By Taras Bortnik
Special to VPEsports
VPEsports caught up with Duncan “Thorin” Shields for an extensive interview during the StarLadder Major in Berlin.
In the third and final section of the three part interview, the CS:GO analyst and esports historian talked about the confusion regarding his Major appearance, ESL’s move towards a monopoly, the CS:GO ecosystem, a TI for CS:GO, and more.
VPEsports: Before the Major it wasn’t known whether you’d be at the event or not…now that you’re here, was that kind of on purpose as a surprise or?
Thorin: The funny thing is most people on Reddit when it was announced that StarLadder was running it were like “oh cool, Thorin will be back at the Major, he works with StarLadder, he does all the events so logically they’re going to hire him.” What people don’t know is that part wasn’t fake, they didn’t hire me.
What happened was I basically contacted them a few weeks before the Major and just said I haven’t heard anything, am I going to be used or not. My whole context was like you can just tell me no if not. But the way they said no, and maybe this is a culture clash – but they were like “we won’t be using you, but don’t worry there will be a StarLadder in the future.” You have to realize, to me that’s even more insulting. That’s like if you said I’m not going to invite you to my birthday, but you can come around for dinner like a week later. So it’s like f*ck you then, I won’t be coming at all.
Then I basically sent the tweet saying I might never be working a Major again. I won’t say anymore than that, but the information got out there that I wouldn’t be, that moses wouldn’t be, Anders wouldn’t be, etc.
VPEsports: Did the tweet help you?
Thorin: I think absolutely it did, yeah. Here’s the key thing though – it’s not like I’m the puppet master. If the fans didn’t want it, if they were all like “yeah, we agree he sucks, lets not have him be at the Major” then I wouldn’t be at the Major.
So I think it’s a mixture of fan reaction and then also StarLadder themselves realized when I made the point of well then I won’t do StarLadders that I was the most loyal tier 1 talent in the whole scene. You go and look at StarLadder season 4, 5, 6, 7, look at how many big names there are. Are all the big commentators there? No. Are all the big analysts there? No, some started to skip StarLadders. I’m at every single one because I always liked the format, I think the swiss system is a really cool angle to take in a novel tournament, again I always enjoyed the CIS region, thought we had some really competitive tournaments there.
So to me, no tournamen has to hire me, but in that context if I’ve been really loyal to you and you’ve used me in all these events it seems a bit weird if I don’t get hired so I thought on that one I should speak out.
VPEsports: Many have said it’s about money, your asking price, etc. However, there have also been comments about it being about not-so-good relations between you and your colleagues?
Thorin: If that’s true then they do a good job of hiding it, maybe they’re all good actors. No, as far as I know I get along really well with the other analysts. I actually think what you said first is the most likely answer.
What people don’t know, this is one area I do feel sorry for StarLadder in, is when you run Majors now, I don’t care who you are everyone will lose money. Running a Major loses you money.
So everyone would think well why would you do it? Because the Major is advertising to make your brand big so when you do your other tournaments you have a chance to make money and have revenue, etc.
It’s basically this concept: you know if you go to a supermarket there’s a very famous set of brands like Coca-Cola, potato chips – they actually have to sell them cheaper than they cost because the idea is you go to the shop to buy the Coke and then you buy all the other things as well.
That’s what a Major is like, so as a result I don’t blame them. If you do a Major, you’re going to try and save money everywhere you can. If you can cut one person and still do a good event, listen, for an event like this that could be $10,000. That’s not a joke amount of money.
If you saw here, for some phases the Russian language team wasn’t even here. They were back in Kiev. So it wasn’t just me. We’re in a world now where it costs so much to put these events on that you have to look for somewhere to cut.
A great example to me is the ELEAGUE Majors. Everyone remembers they were amazing, they were great. I was at the first ELEAGUE Major, it was at a small theater that I think had 5,000 people, it had a stage like you’d literally watch a play on – it wasn’t a big stadium. They cut the costs there. Everyone has to put the costs somewhere.
VPEsports: Moving on – Riot controls everything League of Legends and Valve is much more involved with Dota 2, however, it seems like the freedom of the CS:GO scene has given companies like ESL an ability to build their own dominance with things like Intel Grand Slam, ESL Pro Tour…Is this a move by them to monopolize CS:GO?
Thorin: Here’s the good thing about Counter-Strike, because Valve doesn’t get involved and as far as I can tell just say don’t mess with the Majors and with everything else do what you want.
The good thing about that is, in business to actually have a monopoly in an area you usually can’t do it just as a company because another company can always figure out another angle to sell their product, right?
Normally to have a monopoly you need the help of the government to regulate it in a way that makes it so you have the monopoly. Normally through bribery, etc. So if the game developer isn’t going to be involved at all – the reason ESL had to come out with this news now, as you may have seen tweets where people have been hinting at it, there are other things going on by other companies trying to do the same thing.
At the moment everyone’s trying to get their news out first or try and publicly try to put pressure on players to play in their league, or teams to come to their league. Because no one knows at the moment what any of these leagues will look like and what their impact will be. We could be getting ready to go to a big civil war in the game.
The upside of that is it won’t be like LCS. We won’t just go to one league and have nothing else which would ruin Counter-Strike. We all love the tournaments, seeing the different Majors, it’s the best part about it. So luckily I don’t think we’ll have to go down that route which would be pretty dark. I actually think if all of the people involved in this war do their side correctly you’ll kind of have a bit of a stalemate for awhile still. We won’t just have one company dominating the next couple of years, there will be a mixture.
VPEsports: Do you think the victims of this war will be the Majors? Majors will have Spring and Autumn – but – the first event of the year will be IEM Katowice and the last event of the season will be ESL One Cologne and somewhere in the middle will be another Major…
Thorin: It will in a way. I actually think as you implied before, a lot of the teams started to say that the Intel Grand Slam is better than a Major because you have to win four tournaments, you get the million dollars, so I actually feel like we’re already heading slightly towards that anyway.
The move there obviously would be the balls in your court Valve. If you want the Majors to be awesome, make it $10 million, everyone will go crazy then.
VPEsports: I spoke with gla1ve at ESL One Cologne and he said the most relieving moment wasn’t the Majors, it was at EPL when they won the Grand Slam. So..could competition between ESL and Valve produce something useful or ruin the CS:GO ecosystem as we know it?
Thorin: The theory a lot of the people in the industry have as to why Valve just doesn’t do anything with CS:GO apart from doing Majors and then we don’t hear from them and they just do stupid memes from the Twitter account, is that basically it’s the only game in the space that doesn’t have a direct competitor.
There’s no FPS game that’s like Counter-Strike that really goes head-to-head. Like Rainbow Six is a different game and it has it’s own developers support. League of Legends has Dota, right? So they have to do something with Dota, they have to keep pursuing the game, crowdfunding, they have to have an angle as to why Dota is still the coolest game.
Since CS:GO doesn’t have it, this is a way we can make them have it. If suddenly ESL’s circuit is way better and teams like MIBR are saying Majors aren’t even the most important tournaments and that starts to become a real thing among pros then it’s not really a discussion about having to win a Major for an era.
At that point in time Valve has to do something. Obviously the Major should the world championship, it should be the number one tournament. That’s the one you want to be remembered for.
Props to the rest of the scene for building it up, but it’s on Valve to do something now I think.
VPEsports: With the recent conclusion of The International, once again there’s talk about whether CS:GO should have an event like that. Some would argue, including myself, that something like that makes teams not have passion for the game, but for that event.
Thorin: Oh I hate that. I think it sucks. The idea that they won two tournaments, but because they’re the biggest some people saying they’re the greatest team ever. This will sound controversial and obviously I’m not a Dota expert so take this with a grain of salt. I would take the Virtus.pro team in Dota over OG. Look at how many f*cking tournaments they win, they’re like top 5 every single time.
They’ve never won TI, sure, but that’s one tournament. The reason I’ve never wanted The International in Counter-Strike is, my favorite model for sports is the way that they do it in Tennis. They have four grand slams and they’re all equal. Doesn’t matter which you win, what matters is how many grand slams you win.
What’s cool about that is unlike TI, it’s not that you have to be good in one specific month of the year. You have to be good all the time and as a result you’ll see who the really great teams are. So in a world where you have like three TI’s a year, maybe Virtus.pro would have two or three themselves. Instead OG was amazing at these two tournaments and they look like the greatest team ever.
I like the fact that in CS:GO, we used to have three. I think it spread it out a lot more. I remember doing a list one time where it was like top 10 players to never win a Major a couple years ago. I was amazed actually when I made the list it all made sense. Like s1mple or NiKo were on the list but they were put on bad teams – there wasn’t a lot of people who had been robbed of a Major. Most of them had their chance to win but that’s because you had multiple chances in a year, it wasn’t just one chance.
Say we had a TI, we’d have teams who were the absolute best team in the world in April, but if TI was in August then they’d have never won the Major, they’d have never been a world champion. I think that would suck in its own way.