CYBERSLOVO interviewed xaoc

04 Aug 2020 133
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Interview xaoc

ua Aleksey "xaoc" Kucherov, Chief Operating Officer of ua Natus Vincere, gave an interview to CYBERSLOVO about the first half of the year, touching upon the results, transfers, and business.

Full interview here

First of all, Aleksey "xaoc" Kucherov is known to the community as a former professional player in Counter-Strike 1.6, analyst for StarLadder and general manager of ru HellRaisers, followed by a position in dk Heroic. And what have you been doing outside of esports?
uaAleksey «xaoc» Kucherov

I studied at the university in the Faculty of Finance and Economics. In my master's degree, I studied financial markets and trading - that's what I did besides playing Counter-Strike, which generated additional income, and then it became the main one.

At that time, there were no such prize pools and large salaries as now. We lived much more modestly. There was a moment when we played a tournament in Moscow and lived in a room, and slept on the floor to put bluntly. We were thinking about how we would get home if we played badly and didn't win the money that we had to spend on our return tickets.

Recalling our last tournament in 1.6, we played as part of Virtus.pro with Coocher, Hooch, Lex. We took third place in Dreamhack, it was a time when some teams were moving to CS:GO. Back then, SK Gaming 1.6 - GeT_RiGhT and f0rest announced that they were moving to a new shooter and were forming Ninjas in Pyjamas. After that, it was clear that CS 1.6 is done.

When the competitive 1.6 was over and everyone switched to CS:GO, it was very uncertain how to compete and what would happen next. The situation was such that I had no motivation to continue playing the new game. Then I decided to quit and started doing more financial markets: trading on the stock exchange, investing in financial assets, and other activities.

Now your position in ua NAVI is the chief operating officer, which is basically second-in-command in the club. How's your usual day look like?
uaAleksey «xaoc» Kucherov

For some time we worked remotely because of the quarantine, but, for a lot of reasons, we decided to switch to normal working conditions in the office. Sometimes it's boring, sometimes it slows down efficiency. It is much more interesting when you communicate in person, discuss projects, and schedule operations.

If we take the usual daily routine, then when I wake up I immediately check my phone for any work-related matters, both in the email and in the usual text messages and chats. I immediately try to answer urgent questions, and then I have breakfast and go to the office.

Generally, I have a lot of work to do on various matters and the complexity is that you do not have to be a great specialist in each of the areas, but try to tie them together as a whole, because some things work well separately, but sometimes at the crossroads of departments there are problems in communication and identifying responsibilities.

My task is to be that very link that helps absolutely all departments, players and roster managers of our whole company, so that it all works holistically, develops faster and more actively than it would be without me.

Let's take one more recent example, shall we? Take for example merch or the ua NAVI show match?
uaAleksey «xaoc» Kucherov

Let's take a show-match NAVI 2010 vs NAVI 2020: I had no influence over the whole process, rather, I was the link between Arseniy "ceh9" Trynozhenko, who communicates with the old line-up. It's easy for us, because we used to play together and work as analysts.

We got in touch, chatted and when we discussed all the main points and when it was a matter of negotiating some more detailed plan, I handed the task over to our marketing department, which deals with the organization of this show match. In turn, the guys are discussing and sorting out the other details, which will be taken into consideration during the event itself.

My job was to connect the people for further cooperation. And looking back at the moment when Senya contacts me, a person he's known for more than a day, he treats me with trust and knows that everything will be as I tell him. We don't have any unnecessary dialogues or mistrust. This works not just in esports, but absolutely everywhere.

When everything is discussed and the details are well known, the marketing can approach me on how to organize the coverage of the same show-match. Because I'm often in the analyst team of tournaments in CS, I can clarify something or suggest how to do things better, after all, I've worked for a long time at StarLadder, and covered several tournaments with Maincast.

If something concerns our players, coaches, and analysts, I communicate with them in regard to engaging them somewhere. It works out sometime, sometime it doesn't because everyone has a different schedule. It's easier said than done, but someone needs to do it.

So, I have only three main areas of responsibility: 1) work as the link in the whole company; 2) the Operations department - these are legal and financial issues; 3) I am directly involved in communication with all our esports rosters.

How are your duties distributed within the team right now? Does it feel like CEO Yevgeniy Zolotaryov is slowly being pulled away from the club?
uaAleksey «xaoc» Kucherov

This is far from the case, our general director is actively involved in the company's operations and deals with some issues personally, and I have practically nothing to do with them. When I first came in, I said more than once that I didn't understand how Zhenya Zolotaryov was dealing with some issues on his own, because even now the two of us have a huge amount of work to do.

As a matter of fact, when I arrive at work, right now I see 27 tasks to be done today. And every second one has subdivisions, the result is 40-45 tasks and that's all the things that need to be solved today. Of all the priority issues you have to choose the highest priority tasks and deal with them right now. Thus, some issues are sometimes delayed anyway.

I don't know how Zhenya handled this on his own, but I think that he was pleased with my arrival, and somewhere I managed to offload him and gave him the opportunity to think more strategically.

It will be a full-fledged gaming house and an office at the same time, but ua NAVI also has a small division in Berlin?
uaAleksey «xaoc» Kucherov

There will be a gaming zone and sleeping apartments, an office for our staff, we also consider some open spaces for fans. Perhaps in the form of a fan shop with merchandise, but it is still under discussion.

The plan for the Berlin office is what Zhenya talked about in his interview with Vilat, but due to the current situation with the virus, everything is being postponed, quarantine makes its adjustments in many aspects, even in esports.

Berlin is good because many tournaments are held in Germany and many partners have already established themselves there, we can even call it the European Mecca of Esports. You definitely need to have your own representative there. Next year, we'll go back to this topic again.

This year ua NAVI could get into the LCL League of Legends but chose not to. As far as we know, the club has big plans for the European League LEC, are they still in effect?
uaAleksey «xaoc» Kucherov

It is obvious to anyone that the European League is a big leader as a discipline and it is incredibly popular in Europe and other regions. It is attractive for big companies and partners who are sometimes very hard to reach, especially if you are in CIS.

That's why a European LoL would be a very great final addition to the whole line-up and all the results. If we look at the discipline in other regions, it's a separate area for discussion. However, information is very important here, which, sometimes, may be missing. It's in the plans, but there's no time limit.

Mobile disciplines, to be more precise PUBG Mobile, is another trend of the last year. What are ua Natus Vincere's plans?
uaAleksey «xaoc» Kucherov

It's definitely a cool area in which we would like to expand. Here too, it is very important to work with partners who are interested in it. To put it bluntly, if there is a potential companion, negotiations are carried out with him, to whom the mobile team fits in naturally.

Currently, if we sign the line-up, we start working with them not for a partner or for a franchise league, but for ourselves, so that they simply show the results and generate content.

Today there are many different disciplines and opportunities that we want to prioritize for ourselves. Consequently, the partner and discipline will be the same, where there are additional opportunities for the club, besides the usual performances in tournaments and content creation.

As a result, do organizations have another model for developing teams in new disciplines?
uaAleksey «xaoc» Kucherov

The story with in-game items became popular for this reason. It really helps the club to develop teams, to exist somehow, to keep away some of the expenses. The model is clear, because players get bonuses and are focused on showing even better results, and the club gets some income, which can cover at least part of their salaries.

And everyone will be happy, and if there is no such model in the discipline where the club is not yet represented, it is difficult to make a decision about entering this discipline. Plus, there may be problems with players who need to be burdened with some things, and not all players like to participate in media events and sponsorship obligations.

I have to ask about Valorant. The hippest game in 2020 for the esports.
uaAleksey «xaoc» Kucherov

We actively follow the discipline, but so far there are some tournaments where there are just mixes, line-ups, interested players. But there is no clear monetization for organizations. We are ready to invest in a community in our region - in the CIS, to assist with our resources, a possible strong team with support to attract a fan base to the new discipline.

But players from other games have moved to Valorant, often from CS:GO. They think by different standards, both in terms of CS:GO and everything else. Now it will not work like that: the other similar shooters have quite different views and clear monetization, which allows you to offset the salaries of the players.

We ourselves understand that we need to develop the fan base and in the discipline in the CIS as a whole, to support our community on a new game, but if they come to us with requests that are not appropriate, it will be too unprofitable.

NAVI also has "youth" team in CS:GO and what about other disciplines, any plans on that?
uaAleksey «xaoc» Kucherov

We thought about creating a second roster in Dota, but in CS it is at least more or less transparent. Players cost a lot of money if they get approached by NAVI, such money should not even surface in the CIS. So it is more profitable for us to raise our players, find talents, support them - these are two goals. The third is to develop a small methodology for nurturing talents. The system is already in place, but it must be scaled and tested more than once. This all applies to the CS because there are a lot of small events in the CS, in which you can participate. There is practically no such thing in the Dota.

The main saga of ua NAVI and ru Gpk, a lot of people thought he would join you. Were there any negotiations and why it did not work out?
uaAleksey «xaoc» Kucherov

We have talked to many players and in fact, when we talk about a replacement, the task is to see as many options as possible, rather than getting fixated on one.

As they say, the result is seen in comparison, everything is very situational and many people depend not only on your wishes but also on the wishes of the squad and the player himself. There is also a club from which you want to buy a player. We have studied many options, including the Gpk, but we have not come to any conclusion.

How would you rate the results of the ua Natus Vincere teams in CS:GO and Dota 2 for the first half of 2020?
uaAleksey «xaoc» Kucherov

The club always wants more. Just like the players always want to win. It's a great desire, but it doesn't always work out the way we want it to. Based on the objectiveness: in CS the guys reached the top-1 world ranking and stayed there for quite a long time. Of course, we would like more victories, but the top 1 is also a great result. For a team that hasn't participated in official online matches before, it's pretty good.

After Cema joining our Dota 2 team, it was crucial to gain confidence in the first upcoming championships. After winning the qualification for Los Angeles, it could have been a good push for the team. But COVID-19 happened, the momentum was broken and we are looking for a way out of it. From the outside, we can see simple and clear solutions, but not everything is so clear for different reasons. In any case, we have finalized the line-up at this point and are now working on team development.

Read the full version of the interview here

The participants

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