What do you feel when you hear the word ‘Astralis’? Do you expect me to say I get scared or start trembling? I don’t know, maybe… I don’t know, it’s Astralis after all. To be honest, if you really are curious, what I’ve been hearing lately is that Astralis is primarily associated with the professional approach. I don’t think anything else about them, they are the best team in the world, and the most professional team, that’s who they are. Do you want to beat them next time you play in Poland? Well, the main goal is to win the tournament. Sometimes you prepare for what seems to be the best team, but some other teams come well prepared to a tournament, I’ve been through this several times, other teams just perform insanely well and beat you. So you wanted to take down Astralis, but instead you end up getting knocked out by FaZe or Mousesports. You have to prepare for every team if you want to be able to win a Major. Esports is growing fast, a lot of money is being invested in it, prize pools are increasing. What kind of exposure does it lack, because the personalities aren’t that famous outside of the esports community, you know? Yes, I understand the question. Firstly, esports is only about 15 years old, maybe 17. It’s a relatively new sport, compared to football, for example. It’s grown quite a lot over this short span of time, however, it’s popular mostly among gamers. In real life, companies that come to the market, or basically any company, like Lay’s for example, they’d rather approach someone with 2 million subscribers than a person who has 200k. That’s how it works, but here we don’t have those numbers yet, however, the more popular you are… I mean, the world’s most well-known gamers are being approached by big companies. For example, Russian Dota players, I don’t know if you’ve seen it or not, but they are already advertising Gillette, H&S. Then there’s PashaBiceps who participated in an electronics retailer campaign. Was he cutting bread there or what? It was a professional campaign, he had a good contract, he advertised electronics retailer in Russia. All in all, it’s growing step by step, it takes time, that’s the first thing. The second is, we’re speaking about our audience, and compared to the West, things are growing slower here. If we look at US players, some of them are earning millions of dollars per month streaming. They have contracts and they are extremely famous everywhere throughout the world. Unfortunately, in our region, this process is a bit slower. Do you think that real trash-talk on social media would fuel the popularity of tournaments and esports in general? Yes, I think that would build more hype around it. Okay, so let’s trash talk Astralis right now. Well, you can do it, but I’ll have to see them and play against them them some day. I see, I think this would take things to the next level, because when the UFC was only about fighting, it wasn’t that entertaining, but with all the trash talking it’s become much more fun. Sure thing, we lack people like you, it’d add hype, you are a person from another industry. We need more personalities like this joining our community, providing exposure, streaming and stuff like that. Some players from Ukraine and Russia national football teams write to me and to my friends. I’ll even say more, Neymar plays CS and is a fan of a Brazilian team. So the more people from other sports or renowned personalities join us… Wow, there is an ape behind you, cool. I’m freaking sick of him. Hey, bro. He is always around, asking for food. Is he your pet? Yes, he just woke up. Take it and go away. Yeah, just give him a banana. So you get it, the idea behind all the hype and stuff. I also have a question. I can’t come up with a name for him, chat says Amiran. Amiran, go to sleep. Why did you drop the bomb anyway? It’s obvious that only a few people can become the best players, however, a lot of people would be interested in discovering the world of esports. Tell me, how should you explain to your parents that you need it, when you are 15-16 years old? It’s very easy to answer this question. If I was asked the same question 10 years ago, I would’ve recommended the way I did it: I asked my parents to trust me. Whereas right now, it’s much easier, you can just show $1 million prize pool in CS:GO, or even dozens of millions in other games. There is Dota with TI, PUBG with its tournament, there are a lot of games. You can show them the prize pool, the tournament itself and what’s it all about, for example ESL One Cologne. You get it, right? Yeah. How much can an average pro player earn in CS per year? It depends, if we count salary and prize money, you can earn $100.000-200.000 a year. For example, according to official data, Astralis earned $2.5-3 million total last year. Not too shabby. They stepped up big time and did extremely well. What’s Connector? On the right. Go kill him, he’s on the right. Where is he? Straight ahead and right. Kill him! Where the heck is he?! Go, go, you’re gonna kill him. Get that! Good job, man. Clutched the round! Can female esports be a thing? There are a lot of questions about that in the chat. And the second one, there have been more and more CIS players joining Western teams. What’s your take on this? Is it good that our guys are becoming sought-after around the world or has our region always been top tier? That’s great, obviously. Speaking of girls in esports, I don’t know… For some reason, big companies are reluctant to invest in female esports. It used to be relevant, but now it’s not quite developed. If it becomes a thing with beautiful girls playing video games and it gets hyped up, they might put good money into it. Masha plays The Sims, do you think it’s possible for her to participate in some tournament? I’d have to check if there are any. Well, you know, there was some tournament for ladies in China, and I think the winner got $100,000, which is not bad. Wow, go practice. As for our players playing abroad, I think that’s pretty cool. We are good, we are appreciated, loved, respected probably, first and foremost, because we’ve got grit and fighting spirit that rubs off on Western players who lack this as they have this kind of pedantic mentality and play calmly, which, at the same time, also works to their advantage. And then there comes some dude who encourages them and yells, “Go, go!” – this can be really helpful. On top of that, our guys are very talented, as in every line of work. – I’ve seen a picture of you wearing NAVI hoodie. – Yeah. Tell me, how did you come to know about our team and started supporting us? Look, about a year ago I talked to Fedya Smolov at an event and somehow esports came up and he invited me to play CS. I’ve always been into it, watching games and stuff, but I haven’t played since I was a kid. He said it was a different game, it’s fun, better graphics and so on. I agreed, got my setup running and started playing. I played with him and other guys, watched people play on Twitch, started Googling different teams, in particular, CIS and Russian ones. I didn’t pick anyone, until one day you commented on one of my pictures. I noticed that your account was verified, I checked out your page and discovered that you’re the NAVI captain. – When was that? – A while ago. I was like, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.” Then I figured since it happened this way I’d start cheering for NAVI. – So just after my comment? – Yeah, I checked your page… – By the way, remember that, guys. – That’s true. I looked up your team, how s1mple played, your merch, which I really liked. Yeah, you’re wearing our hoodie, respect. Well, I mentioned it, but the actual ordering process was a bit cumbersome for me, I don’t know, maybe for diehard fans it’s easier, so I told my girlfriend and Pasha about it, and then Pasha got me a NAVI hoodie as a New Year’s present. – I really dug it, the hoodie is really awesome. – Nice. I posted a pic of me wearing it without a hidden agenda really, I didn’t know whether you’d see it, but you did after all. So it was pure happenstance. When will your book come out? It’s 90% done text-wise. The thing is, it features comments from various famous gamers from around the world. There are gonna be 20-30 of them, and there are some English-speaking individuals who take months to answer. For example, pashaBiceps DMs me every other day saying that he’ll do everything soon. Overall, it’s all done except for these details, and we’ve already sorted stuff out with the publisher. Once it’s fully polished up and done, we’ll send it to print. We plan to release it in one and a half — two months. I’ll say briefly that I’ve been writing this book for a few years and worked a lot on it; I gave an advanced copy to some non-esports athlete friends of mine and people who are interested in this stuff just to get their feedback on the book. What’s in it, by the way? Your way to becoming a pro, some tips for beginners? My path from the very beginning to now. What we went through, what was happening, how we won 5 world championships, every step. Also, there’ll be a dedicated chapter of advice to young players. Overall, a lot of interesting stuff, I think. And the book’s been written in a light and easy-to-read format. Will it tell whether you use drugs before games? There’s been a lot of comments saying that you guys are playing under the influence. For those of you who don’t know and those who are writing these comments, for your information, at this point, about 40% of tournaments do drug testing. They do it the following way: you played a match, a group-stage for example, not even a playoff, and one of your players gets randomly selected for a drug test immediately after the match. I think that in 2019 or 2020, there’ll be around 80-90% of tournaments doing that. That’s first. And as for whether I used it or not, it’s all in the book. It’ll be 18+ in a way, it covers everything as it was, including the turbulent 90s. Rumor has it you’re going to leave NAVI. I’m not leaving esports, I’m gonna stick around. I plan to play for one more year. You know, I don’t want to quit when it’s all over and the team can’t win anything anymore. While you’re on the rise, you gotta make the most out of it. Yeah, so I want to see if I have enough fuel to keep this going. I want to run my own tournaments and make them the best in the world.