The Summit provides one of the most fun atmospheres of any esports tournament.
Starting with Dota 2 but expanding into Super Smash Bros (and now Counter-Strike, with a tournament later this month), Summit events are held at the Beyond The Summit house and feature a more laid back environment. There’s no stage or live audience. The teams play games from the BTS house, and teams that aren’t playing are invited to cast other matches from the now famous BTS couch.
The event gained large fanfare in Dota 2, and there have since been four Smash Summits that have been received well. The April 19-23 Counter-Strike Summit will feature a $100,000 prize pool and is BTS’ first venture into Counter-Strike. The eight team field contains SK Gaming, OpTic Gaming, Cloud9, EnVyUs, Gambit, Liquid, GODSENT and Ninjas in Pyjamas.
Slingshot’s Vince Nairn caught up with Beyond The Summit’s David “LD” Gorman about his company, expanding to Counter-Strike and what fans can expect from the CS Summit later this month.
Vince Nairn: So I think it would be good to start with some background just about yourself and Beyond The Summit to give Counter-Strike fans some perspective. How did you get started doing this?
David “LD” Gorman: So I think the origins of Beyond the Summit are somewhat analogous to Room On Fire, and obviously CS fans are very familiar with them. We started as kind of a collective of casters who wanted to create another platform.
JoinDOTA was kind of the established broadcast platform for Dota 2 events, so we worked on building our own casting brand. I guess the difference between how we evolved and how Room On Fire evolved is we evolved into not just a broadcast studio and group of talent, but also a broadcast organizer. We wanted to run our own events, produce tournaments, produce standalone content as well. We’re kind of a hybrid to sort of more traditional esports organizers.
We’re not on the scale of DreamHack, ESL, PGL — companies like that. We share some of their qualities but also qualities of Room on Fire. Our origins are as casters, but nowadays we run tournaments, and specifically the Summit style events for a bunch of different games, whereas with the Room On Fire Guys have stayed the course in CS.
VN: I’m glad you mentioned that because that leads to my next question. When did you guys decide to start moving beyond just Dota events, and what specifically led you to want to do a Counter-Strike one?
DG: I think the Smash Summit was a big plunge for us. When we first decided to do the event, we didn’t know how the community would react. Thinking long term, there was only so much we could do in Dota. I think a lot of what Counter-Strike is encountering now (with over-saturation), Dota encountered it before that. A lot of it is shaped by what Valve decided to do with the Majors and The International, and that’s very different than CSGO and its majors.
We created the Summit brand and people liked it. We weren’t interested in stadium events or live events. We had the house we were already renting and wanted to take advantage of the space and that style of event. (It was suggested) we should do a summit for Melee. I was kind of a fan of it casually. Played a lot in college. And we really did see a big opening. With the Summit, I don’t think everything works for that kind of event. It needs to be a game that will succeed when you lose the crowd, the show, the glitz and glamor.
First of all, you have to have a game that’s big enough, an audience to tune in and run with it. Because you’re not selling tickets at the door. You need to be able to really take advantage of the format, do some content. The interviews we do in Dota have become really popular. We did a spoof of “Stranger Things” to open The Summit once, for instance. That content doesn’t work or doesn’t work as well if the community doesn’t have some strong personalities. In Smash, there was HungryBox, Mango. PPMD played in the first one.
Those guys have fan bases who are super committed. That makes that content 10 times more appealing. We can do a good piece, edited strong. But if the personalities behind it aren’t good, it’s not gonna draw that much interest. If someone is beloved, it’ll make it better.
That’s true, too, for what the meat and potatoes really is, which is the players getting on the couch and casting. Smash Summit, especially, they’ll take over the couch. Its almost too much. Too many players want to cast at once. In Dota, N0tail comes to mind or Fly from OG, who even at the early Summits, those guys were awesome for the event. But a lot of the Dota 2 players are a bit more reserved and shy. The Asian teams are also very strong in Dota. The downside of that is people not always speaking the language or there being sort of a barrier. We’ve experimented with having a translator on there, but that didn’t work that well.
Not every game is ripe for the Summit because there’s not a big enough fan base or personalities. It also has to make sense from a raw numbers point of view. That’s some of the things we thought about. Why we got into CSGO was — so I was a huge Counter-Strike fan for a very long time. I played competitively from Age 13. Back then, they weren’t teams, they were clans — at least, that’s what my friends and I called them. We would literally draw strats on pencil and paper for like hours during study hall and when we were supposed to be working in class.
I have personally a long history of CS. I played the game competitively. Got to just below the semi pro tier. I was also a good student, and I was busy with trying to go to college. I was still playing until 2008-09, I want to say. I stepped back from competitive at that point and got into Dota.
Seeing the CSGO renaissance has been great. At first I hated the game. I was not a fan of Source. Not a fan of CSGO. But it eventually grew on me. The fan base is great. Great personalities. You’ve got people like n0thing, Get_Right, Friberg. People like pasha would be awesome to have at a Summit. Casters as well, we’re pretty excited to announce the casters, who I think will spice it up a little bit. Even having Zeus from Gambit, for example, people who have the fan base and have the confidence and personality. Our hope is they show up, get on the couch and want to participate. People show up and are hesitant at first. But a lot of them warm up to it after doing it for the first time.
They really wanna do it because the fans love them for it. I think we’re also hoping some of the fans will find people they didn’t know they should be excited about. We’ve had people come who aren’t fan favorites but they hop on the couch and fans seem to take to them, and it serves as a spark for their popularity. TheMoon at Smash Summit is an example of someone who really built a following after getting on the couch at The Summit.
That was kind of the origin. I think (CSGO) is probably one of the top two or three games for this type of event. There are great personalities. The game is well established. It’s also a game where you really don’t get to see the players interact that much compared to Dota. CSGO players don’t really go on panels at Majors all that often. It’s pretty rare. You don’t really see captains interact with each other. We’re hoping the event gives some more insight into the players’ personalities, too.
VN: When you went about inviting teams for this event, knowing it’s your first one in CSGO, did you intentionally look for teams you knew had that players with that kind of personality? N0thing from C9 was the first guy to stand out to me. Also, as you said, the guys from NiP. How much did the mix of “finding the best teams” and “finding the best personalities” come into play?
DG: For us, this is our first CS event. Obviously there is a decent amount of crossover between the audiences. When we announced it, there were plenty of people who said they enjoy it in Dota, would love to see Player X or Player Y in the CS event, etc. So that’s good.
We knew we had a lot to prove to the CS community — and still do — that it will work, that players will be engaged. And that also applied to the teams as well. Some of the teams are not familiar with the concept or don’t care about it. It can even be a negative thing if they don’t want to have to cast or do video content. I’d be lying if I said I knew how it would go.
Deciding teams, it’s kind of a balancing act. We want this to be a top event for the fans. In our dream scenario we have almost all Tier 1 teams there, but we also want teams that will do well and hop on the couch and have a good time. We want teams that check both boxes. Or maybe they check only one but they do it really well, in which case we balance from the other side.
I think what we have at this event, a lot of these team are really unproven. EnVyUs is one that comes to mind. Is this team a legitimate Tier 1.5, Tier 1 team in CS? Or are they a lower tier team that doesn’t have what it takes? They haven’t been to an event with the new roster. There’s a lot of these teams where you’re not really sure where they fit into the hierarchy.
I think there are some cool storylines there. I’m really happy from participation and content types of things. I don’t know if this is the perfect list of teams, but it’s definitely a very strong group as far as personalities go, especially for our first CSGO event. Our dream scenario is players give it a shot with casting and all the content, we make some cool stuff for the community, fans fall in love with it, and fans who were unsure are that much more excited for anything in the future.
You don’t have to have the top eight teams in the world to have this opportunity. We obviously want a couple to make it interesting. But some of the cool stories we had at Dota 2 events — we had Ad Finem at our events. They ended up getting top 4 at the Boston Major (later in the year). They didn’t have much success as a team before that. They were one of the big hits of the event. They were really funny with a lot of extra video content. That really laid the groundwork for when they started to do well at Boston. People knew a little bit more about them because of The Summit.
For this event, there’s SK and Gambit, who are prolly going in as the top two to take the event. NiP, they’re constantly a question mark. For them, this is a proving ground. I feel like every team has something to prove in one way or another. After that, it’s really who knows? I think that makes it fun from a tournament point of view. From a content and broadcast point of view, Fallen would be great.
VN: You mentioned Get_Right, but I also think f0rest from NiP could be really good…
DG: Yeah. Everyone might have their player they wanna see. And a good analog to (f0rest) being on the couch is we’ve had pretty good luck with Swedes. Zai from EG in Dota comes to mind. They have this really dry humor and can be especially funny. But maybe they’re reserved or only bring it out in the right moments. There’s a lot of room to get it out there (at The Summit). This is kind of a more intimate environment.
VN: What does the future hold for you guys? How do you plan to continue this expansion?
DG: We’re always keeping our eyes open. Nothing is confirmed at this point, but we’ve looked at at least 5-6 other titles. Some games we think aren’t ready for a Summit yet, but a year from now or six months from now maybe that changes.
Our goal is to be able to run this event for every game that is a fit. Right now that might be 3-4 titles. A year from now, it could be a bunch more. But there’s nothing set in stone at the moment.