Nouns Esports’ Sasquatch: “If we can make the esports industry more transparent then it's mission accomplished”

    Reading time  ~16  mins

    In the second part of BLIX’s interview with Nouns Esports’ Gage “Sasquatch” DuBose, he covers the org’s Pod and how it affects its operation, comparing how the org manages its Dota 2 and Counter-Strike teams, his view on the future of the professional Dota scene, their plans for 2024 and much more. if you missed part one of the interview, check it out here.

    Comparing nouns’ Dota and CS teams

    Pedro Romero, BLIX: I want to know what the comparison is like between Dota 2 and CS:GO. Of course, the CSGO team specifically started this year, and it's going about the same sort of progress that the Dota team has been seeing. That team appeared in IEM Dallas, so credit goes to you for making it to that point. What's been the difference between covering Dota 2 and CSGO and which of those two has been the most difficult to manage, in your opinion?

    Gage "Sasquatch" DuBose: I would say Dota has been the most difficult to manage, but with CSGO and Dota, at the end of the day, you have a squad of five dudes who want to get competitive results. and you're just trying to make that happen. I'd say the same bare bones are there where you need a stable salary, boot camp and wellness support. That's the recipe for a good esports player, period. There are some interesting differences.

    For example, in Dota, there are team bundles that you can purchase, but in CS, it's much more lucrative. By qualifying for a Major, the resulting sticker revenue can actually support a team straight up. You could fund an esports team in Counter-Strike strictly off of in-game revenue, whereas in Dota, it's pennies on the dollar, and it's not really a thing. One element of our team, again, that is maybe underrated is we take 0% of the prize money, I'm quite confident every single other team here is taking a cut of the prize money. Maybe it's capped at some amount, but every team here is taking money, whereas we've taken no money back from the players.

    Maybe in the future, that changes in an effort to be more sustainable, but for the most part, we just really want to empower the team. And in Counter-Strike, for example, going into 2024--and this will all be in our proposal, which you'll be able to take a look at and check out when it comes along--maybe we'll do some kind of sticker revenue arrangement because, at the end of the day, we do want to try to create a system where we can sustainably support people long term. And that doesn't mean we're gonna sacrifice that or take shortcuts by working with partners we don't want to work with, or things that we feel aren't aligned with the brand. But certainly long term, we want to get to a spot where both rosters we feel can reach a sweet spot of performance and have that sustainability element to it as well.

    The Nouns Esports Pod

    BLIX: I want to know more about the Nouns Esports Pod because that's also another thing that you introduced and was passed in the middle of this year with the inclusion of notable esports people, specifically in Dota. One notable person is ppd [Peter Dager] who joined the project and is a member of the Pod. What's his input like when it comes to him contributing to nouns and also of other people?

    Sasquatch: For example, on Brax's [Braxton Paulson] case, he was literally just the guy who networked and connected us with the team that we needed to be with, but I will still reach out to him and say, "Hey, what do you think of this? What do you think of this player that had this comment? What do you think of it? What is your input from a player lens?" And with Peter, I tap on that too. I ask him what his perspective is from being a former Dota player, so that often comes into the conversation, but they're quite hands-off with the day-to-day operations.

    Some people are like, "Oh, Peter is the coach or something," but no, obviously, Astini [Filipe Astini] is the coach. He votes on things we operationally fund, but he's fairly detached from the day-to-day operations. He's certainly a great advisor and very much in the weeds and the trenches on different tasks. For example, he's hosted tournaments on behalf of nouns, or we worked with him on some elements of NADCL. And certainly, as we're shaping up for 2024, he's having input there too by saying, "I think we should do this," or "Maybe we should enter this game," or "Maybe we should drop this game and just put more money into one game."

    There's a whole concept of tall versus wide. You can either be in 10 different games, or you could be in two games and try to field stronger rosters. And that itself is very much a really interesting conversation and debate because you can do it either way, but it's just really on what's best aligned with how you're operating. He's really in the middle of all the high-level conversations. I'm staying with him here at TI. We have a big nouns Airbnb. It just involves lots of brainstorming and collaborative effort, and that's probably my favorite thing about how we've structured things in Nouns Esports.

    Because of these weekly calls, or because of just how we're transparent, a lot of people just come in and get creative input. And in Peter's case, he saw our Dota team and he got on board, but I also actually knew him because we were both on Complexity at the same time, and we lived in the same team house even. He was a HoN [Heroes of Newerth] player at the time with MoonMeander [David Tan] on this team, so I lived with Moon and Peter for a short time.

    He actually cold DM'd through Brax and was like, "Hey, what is this nouns thing?" and then he saw it was a Web3 thing, and he was like, "Oh, I'm interested because he is exploring that space as well." And then it was just a funny serendipitous moment where it's like, "Hey, I know," and I'm like, "Oh hey, Peter. it's been a while." He's on the Dota side more, but we also have had pod members who are former Riot Games employees. One of them really started the EU LCS at Riot, like long-term Riot employees and some other people who are heavily involved in the gaming space, so it is really a great collaborative group of good minds in esports.

    BLIX: So the brain trust really goes very deep when it comes to doing that?

    Sasquatch: Absolutely, and I would say a lot of the pod members are not involved in the day-to-day, but they're involved in the financial decisions and just the overall direction and brainstorming.

    Looking to 2024 and beyond

    BLIX: You mentioned 2024. Would it be fair for me to ask if you guys are going to venture into other games or something like that?

    Sasquatch: Right now, we're still very aligned with supporting CS and Dota. Certainly, if we're going to be trying to compete in the Esports World Cup, there are certain games that you want to participate in to get more team points be a team that actually gets part of the pot this year. So there's a question of should we try to field a roster that has all these different games, or should we really just stick with our core pillars and try to build those up taller?

    I think Dota for this next year, we know that we're going to offer our players more. Frankly speaking, I think we were probably one of the least expensive teams that fielded a roster here just in terms of how much we're paying the players. That's not to say we were paying them poorly, but they went from being unsponsored and having mixed results to getting into this big stage and having an amazing result. So I think next year, and again, I actually don't even know if our roster is going to stick together or not, that's really up for them to decide, but as for who we do end up supporting, if it's some of the original core, I imagine we'll support them at a greater amount.

    I don't know the exact roster details, but if we're reaching out to players, we can offer them more than we did last year and just try to build an overall strong roster that feels like it's gonna get invited to the top tournaments. Again, we missed the Riyadh Masters this year. That was a huge loss because it's just one of the biggest tournaments of the year. So really, the goal is to have a roster that has enough star power and enough skill that it's getting invited and participating in all the international tournaments. So yeah, we don't want to miss anything next year.

    The nouns fever has expanded greatly since it started back in 2022, with notable talent wearing the “noggles.” (Image Credits: The nouns fever has expanded greatly since it started back in 2022, with notable talent wearing the “noggles.” (Image Credits:

    BLIX: That said, for 2024 and Dota specifically, we're amid this air of uncertainty with the elimination of the DPC. Because of the DPC, nouns was able to get to this point, so what's your opinion on what the Dota scene is going to look like with the end of the DPC and the possibility of more DreamLeagues in the lead-up to Riyadh Masters?

    Sasquatch: Kuala Lumpur got announced already, for example. It's an ESL event happening in December, so we're already hearing about these upcoming events, which is great. Obviously, Riyadh is going to have a big prize pool this coming year, and I'm sure it's gonna be probably the biggest event of the year. Just from hearing things as a team, we know there's a big calendar ahead of us, so I'm actually quite optimistic because I think the DPC was quite run quite poorly.

    There were only a couple of matches that people cared about, at least speaking of NA. EU was a little bit better because it was so competitive, but nobody really cared about Division 2 except for the hardcore fans. And at the end of the day, I think Valve made a good point where they said only some percent of the audience cares really hard about esports, and they should probably spend their time catering to the entire game. That's not to say that they should abandon the Compendium and how they crowdfunded TI completely, but they did do that this year, and that actually lost quite a bit of revenue.

    If you think about it, that was serious revenue they decided to forgo, and instead, they're going to try to create a more holistic plan. Again, I mentioned how Counter-Strike is so much more lucrative with skins, and I think they're trying to work on this [for Dota], and it's just trying to figure out ways to support the team infrastructure or even tournaments through cosmetics, again. That's what I hope because it's such a great spot in Counter-Strike, and if you look at Dota, they just recently added that profile section where you can customize it, and that's clearly a way to give skins and cosmetics more value. And I think the inherent reason why Counter-Strike is so much more successful on that front is because in every game, you have an AK or you have an M4, and the skins are always there every game. You're always playing with those skins and customizing them.

    Meanwhile, in Dota, it's like top-down. You can tell what the skin is, but you don't really get it in all its glory, and I think that inherently hurts a lot of the success of trying to bring a lot of value to skin. I think that's why skins are so much more lucrative in CS, and I hope Valve does something that supports esports teams throughout the year but isn’t related to the DPC. That's because, again, they have that in CS, and I don't know why they would just completely abandon that in Dota, but I guess it remains to be seen exactly what their plans are.

    BLIX: As I mentioned earlier in the conversation, there are people giving their opinions as to the way nouns is being run in a good light. Of course, there are also some opinions on the bad light. That said, I'd like to hear your input on what the esports industry should do that you feel nouns has been doing, but not everyone else has been doing.

    Sasquatch: For me, it's the transparency. That's really our competitive edge at the moment. I do think that fans notice that stuff and appreciate it. As I said, when we first joined Dota, people were like, "Oh, another crypto thing," but then a couple of months later, I was looking at the Reddit comments, and somebody was like, "Oh, Moo [David Hull] actually gets paid this, and you can go on their proposal and read it." And I'm like, "Well, that's awesome" because that just gives more context to the fans and they can understand who are these organizations that are behind their favorite players.

    There have been times where that has happened, like a Cloud9 deal got published and they were transparent, and they just put it out there, but I would love to just make this landscape way more transparent, and I think that this is a benefit for players and organizations and there's not really a reason you need to hide so much--except when you're trying to screw over people unfortunately, which happens all the time. People get on these contracts and then they either have to get bought out or they are just in a tough spot. That's really what I wanted to bring with nouns because I knew nouns is very transparent, and I knew if they funded esports, we could do it in this very transparent and open way. And so that's the continued goal. If we can make the esports industry more transparent, then it's mission accomplished.

    “I would love to just make this landscape way more transparent, and I think that this is a benefit for players and organizations and there's not really a reason you need to hide so much”

    BLIX: Why do you think the esports industry made it such that there's not much transparency? What went wrong for esports to get that way in order for you to then get into action in this form?

    Sasquatch: It's just the competitive element of teams. They want to try to get the best deals possible. If there's any kind of nefarious stipulations in the contract, of course, they don't want to share that or things that kind of benefit them a lot. So I think that's a huge element. I just think it's hard to prescribe the history in the historical context as to why, but if you just look at traditional businesses, most things are done internally, and they talk about it amongst themselves. They don't really share with the public, and they don't share their decision making and that maybe covers them because, if they mess up something, then it's the org's fault and it's not an individual's fault or something. But in my case, it's like, "Let's just do things right," and then you don't have to hide anything and let's see how much we can propel that.

    BLIX: In 2022, we saw nouns make the TI 11 LCQ. This year, we saw them reach the Top 8 in TI 12. What is the goal for this team for next year?

    Sasquatch: You can't you can't ask for much more than Top 8 especially from just how short of a run we've had thus far. Most teams have been around for decades, and we were around for one and a half years and have already achieved Top 8. That's amazing, but I think we're extremely competitive-oriented. And between myself and Peter and some of our other people, we come from competitive backgrounds so we want to win. We want to win by making the best org, and we want to win on the competitive field. It's funny, though.

    You could say what if our Dota team had another half a million dollars towards the project, but that doesn't necessarily mean we're gonna get Top 8, you know what I mean? You just have to be so happy with where you are, and I just dream of being as consistent as possible. My personal favorite team is Team Liquid because, one, I think they do things extremely ethically. Two, they come from competitive roots- the founder Victor “Nazgul” Goossens is from Starcraft- and three, they are extremely consistent and get competitive results.

    They got Top 8 again and are currently fighting for a higher position and last year they were Top 3. Overall, they just consistently do quite well, and that comes from an organizational decision level. When you see consistency across different rosters, that is an organizational decision. You can only get lucky so many times. To some elements, it's a certainly a result of luck, but obviously, with all the preparation, it's like the quote, "hard work meets preparation." You just put in the hard work and the prep and see how far you can go.

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    CS Virtual Trade Ltd, reg. no. HE 389299 Registered address and the principal place of business: 705, Spyrou Araouzou & Koumantarias, Fayza House, 3036, Limassol, Cyprus
    Copyright © 2024 BLIX.GG. All rights reserved.