BLAST Pro Series LA was set to bring CSGO to the Galen Center for the first time before the event changed gears shortly before it was set to kick off, prompting a full refund for fans. RFRSH sat down with Unikrn to explain this decision.
CSGO fans excited for BLAST Pro Series: Los Angeles were dismayed to find that their tickets had all been refunded, with a great many fans having already purchased travel for the event. When faced with such a monumental change in venue, especially capacity, questions surrounding why the change was made began to dominate the conversation surrounding the tournament. These and other concerns from fans have led to some backlash against the BLAST Pro Series as a whole.
Unikrn had the chance to chat with Nicolas Estrup for RFRSH Entertainment's reasoning on the change from Galen Center to the much smaller Beverly Avenue location.
Dustin Steiner, Unikrn: Perhaps the most burning question for fans right now for BLAST heading into the LA event: Why was the venue changed from Galen Center to the smaller Beverly Avenue location?
Nicolas Estrup, BLAST Pro Series Director of Product and Experience: It came from a desire we’ve had for a long time, to do something as immersive, intimate and inclusive as this, but we hadn’t figured out when would be a good time to try it out. When looking at how we sold out São Paulo in a matter of hours, we could see that we didn’t get the same level of ticket engagement on a broad scale. Instead, we primarily had ticket sales focused on the most expensive BLAST Zone tickets.
That to us meant that we now had the opportunity to tweak the experience for the better, with the focus being on that ticket group but opening up a bit wider to let more people in to this more inclusive and intimate show.
This seems like a significant downgrade in terms of experience for fans. Aside from the greater access to players, what advantages are there in this new venue?
Estrup: We would actually say it’s the opposite. For the fans attending, we’re sure they’ll feel like this was an unexpected but appreciated change, as they’ll be brought closer than ever to the players, talent and production. We know that might sound fluffy until we reveal more of what’s to come, but you will get engagements with all of the above in a level never before seen in Counter-Strike.
Can you give fans a run down of what they can expect from the event in advance of this weekend that will make the event unique?
Estrup: Definitely, we have a lot of things to come and there will be changes made to both the stage and fan activation areas. We will be releasing a lot of material in form of renders, drawings and videos to explain what will take place at the event, so stay tuned. There’s way more to come.
Something we can reveal here is that we will be doing an outdoor viewing area as well, so its possible to view the games in the lovely LA sun — or shade of course if that’s your preference — with a cold drink in your hand and some good local food from our Food Truck Village. Indoors is also a possibility, where you’ll be able to get a 360 experience of the teams competing. What that means, we’ll be revealing soon.
The ticket price increased almost two-fold for the two day event. What value do you think comes at having an event in a smaller venue like this?
Estrup: When doing an event that all of a sudden goes from 6000-7000 tickets down to 1000-1500, that of course comes at a cost. We are then able to create more activities/engagements than at our normal big shows, but we definitely feel that the value added corresponds with the updated ticket price.
The way we look at it is that we’ve taken a stadium concert and made it into a more intimate concert but the artist is the same. We think that most people would prefer seeing their favorite artist in as intimate a setting as possible. So when talking compensation, we have made it possible for people to repurchase their tickets again to their original price, which we feel is a great solution and hope fans agree.
Given the change in format to Best-of-Three series for semifinals and onward, is that something we can expect to carry forward with all future BLAST Pro Series events?
Estrup: We value feedback more than anything, from players, talent and fans. So trying out this added play-off leg of BO3’s was something we got super excited about being able to do for our LA event. We are right now weighing the options for the remaining events of the year, but that is not certain yet. It does however serve as a great test when looking into 2020 and what BLAST will look like in that year.
Same goes for why we wanted to create the qualifiers that we did in Madrid, to also work towards figuring out how local teams and upcoming teams can see a path into the BLAST tournaments.
To everyone who thinks that they’re hopes and ideas for BLAST go unheard, we hear you, and we are constantly evaluating ourselves and the tournament series.
Are there any concerns with fire codes given this was a former retail space?
Estrup : As the venue has a stunning wooden ceiling, we will of course refrain from our regular pyrotechnics. But we are looking at ways to create the same feeling/sensation for the audience as our normal visual effects bring. Besides that, there aren’t regulations that hold us back from delivering what we want. It has been an event space for big gaming releases and events before.
Safety is and will always be highest on the agenda for our events, so we of course never leave anything to chance.
BLAST Pro Series LA will run from July 13-14 in Los Angeles, CA, where the #1 CS:GO team in the world Team Liquid will attempt to continue their winning ways against FaZe Clan, Cloud9, NRG Esports, Renegades, and MiBR. Fans can look forward to a musical performance by Asking Alexandria, as well.