“Yup, still hanging in there”: this was the response of Nicolas Estrup, RFRSH's director of product & experience to the torrent of criticism and downvotes he and his colleagues unleashed on themselves in a hastily arranged Reddit AMA which did little to enhance the company’s brand and reinforced the feeling that they only engage with the community when they’re in crisis management mode, only to fall on their faces when they actually try to do so.
In April, multiple community members spoke out against RFRSH’s conduct and the BLAST Pro circuit’s impact on the wider tournament scene. Sadokist led the line with a direct reference to soft exclusivity, then the 73rd episode of By the Numbers carried the torch with a wide-ranging discussion about the subject, including how BLAST events are strategically positioned around other notable events in the calendar. Reactions were so strong that Jordi Roig, RFRSH’s VP of Commercial Development and Partnerships made himself available to HLTV for an interview soon thereafter, one which quickly became infamous in the CS:GO world.
It basically felt like as if Darth Vader himself was hopping off the Death Star to have a chat with the locals of Alderaan about the health and safety protocols implemented in their gunnery control room, with Mr. Roig making multiple bad-faith arguments and inadvertently revealing how much further they intend to go with their project. (A leaked pitch deck soon thereafter seemed to indicate that the circuit is slated to expand to 10-12 events in 2020). That was RFRSH’s only “official” interaction with the community and they quickly reverted to radio silence after the backlash. With the issues surrounding their Los Angeles event (the relocation, the price hike, the whole “furniture store” and “intimate experience” thing), they apparently decided to cobble together an AMA which was announced with a few hours’ notice on Twitter. This time, Roig was merely named as an executive producer in the Reddit thread, one of the three people from RFRSH who were willing to answer questions. I wonder what it felt like for him to have been relegated to a third of the three-man act of this new community outreach this time around.
Reddit AMAs are a double-edged sword when it comes to marketing, as RFRSH no doubt found out yesterday. Looking at the subreddit’s response, this one was an unqualified disaster. Ending at 107 upvotes (a 64% upvote rate), it wasn’t in the same league of other such ventures on /r/globaloffensive. Coldzera’s AMA last January has 5839 upvotes (93%) at the time of writing; pronax’s from four months ago had 1542 (98%); Thorin’s six months ago hit 3022 with 84% despite his controversial personality; and Charlie Joyce, the inventor of surf maps hit 6539 (97%) with his AMA. BLAST’s hastily arranged attempt at community outreach couldn’t even reach the top of the subreddit. Nothing of note was revealed by their answers, either. It's clearly a part of a wider outreach plan: Gamerbase also just published an interview with Nicolas Estrup, full of softball questions, of course.
So what was the point of this little exercise? I suppose we now learned that the people behind RFRSH are willing to talk to us and take a few punches in the process… as long as they can decide what questions to answer and completely ignoring any follow-up ones, that is. The more things change, the more they stay the same.