one day, he reminded me about gaming, so I reinstalled the Warcraft III, and stayed in it. A few years later, I switched to World of Warcraft and tried League of Legends with friends in 2013.

Why did you choose League of Legends instead of more popular "DotA" in the region?

I didn't choose. My teammates and I started playing 3v3's. I had nothing special to do that summer, so I got the level comparable to the current "Challenger" and felt very comfortable. I couldn't reach "Challenger" at EU West, but I was as close as possible.

Wait a minute, from the first game in LoL to "Challenger" in a few months?!

Yes. I immediately calibrated into "Gold" in the ranked, I didn't have "Silver" not a single day of my life. The experience in the "DotA" from WC III times helped a bit. I just play games very well in general. The main thing isn't how much time you played, but how competently you use it - your ability to learn. I am a competitive player to the bones and adhere to the strategy of learning to play as best as possible in the minimum amount of time.

How was your way to the pro-scene? What was your first team?

My very first team can be considered My Little Pony, Unholy played in it. It was a stack for Go4LoL tournaments, which gathered more than twice.

I played on the pro-scene in Kazakhstan at the Techlabs Cup for the first time. I was invited to replace Lekcycc as part of Tort.fm because he needed to fly with his mother to Paris. After the tournament, the team decided that they wanted to play with me more than with Lekcycc, and made me a regular player. Later, Team Empire signed Tort.fm. This team was the first to be signed by a professional organization from the CIS.

So you just got to the LCL?

Well, yes. Next, Team Empire's roster played in a league from Starladder. I went through all the seasons of Starladder, and later it was this league that turned into LCL.

Do you think getting to the pro-scene is a matter of gaming skills or having the "right buddies"?

I didn't know anyone before getting to Tort.fm. So I can say, that I made my way with my skills. But in general, most of the esports players get on stage due to acquaintances. This was especially noticeable in those old times when there were more teams. Even if you are not a top player, but have contacts in teams - everything is fine, you can go on stage.

I always have a tough position: "don't invite people according to reviews of friends - watch how they play". I can say that the idea turned out to be good.

Was it easy for you to become a pro?

I can't even say that I was trying to be it. I entered the university, played at night - this is my whole path to success. Then I slept on my way to the university and sometimes during the lectures.

What part of the time did the League of Legends take in your life?

I came from the university at 6-7 pm, sat down in front of the PC and played until the morning. As a result, I have dropped the university twice, and now having a third try- MGIMO Department of Management and Politics.

Did you have a goal to achieve something in a player's career?

There was absolutely no purpose. I just played it because I liked it.

Didn't even want to win the World Championship?

This desire arose later, already in the LCL period. Before that, I enjoyed playing in Tier-3 teams and Solo Queue. The team goals appeared when I stopped enjoying the "solos".

Your main achievement is the quarterfinal of the World Championship with Albus Nox. Do you think the experience in that team was good?

On the one hand, it was good, but on the other, it was terrible. Of course, due to one of the known factors.

The problem with salaries was out of the blue?

Let's say that we didn't care about these salaries. Nobody paid anyone in CIS esports for a long time, and if they paid, then often with delays up to six months. The Starladder prize money was credited after nine months. Later, when LCL began, conditions for organizations started to matter.

We earned enough from the prize money with Albus Nox so that we were not particularly worried about the salary in the organization. Plus, there was money from Riot Games.

It always seemed to me that the League of Legends tournaments never had big prize money.

I was the highest-paid player in the region. You can always earn on streams. But if you don't stream, don't have a VK [popular social network in CIS region - ed.] group or don't collect donations, then no one to blame.

According to my information, few professional LoL-players hold streams.

This is partly due to the League of Legends being a very exhausting discipline. Players spend more time and resources on training than in any other discipline. At the same time, you work with a small audience on streams, and even in it, only a tiny part is interested in esports, and not the chests opening. All this needs to be multiplied by the fact that CIS is an insolvent region, which is why views on streams are cheap.

Let's finish the case with ANox. How could such a situation have occurred in the Riot Games system? The company didn't give players any social guarantees?

No, the organization is responsible for enforcing contracts with players. In the case of, for example, non-payment of salaries, the organization may be taken away a slot in the LCL. Since the M19 organization already bought the ANox slot, we were asked not to be angry, promising that the situation would soon be settled.

So Riot Games, instead of solving the problem, decided to cover it up?

Well, the "Riots" don't like the publicity of some internal troubles.

What do you think, how firmly did you "hit" LCL?

I didn't hit it at all. According to the rules of the League, I couldn't be banned at all except for the paragraph that allows Riot Games to ban any player for anything. I didn't have a signed contract and NDA. The only document that I signed was an agreement to the prohibition on suing them, and this was done as part of participation in the World Championship and not the Continental League. And even such a document is easily recognized as invalid.

Are there many more problems in LCL than you mentioned then?

I can't say so - I have talked about everything on the stream. They cut budgets for the maintenance of teams and players. The solution comes from the very top - the central office of the company, which began to allocate less money. If my information is relevant, now about eight times fewer funds are allocated for LCL participants than it was during the days of Albus Nox. Players' salaries and payments to organizations were decreased. Having a composition in LCL with a boot camp is now not cost-effective at all under any circumstances.

Is it possible to identify the reasons for this situation?

Everything is clear here: esports doesn't bring Riot Games as much money as they planned, including through the wave of new players from League viewers. Therefore, Riot Games were disappointed in the concept of esports for the League of Legends and began to move away from it.

It's not even about esports self-sufficiency, but its marketing effect?

Yes, that's about it. At some point, esports became too expensive for its effect.

Did you have a chance to avoid the ban for six months?

No, I hadn't. Shortly before the final decision, we talked with the leader of the esports area and Olsior [former LoL pro-player and current well-known Dota 2 caster in CIS region - ed.]. They assured me that everything would be fine, but you need to be prepared to apologize and get a ban on the maximum of a couple of games. 

Ok, no problem, we agreed that I would be silent. But in fact, they deceived me, and I learned about the real term of the ban from my sources 10 minutes before the publication of the decision. Well, what happened next - everyone knows.

I cooperated with Riot Games as best I could. But in this matter, the will of the two parties was needed, and the company didn't want to meet.

Do you think that Aleksey Kraynov [Russia & CIS Country Manager in Riot Games - ed.], personally lobbied that decision?

I have no direct evidence. But I know for sure that none of the LCL activists wanted to ban me - which means that the management made the decision. Who do we have in management except for Kraynov? Nobody. Plus, there was information that he personally wanted that ban.

You said that after the ban, you wouldn't return to the League of Legends. And almost immediately, you indicated that you were not considering continuing your career at DotA. Why do you have no interest in this discipline?

Almost immediately after the ban, I was offered to switch to Dota 2, to do content together with Virtus.pro - I think I can talk about this already. But Dota 2 is not the kind of discipline I like to play. Plus, I'm too old for Solo Queue.

But Olsior switched to Dota 2 and feels good.

Well, he is not a player, but a commentator. Commenting on different disciplines is much easier than playing. Moreover, he has vast experience: in total, he professionally commented on four disciplines.

After all that has happened, probably you aren't into esports.

Why so? CrowCrowd is my new face in esports, a new brainchild. 

I'm the owner of the organization. Doesn't it mean that you simply own a share and get billions in profits? This is precisely what it means! (laughs) 

Not really. We do a lot to turn it into an esports-type organization. That is a project that can work effectively as part of esports. No organization in the CIS yet exists by such a model. At one time, Team Empire worked like this, but, with all the respect to it, we want to be a stable version of Team Empire.

You have a job outside of esports. What do you do?

Boring paperwork in the office. 

You already said it in social networks. May I have a little more details?

It will be correct to call my position "project manager". Also, I work in a charity fund that effectively redistributes food that remains in stores — not expired ones, but good, edible products.

Does the esports experience help you with this?

An esports experience is very cool if you have been doing what you need in your career, rather than just playing.

Like in real sports?

No, there are significant differences. The essential quality that esports develops is the ability to communicate. You always need to give information in the game. But it's not enough to voice it: it should be as specific and transparent as possible for teammates. 

Traditional sports, especially the old model, designed to identify the most among lone athletes, don't require such skill and, accordingly, don't develop it. Now I consider sports as a competition of the one who better injects steroids. The future is in esports. 

What besides communicativeness does esports develop?

The habit of working hard.

What about computers and technology?

No. I heard stories about people who, after esports and games, switched to IT. But I can't imagine that a person at some point might think: "Oh, great game, interesting, but how is it programmed?"

In general, can you recommend a pro-player career in current conditions?

I can recommend a pro-player career if a person chooses it consciously. If you are 16 years old and you think that you will play and earn money for your whole life, then you can start a career in esports only if you are from the province. You need to understand that the percentage of people who achieve real success is quite low - precisely the same as in traditional sports. Always have a backup.

Ok, I have no questions now. Thanks for the honest and clear answers! Do you want to wish the public anything?

I want to wish the audience: live happily and love each other. Jesus said: love one another! This is what we need to do.


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