SK Gaming is one of the best known eSports organisations in the world. For a long period they dominated various games in the scene like FIFA and Counter Strike and always kept some of the best players in the world under their name. Without SK Gaming eSports wouldn’t be the same global scene as it is now.
Back in 1997 the famous “Schroet Kommando” was built as a Quake clan in Oberhausen, Germany by friends. Ralf “Griff” Reichert, Daniel “Godlike” Beames, Tim “Burke” Reichert, Benjamin “Kane” Reichert, Kristof “Speed” Salwiczek, Carsten “Storch” Kramer und Sven “Ramses” Tümmers were their first lineup and founded SK. The name “Schroet” came from a shout out of one of them every time they found a double-barring shotgun in the game and it means “shrapnel”.
As they also played Counter Strike and competed in multiple tournaments they became the most successful team in Germany and even recruited a female team. In 2001 the clan merged with the Swedish CS team Geekboys and with it Andreas “bds” Thorstensson came into the organisation.
“Andreas had big influence on the Counter Strike section and building the team,” Alexander Mueller, managing director of SK Gaming told me. “He also had a great flair for the community and with the homepage of SK he gave them a home.”
We’ve done it because it had to be done. We would do it the same again and again.
With the upcoming idea of an organisation based on eSports, Thorstensson and Mueller, who came on board in 2000 and were responsible for marketing and sponsors, made the riskiest move in the history of eSports. They offered players of the Swedish rival clan Ninjas in Pyjamas contracts to play under the name of SK. They were the first to do so in eSports.
“We’ve done it because it had to be done. We were young and unexperienced. But we would do it the same again and again. Of course we are now more experienced, but at that time it was revolutionary,” Mueller reviews the time.
When I asked him if they would have known at that point, SK Gaming is becoming a global brand he just simply replied, “Yes”.
“We had the vision and we made it become real.”
With the influence of Mueller and Thorstensson SK set milestones at PR and marketing for eSports teams in the early 2000s.
“We were the first team with a fixed budget for the contracts. With this we could pay travel costs for our players and a monthly reward. In combination with the players´ contracts it become a valuable standard for today. We had success in every section we expanded to and the reporting in media just started with it. We tried to cover this as professional as possible and yet also set standards there. The high point was the first professional videos we’ve made with our partners. The submarine spot was the first tv spot ever made about an eSports team at this level.”
As mentioned SK Gaming expanded more and more and united the best players of the world under its name like the famous FIFA twins Daniel “hero” and Dennis “styla” Schellhase (both multiple world championship winners). Other players were Fredrik „MaDFroG“ Johansson, Jung „Sweet“ Hee-chun, Daniel „Miou“ Holthuis (all Warcraft III), Jang „MC“ Min-chul (Starcraft II). All of them belonged to the world elite. Abdisamad „SpawN“ Mohamed (CS) is said to be one of the most well known eSports player of all time.
— SK Gaming (@SKGaming) September 7, 2015
Unfortunately back in 2012 they had to part ways with the Counter Strike team with the superstars Patrick “f0rest” Lindberg, Robert „RobbaN“ Dahlstroem and Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund. They were offered very attractive contracts by Ninjas In Pyjamas and joined the rivals on the new Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Alesund and Lindberg won multiple tournaments in CS:GO since then. SK had to make the hard but rational decision to not sign them back at that point. Unfortunately it was a mistake so there is now a lack between the current SK team and the top tier 1 teams.
“In my opinion the investment in this new game would have been too early at that point. But time changes things and eSports is changing very fast.”
“The journey back to the top level in CS:GO is hard,” Mueller said. “We are confident that we got the right answer and we will attack. But it won’t be in the next 6 or 12 months, it is a far more longer way.”
Grown big with Counter Strike and Quake there are now more games to cover for an eSports organisation. You have to step up with the time and SK is doing so.
We’ve collected more than 50 World Champion title. What am I supposed to say more?
“Cause of our legacy,” Mueller told me proudly when I asked him why SK Gaming is a living legend. “We’ve collected more than 50 World Champion titles. What I’m supposed to say more? No matter which game we play or how good we are, the other teams always want to beat us. Even when we’re the underdog. It is the brand. But we know this and our players know this as well.”
At the end I wanted to know how a dream team of SK would look like for Alex Mueller. “This is very difficult to say. If I had to pick five players it would be Shane „rapha“ Hendrixson (Quake III) of course and Alice “ali” Lew (female CS player). I would also pick Park „Lyn“ Joon (Warcraft III), one of the FIFA twins and a mix of Spawn/GeT_RiGhT/f0rest/Robban/HeatoN (all CS). But I may forgot someone so please do not resent me this.”
What started in a small town in Germany with some friends is now the best known legend in eSports history which set multiple standards in the business. Even it is a hard business the legend persists.
And now I’m asking you what is your dream team of SK or what is your favorite memory and/or moment of SK Gaming? Feel free to write it in the comments.