Last week, Russian esports site CyberSlovo published an article featuring an interview with Na`Vi CEO Yevhen “HarisPilton” Zolotarov. This is a transcript of that interview. While originally done in Russian, ESTNN has translated this article from Russian to English and then edited the article for readability. Our translator is a native Russian speaker, and the article was edited in English with his input.
Any edits for clarity will be put in brackets, [like so].
Interview translation with Yevhen "haris Pilton" Zolotarov
[You’ve recently signed] Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy for the position of Director of Esports. How did you come [up with] this idea?
We had [the idea] a long time ago. We are quite familiar with Andrey, even played in the same team, but somehow all this time we were going parallel to each other. Nevertheless, we constantly communicated, shared opinions about CS and all the rest.
I always considered him a decent specialist. He has a good [eye] for young talent, he has a lot of experience in the professional scene as a player, a captain and a coach. His main advantage, unlike other 90% of former esports players, is that he has a high focus on the business component. He understands the development of the club as a business. I think he's very suitable for the role.
Will he only be involved in Counterstrike?
No. [B1ad3] will be responsible for all [Na`Vi] teams, including Dota 2. The Director of Esports is the person who is responsible for all structures [inside] organization. Things like transfer policy, tournament schedule, bootcamp schedule, etc. I hired Andrey as an experienced specialist to build a system of searching, training and educating players. As CEO, I run the operational work, finance, media and marketing, the rest went to B1ad3.
With his signing, you also [announced plans to] open a youth Academy?
Yes, soon. The market is ready for this, and our organization is also ready. We have [enough] human and financial resources to implement these plans. All other details will be available soon with the official announcement. I can only say that there will be many opportunities for young players. I really want to implement [working with youth] into our experience.
Do you participate in the life of the team? Can you suggest something or express dissatisfaction?
There is a manager, a coach, a captain and even an analyst who works with players remotely. During the last bootcamp we [brought on a] mental coach, with who [we will continue to work with]. I'm not competent enough in Dota to [give advice to the] guys. I primarily appreciate the game as a fan. I [know enough to be] disgruntled [or] angry about why [our team] picked this hero and not another, [or] to draw conclusions on the basis of the words of the commentators or analysts. With my level of play, [though], I don't allow myself [to advise the team].
Na`Vi were one of the first to announce an Apex Legends squad. When and from which region will you sign the team? [note: the interview was held until the announcement of the squad]
We have chosen players and we will announce the squad this week. But there are a lot of unknowns. The game itself is facing certain issues. Regarding the region: in case of Apex – [we will sign] two CIS-players. When we choose the players, we’re not concerned with what region they’ll come from. We want the best players we can get. We will sign players and then look at what the publisher does. [We want to see] how much effort they put into developing the esports side of the game. For PUBG, we are now seeing a big decline.
— Natus Vincere (@natusvincere) April 9, 2019
Are you disappointed about PUBG?
It is too early to talk about our position, but we have serious concerns. The recent start of PUBG’s serious League cannot be called successful. As a businessman, I don't see sponsors, I don't see views, at the same time I see high costs related to moving the team to Berlin.
Is [your attitude towards PUBG] affected by the team’s bad results?
Yes, but not that much. The season has just begun, the first stage is over. Results are unsuccessful, but there is time to correct them. We are more afraid of the prospect of the esport itself.
In the last year, there has been a stagnation of tier-2 teams. It becomes difficult for them to exist: endless reshuffles, zero audiences, lack of sponsors/small investments.
For sponsors to pay good money, you need to show good numbers: coverage, audience, views or results. Sponsors expect ROI (return on investment) – clicks, transitions and everything else, the more videos watched, commented, etc. - the better result is.
Natus Vincere don't have this problem. From the point of view of the business model, Natus Vincere can be called an independent asset, and it can exist without a conventional Megafon or MTS (CIS telecommunication giants, similar to Verizon or AT&T), but in the future investments will be necessary. Esports does not stand still.
On the Counterstrike: Global Offensive Squad
Zeus and Kane [had a pretty big fight] just before the IEM Katowice Major. There were some rumors that it was a staged, fake conflict. Either way, there is controversy in and around this team constantly.
This is an internal relationship between the coach and the captain. Perhaps, in general, before the last Major the guys had an idea to lull our opponents into a false sense of security. This particular video, however, didn’t get put up on purpose. The [social media manager] published the video [without checking to see if it was the final version].
It is not a secret that there are certain problems in the [CSGO] team, though. The players themselves have said this.
Problems with communication in the CS:GO team [have been going on for] the last one and a half years. They always were, somewhere better, somewhere worse. Nevertheless, Na`Vi is a top team -- one of the three best teams in the world for the last one and a half to two years.
Our goal is to do everything possible to solve these issues and -- hopefully -- without roster changes. We understand that changes in the future are inevitable, at least based on the age of our experienced players and their personal plans, but at the moment the team has not yet shown its full potential.
Will the team play in the current lineup at the upcoming StarLadder Berlin Major?
99% yes. It’s hard to give predictions in esports, though.
For veterans like Dendi, Zeus, and Edward – will they receive offers to stay in the organization at the end of their careers?
Of course, but here it is important to understand what they want and can do. The organization still does not have a staff of 300 people or 80 different positions. There are certain professions that are clear to former esports players – coaches, analysts, brand ambassadors, journalists. It mostly depends on what positions the players want to work in and what the club is ready to offer. In any case, the organization will think about it and we are thinking about what we can offer to the legends of Na`Vi.
On the Na`Vi Dota 2 Team
Are substitutions in Dota 2 team possible before The International 2019?
This is always a difficult question. As an organization, we perceive replacements as extreme measures, but I will not rule out such a possibility. I believe in the guys and understand that these are young guys and their level will only grow, however, perhaps we will go for some very specific replacements.
Does the team have an expiration date? Is it a half a year, a year, two years?
In the case of Dota, where there is a clear tournament system – one season is enough. At the end of this season, you can make global conclusions and think about possible permutations [of the team]. A big mistake and well-established habit of famous [esports personalities] and the community is to make short-term estimates. Roughly speaking, [making these snap demands for changes] after each Minor, Major and other tournaments is not really correct to do.
Let's take the last season of 17/18 and OG, who became world champions. If we evaluated [OG] up until TI8 – it is a failure. If we talk about the whole season, they won The International 2018. It seems to me that the results should be summed up at the end of the next TI.
The clubs themselves have taught [fans to expect] and contributed to the frequent shuffles, though.
It should be understood that the organization does not always [make the decision to replace a player]. If you have someone who doesn’t want to play [or play with someone else], it is quite difficult to fix unless you have reserve personnel. You just can't get the players to play together if they don't want to. If the team sees that a player is a weak link, it is difficult to convince and deal with those things.
Is Dendi still under the contract with Na`Vi? When will it end?
The contract is valid until the end of 2019. It is difficult for me to say what will happen next. To a greater extent, it all depends on the player. He is currently playing for the Malaysian club, Tigers, on a perpetual lease. We do not take money for it.
Interview Source: https://t.me/cyberslovo/4975
Images VIA: Dreamhack, Blast Pro Series, ESL, Navi.gg