Interview with Auguste “Semmler” Massonnat
Unikrn caught up with Auguste “Semmler” Massonnat, who is one of the leading CS:GO casters in the world. As a Co-founder of “RoomOnFire”, with his congenial partner Anders Blume, he has become a true ambassador for the scene. Read what he had to say as Unikrn writers Tom, Xenon and Draulon fired the questions at him.
Tom: For which Counter Strike event did you receive your first paycheck and what did you spend that money on?
Semmler: I think the first event Anders and I ended up casting in studio was Dreamhack Bucharest, 2013. When Fnatic and NiP had to replay the overtime, which led to the Fnatic outburst, not shaking hands, and that sweet sweet drama. Can’t remember how much we got paid for that one, or if we got paid at all, but the money was probably spent on noodles and whiskey. I was flat broke at the time, so my life revolved around casting and getting enough money together for food. I didn’t have to worry about rent due to living in the GD Studio house with everyone, so that helped a lot. My focus back then was casting as much as possible, following the different esports scenes for the GD Show, and trying to come up with new content like my interviews. It was a pretty straightforward time.
Tom: What was the turning point of your Counter Strike career when you thought to yourself “Yes, I can make a living doing what I love?”
Semmler: Back then, it was possible to stream all of the leagues on your own Twitch channel. CSGO wasn’t big enough for the leagues to care too much about investing in the content, so they just gave out the GOTV to the public and let people roll with it. When we started to average around 6k viewers for the evening, and figured out how to get the most out of the Twitch ads, Anders and I realized that we could make enough to get by. It wasn’t until Dreamhack Winter 2013, the first major, and the explosion in interest and viewership that we saw a real future in casting, and that there were all sorts of possibilities. Room on Fire, Caseking of the Hill, The Cartel Collection, Theorycraft are a few of the projects we’ve been able to work on thanks to the growth of the scene.
Xenon: Players and personalities in eSports are now idolized by many around the world. What was the craziest or most memorable fan interaction you’ve ever encountered?
Semmler: It’s pretty crazy how quickly things have grown over the past couple of years. In recent memory, I remember that at Minsk a cordon had to be formed by the event security to allow for the players to get out of the venue and in the shuttle. Kenny gets manhandled by fans trying to take selfies with him. Pasha has entire venues fill up just to see him. A fun one was in Katowice, when a fan took his shirt off for us to sign his back, and his girlfriend had made a heart across all his back out of hickies.
Draulon: The CS:GO scene has been growing steadily in popularity in the past year. How do you see 2016 as a year for esports? Regarding yourself – what are your goals for this new year?
Semmler: 2016 is going to be a madhouse for CSGO. Multiple million-dollar leagues that will be taking up a lot of the real estate, with some of the smaller event organizers struggling to keep up with the massive orgs like ESL and Turner. We’ll still be seeing the stand-alone events in action like PGL, Fragbite, and Dreamhack involved, but it’s going to require some savvy play from them to stay relevant and keep drawing the tier 1 teams to their events. With that said, the Majors have seen a prize pool increase up to one million dollars, which is the perfect figure, not making them so big that they swamp the interest in the leagues, and not so small that they get overshadowed, which is what would have happened had they stayed at 250k. The prize pool matches the prestige now, with 500k to the winner, so we really have those big three events in the year to look forward to amidst the huge leagues.
For myself, I plan to maintain my focus on my casting with Anders and continue to work hard to keep improving. Having different leagues and formats will help with that to keep us on our toes. We’re also looking at what to do with Room on Fire, seeing as how the brand has been dormant since we stopped casting online matches on the channel. We’re going to keep producing skins, but past that right now, we’re looking at talk shows and how to work morewith our fellow casters.
Xenon: Compared to other occupations, jobs in the esports industry are still relatively new. Do you still see yourself involved with esports 10 years from now? What do you see yourself doing a decade from now?
Semmler: I haven’t the faintest idea. In the short term I’m going to keep casting so long as I keep having fun with it. When it starts to feel like a grind I’ll start looking at what’s next. I’m putting more of my time into Room on Fire right now, seeing what can be done with the brand that would be fun and interesting. Perhaps in an ideal world we’ll be able to grow it into something that’s sustainable and able to support us and others, in which case I’d work for myself on that. Otherwise, there are so many interesting projects and companies involved with esports today that, with my experience behind the scenes in a number of different roles, I would be able to find something fun to involve myself with. I don’t see myself voluntarily leaving the wild wild west that is esports anytime soon though.
Tom: What are your thoughts on the MLG Major prize pool breakdown, specifically the $8,750 for an early exit during the group stage?
Semmler: When it comes to leagues and stand-alone tournaments, I don’t necessarily agree with Thorin that it should be “to the victor go the spoils.” I do like to see more of a spread to keep supporting the up and coming teams who may not be getting as much in salaries and benefits from their teams. When it comes to the Major, with the sticker money already being in place to help support the teams, I’m glad to see more of a top-heavy affair. This is the most prestigious event you can win in CSGO, and with there being a bit of money coming in through the stickers for the up-and-comers, you should get a big pay-day if you win. Of course, the stickers act a bit as a prize-pool boost in their own right, with teams earning more off of them the deeper they go into the tourney due to the pick-em challenges, so that’s something to keep in mind. The millions were already there for the majors thanks to the stickers, now there’s just a big official prize pool as well.
Draulon: Coming into 2016 we have a lot of promising new rosters. Is there an “underdog” team or a player you see a lot of potential in?
Semmler: The MongolZ victory at IEM Taipei was a huge deal in the Asian CS:GO community. There definitely is a scene for CS:GO in Asia, but it’s still very small compared to other regions.
Following up on this, what needs to be done in order for CS:GO to grow larger in Asia?
It feels like the Asian scene is the final frontier for the CSGO scene. However, with the growing interest in CSGO, the Asian team orgs and tourney organizers have begun to take notice. More tournaments, and bigger orgs with bigger budgets that give their teams the freedom to travel the world and attend more events are key to growing the Asian market. This is already happening now, it’s just a matter of time before we have an asian team that has gained enough experience to be able to contend with the best.
Xenon: North America has been struggling to develop a team that can consistently compete on an international stage. What do you believe is the cause for this, and what can be done to solve this problem? Tom adds: What do you think about the new TSM roster? How come out of all teams – the organization chose to pick up this specific roster?
Semmler: Regarding TSM, this is all about exposure for the org brand. If you had already agreed to field a team in the Turner E-League, so long as you get 5 bodies together wearing your jersey, they will get your brand TV exposure in one of the biggest markets in the world. Whether they win or lose in the tournament is something else. Complexity, Optic Gaming etc are thinking the same thing. Regarding an NA top team, there are too many hurdles involved in the scene for it to happen anytime soon. Grudges between players, between players and orgs, between players and managers, and insane buyout clauses are a few of the issues that will have to be resolved before we see the Super Team dream revived. Oh IBuyPower, why did you have to throw… Had Hiko’s super team become a reality, we might well have an NA team in the top5 today.
Closing question: Are there any “newcomer” Analysts and Casters you have really enjoyed working with recently? Would you like to say anything else?
Semmler: I love that Blu did so well at the Major qualifier, due to him being such a genuine and lovable guy. I enjoyed working with him in Los Angeles for the ESL Pro League finals last year and am glad he had a chance to get some great exposure and experience working with Thorin and Richard. On the EU side, I’m hoping to see more of Metuz in the future. He’s a solid caster that you can count on for crisp play by play and works tirelessly to improve. For hosting, though he’s not “new”, Alex “Machine” Richardson is someone I’d like to see at more events. I feel like he’s embraced the desk host role for CSGO and gets better after every event he attends, and given Richard being a bit hot to handle right now, he can fill that role nicely.
You can follow Semmler on Twitter at @OnFireSemmler
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