The Unmasking of Astralis
„The mask“ is a concept taken from the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and describes it as “the Persona”, which translates from latin into “mask”. The mask represents all of the different social masks that people wear among various groups and situations, where it acts to shield the ego from negative images. (Source)
The goal of this article, as mentioned in the title, is to remove the mask Astralis has been showing in public and highlight the mistreatment, lies and conflicts of interest they have been a part of. Diffusing the smoke screen with a hurricane.
Some key topics: Conflict Of Interest, Salary cuts, Lies, Deceptions, Mistreatment of players.
- Return Of By The Numbers will be called ROBTN from here on out
- The team will be referred to as gla1ve, Magisk, dupreeh, dev1ce and Xyp9x.
- Astralis will be referred to as the organization.
The Unmasking of Astralis Group and BLAST
The story begins with the establishment of BLAST Pro Series, which held their first event back in November the 25th in 2017 (Liquipedia). The current chairman of Astralis Group ApS, Nikolaj Nyholm, was a key member in both organizations, thus generating a conflict of interest. Later BLAST and Astralis would be separated as mentioned in numerous articles (Source). This meant for almost two years before this announcement, spanning seven events (Copenhagen 2017, Istanbul 2018, Copenhagen 2018, Lisbon 2018, São Paulo 2019, Miami 2019 and Madrid 2019), there has been a conflict of interest, with Astralis participating in every BLAST tournament.
This era of Astralis is better known as the “Blastralis” period, where they mainly attended BLAST events during the latter months of 2018 until the middle 2019, culminating in a disappointing showing at ECS Season 7 finals. Astralis missed out on key events such as StarSeries & i-League Season 7 ($500.000 prizepool), IEM Sydney ($250.000 prizepool) and DreamHack Masters Dallas ($250.000 prizepool).
Due to known facts discussed in numerous ROBTN episodes and Thorin’s own video the team had to bring in doctors notice’s before they could get a break from their tight event schedule (Source). The burnout was steepened because of Astralis finishing almost every event at a minimum of a top 4 placement, winning most of them. November and December 2019 was especially hard, where the team went to five events on three different continents in 43 days (Source). These events included BLAST Pro Series 2019 Copenhagen, IEM 14 Beijing, ECS Season 8 Finales (Arlington, North America), ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals (Odense, Europe) and BLAST Pro Series Global Finals 2019 (Bahrain, Asia).
The Unmasking of Kasper Hvidt
Astralis release a statement commenting on the burnout of their players (Source).
This statement cannot be found on their website anymore and was debunked with a report from Richard Lewis (Source) outlining the working environment and “strictly” watching the players hours, so they would meet the demanded 37-48 hours a week. In this time the COVID-19 pandemic had its impact on the Counter-Strike calendar, with every event getting played online. Lewis also outlines how Hvidt used fear to get the players to reach the contractually hours, despite Hvidt managing the greatest team to ever play Counter-Strike. TheScore ran a story on their YouTube channel where they interviewed Hvidt (TheScore video).
The interview was questionable, as Hvidt himself could tell the narrative and the interviewer was not asking hard questions, giving Hvidt a platform to gaslight and tell his own version of the situation. This was then later debunked in a 40+ minute segment on ROBTN #120 (ROBTN #120), breaking down all the lies and deceptions of Hvidt, centered around Lewis’ story.
They debunked statements and issues surrounding burnout, lies and mistreatment of the players. This goes into, the now deleted, statement from Hvidt and Astralis Group named “We need a change!”, stating that they “should have done it years ago” when it comes to the 6-7-10 man roster. This is again followed up by DeKay at dbltap (Source) further proving the lies about burnout and mistreatment of the players.
Later the conflict of interest between BLAST and Astralis, was revealed by Lewis in the same segment of ROBTN #120, where he obtained a statement from Hvidt, in April, mentioning that there are tournament organizers who will let them use substitutes, which then later was revealed to be BLAST with the handout of the rulebook to the other teams in May. Making BLAST give a competitive advantage to Astralis, one partnered team versus the other partnered teams in the league. This happened supposedly two years after BLAST and Astralis had split from the parent group RFRSH Entertainment, now named Astralis Group.
The 6-7-10 Man Rotation
The speculations started after the ‘Blastralis’ period, where they later confirmed the signing of es3tag (Source)
to go for a competitive 6-man roster. The move itself was controversial. At that time cadiaN made the, well known Twitter video explaining that the roster was about to move to FPX. This roster move ended up screwing FPX, Flashpoint 1 and the Heroic roster, who would not participate in the tournament.
As alluded by Thorin on ROBTN (ROBTN #113), es3tag was a bandaid for the ongoing downfall in performance for the main CS:GO roster, that started due to the ring rust they gave themselves during the ‘Blastralis’ period.
Another layer of the mask is stripped away after Reuters published an article about Astralis Group staff reduce salaries by up to 30 percent (Source). By Astralis’ own words, it was to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Though after massive burnout, as mentioned earlier, and Astralis Group just going public, raising ~$22,2 million USD (Source), it begs to ask the question why the salary cut was needed, as no sponsors pulled out of Astralis as well. Thorin mentioned two possible scenarios of the implication of the pay cuts (Thorin's Video)
Scenario #1: Exploiting the players by reducing their salary.
Scenario #2: Using the extra money saved from the pay cuts to finance and pay the expenses of the new players joining the team.
The scenario which played out is now proven to be the second scenario, proved by the signing of Snappi, es3tag, JUGi and Bubzkji, which how much playing time those players got and how they were used in and around the team, when Xyp9x and gla1ve returned to the starting roster.
This however, was not exclusive to the CS:GO department, but for all of the teams playing under Astralis Group. This was the case for the Origen team, which per Lewis’ article, had to take a paycut to sign Elias ‘Upset’ Lipp, then five months later asked for the famous 30% salary pay cut.
The tale continues with another chapter of conflict of interest, this time it includes the journalistic integrity of HLTV, professional ethics and Jesper Søgaard, who has an ownership interest in Astralis. Better Collective bought ownership of HLTV in February of 2020 (Better Collective acquires leading esports platform) . The CEO Jesper Søgaard also has an ownership interest in Better Collective, which leads to a serious conflict of interest as outlined in the first report by Thorin.
Here he outlined the journalistic integrity issues with HLTV, how this could inflate Astralis’ stock price, how the rankings of HLTV cannot be unbiased towards Astralis and later criticized the industry in allowing this to happen without repercussions. On the same day, based on Thorin’s report, Joseph Carr incentivized the message from Thorin in accordance with the conflict of interest and how after the announcement, HLTV consistently put out content with the Astralis players without mentioning the ownership and without a disclaimer that the players were contractually obliged to not talk bad about Astralis. With the financial aspects of this conflict of interest, inherently you cannot trust with a 100 percent certainty what HLTV writes about Astralis since February 2020.
What was the goal of Astralis?
The one and only goal that can be tied to these actions are those of the shareholders. Always spinning the stories around the team as a positive and downplaying the questionable acts made by Astralis.