Thursday, 16 July 2020

The Story Of Fabriken & Why Organisations and Tournament Organisers Are Sleeping On Them

The VALORANT pro scene is well and truly underway, with a host of minor tournaments and Riot's own Ignition Series building at a slow and steady pace to allow the esport to build naturally, the approach taken by organisations to pick up rosters has differed from region to region. While North America got into an arms race to obtain the best rosters they could, Europe has taken a much more cautious approach, with G2 and Ninjas In Pyjamas being two of the few big organisations to sign rosters. Europe's tournament organisers have come thick and fast to host tournaments as early as they can to get their foot in the door, but with less signed rosters within the region, they have taken to inviting teams with bigger players and social media following to participate in their events. It has resulted in some of the biggest teams in Europe being excluded and one of the best teams in Europe, the all Swedish roster of Fabriken have been overlooked the most.

Fabriken have a strong core group of coaches and players that know each other well from their days playing in Overwatch’s second tier, Overwatch Contenders. Formed by Team captain Oliwer ‘Lateks’ Fahlander who was running Swedish CS:GO in-houses before the VALORANT beta, he wanted to create a strong team from Sweden to compete with. When former teammate Leo “Leodeddz” Nilsson confirmed he was switching to VALORANT after recently winning the first European Apex Legends Online Tournament and twin brothers Emil ‘eMIL’ Sandgren who had recently played for the Los Angeles Gladiators academy team, the Los Angeles Legion and Erik ‘d00mbr0s’ Sandgren who had previously coached the trio in Overwatch for a team called B0nkers decided they were going to play and coach VALORANT professionally, it gave Lateks the core group of players he required. On the idea of forming the team, Lateks said: “I started this project before the beta had even started and made plans with a few of them to commit to the team and game early to grind on release”. While Lateks got these assurances early on, the team that started under the Fabriken name is different to the one we see playing now, with another former Apex Legends Player in Nikola ‘N1kola’ Svensson who previously played for Fnatic EU and another former Overwatch teammate in Lucas ‘Polly’ Widen completed the roster in its early days.

In Fabriken’s original form, they were getting average results but not to the level that they were expecting then upon the recommendation of N1kola, the team picked up Johan ‘Meddo’ Lundborg who N1kola knew from his days playing CS:GO and Meddo’s friend and long term teammate Tobias ‘ShadoW’ FlodStrom, replacing both eMIL and Polly in an attempt to improve the roster. A week later eMIL requested to join the team as their second coach alongside d00mbr0s, which d00mbr0s stated: “would work perfectly due to my commitments outside of the game but also because eMIL has really good experience and had previously coached in other games before, so he was very valuable in terms of that and it made sense for him to move into a coaching role”. The move helped Fabriken progress to the next stage but they were just falling short when facing the top teams in the scene. It resulted in the team having further discussions regarding the roster, which ended with the agreement that N1kola would leave the team due to a clash in playstyle and they would pick up former Fortnite player Pontus ‘Zyppan’ Eek has his replacement. D00mbr0s explained the decision to choose Zyppan “we lacked that aggressive, space taking entry and I always had my eye on Zyppan as I always thought he was one of the best players in the region from the beginning” with Lateks also adding “we saw Zyppan as a young Swedish star rifler after his performances with NiP and knew we wanted him on our roster”.

Since then the team have only improved and have elevated themselves as one of the best teams within the European region, with wins in the Red Bull Gaming World Online Series Qualifiers, the second week of the VALORANT Academy Europe’s first season and the Angry Titans – Rise of Titans tournament, alongside second places in the Wave Esports Invitational Cup Season 1 and the BDS Esports Take The Throne #8 event, plus a third place in the recent Riot Ignition Series Vitality European Open. Fabriken have played consistently well during the minor tournament circuit the game currently has.

However, when it comes to the team being picked up by organisations or receiving tournament invites, their results seem to have been overlooked. While North America has jumped at the chance to sign players, Europe has been a lot slower outside of G2, NIP and the hotly rumoured move of Fish123 and Adil ‘ScreaM’ Benrlitom joining Team Liquid, it has left many wondering as to why Fabriken seem to be overlooked. In eMIL’s opinion, it is due to the perception others have on the players on their roster “I think we are underrated because we have the least followers on social media platforms in the top five of the European scene, No one is a BIG named pro previously, no one has a BIG stream. Most of these teams that get the invites have connections or have a big fan-base in their respective countries, it makes us an underdog for sure but it also makes it better because we are all about winning and getting better. We have players that have not reached their “esport peak” yet and this makes us both hard-working and really hungry” 

D00mbr0s agrees with this train of thought “The invites were handed out to the organisations and agency’s with the biggest following and not based off results as there was a lot of deserving teams, including us, that should have had an invite. Most organisations have the view that they only want 5 superstars and do not think about soft skills like teamwork and communications, I truly believe that if we were picked up as a roster for a big organisation with full-time support, that we could be the best team in the world”

While Lateks feels that the invitational invites need work “With the results we have had with this roster placing well with wins in the events we have played, outside of the Epulz Prodigy tournament where we needed a sub, due to Meddo being unavailable and the qualifying rounds of the WePlayVALORANT invitational, it makes no sense for us having to have to qualify if it was based off results, I definitely see us as a top-five team in Europe right now”.

When you take a look at their results and the fact that they did not receive a direct invite to the current ongoing WePlayVALORANT tournament and some of the teams that were invited, it is hard to disagree with Fabriken feeling some form of disrespect for this. Another part that should be considered regarding teams from Europe having said about organisations wanting big-name talent is slowly being shown as true. Recently Vitality’s CEO Nicolas Maurer had an interview with online gaming website The Loadout, with a summary that Vitality will look to go big but if VALORANT proves to a viable esport. This is also back up by a tweet from ESPN’s Tyler Erzberger a few days ago which states that organisations want to pick up a team with either a well-known star player or a player that has the potential to fit that mould.

Which makes the situation around Fabriken all the more baffling, as not only do they have the recent results but they have a current star player and one that has shown they will be in the future in Zyppan. According to VLR.GG, Zyppan ranked second only behind Cloud9’s Tyson ‘Tenz’ Ngo and fifth in Kill to Death Differential among all professional players with a minimum of 250 recorded professional rounds. He has shown that tournaments do not faze him as he was the MVP of the Wave Esports Invitational Cup and he has every aspect as an entry fragger to become one of the faces of the scene. Add that both Meddo and ShadoW have proven they can be the number two or three players for the team and Leodeddz has the previous experience and can frag from the support role, with Lateks ability to call and contribute. There are few other remaining teams from Europe that deserve to be picked up by one of the big, well-known organisations.

In all, Fabriken is here to stay and they are going to continue to be one of the top teams from Europe. They have in my opinion, one of the biggest ceilings when it comes to improvement once they get the support they need and they have the star player whose performances will make people take notice of them. They deserve to be at the top of the list when it comes to both Organisations looking to enter the scene but also tournament organiser who want to have the best players at their invitational events, need to invite Fabriken moving forward.

(You can find more professional Valorant content by following @haloofthoughts)
(Images courtesy of Fabriken)

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