Titan had all the potential in the world, but they were never able to capitalize on it. Cheating-related troubles punctured their boat back in 2014, and now the org’s founder is claiming they ultimately capsized it. And yet, fans seem more mournful than angry.
If you’re a casual observer of eSports, you might remember Titan from some thrilling pro SMITE matches or, on the more sordid end of the spectrum, the big Counter-Strike cheating scandal at the end of 2014. One Titan player, Hovik “KQLY” Tovmassian, was accused of using cheat tools at LANs, but only found guilty of using them outside of a competitive context. Regardless, Titan decided they could no longer trust Tovmassian and cut him from the team.
To hear Titan founder and CEO Damien Grust tell it, the fallout from that particular controversy bomb was brutal. He explained in a statement about Titan’s closure:
“As soon as Titan had grown to a respectable size and fanbase, we started reaching out to potential sponsors. Even though the road was bumpy and we could have made smarter decisions in multiple aspects up to this point, we persevered. In December 2014, we had finally managed to negotiate a much greater than expected sponsorship budget for 2015. Life was good and we were close to entering the LCS through a team acquisition. The initial strategy had paid off, we had gotten it right!”
“But then we were awoken by some pretty bad news, one of our CS:GO players was banned for cheating. This sent shivers down my spine, because it couldn’t have come at a worse moment. All the bad press that this brought and the major hit the image of an otherwise respectable brand took, was too much. Sponsors and partners with whom we were about to sign, understandably backed out of deals, not wanting to be associated with a company that had just been tarnished. Needless to say, our budget for 2015 had gone up in smoke from one day to another.”
“From then on it was a real uphill battle and I forced myself to reinvest into Titan in order to keep the company afloat for at least one more year, believing that we could make it after all. We fought the entire year, trying to secure sponsorships that would enable us to keep a struggling, but great CS:GO team as well as our SMITE team. We also sought advice from agencies and lawyers to maybe even sell shares in the company, or merge with another one. None of these scenarios ever materialised with any of the potential partners we spoke to.”
Or so he says. In the Counter-Strike community, rumors of poor money spending and management have surrounded Titan for quite some time. They are, however, unconfirmed.
Regardless, Titan’s shutting down, leaving behind a legacy of near-greatness hamstrung by unfortunate decisions and bad luck. When Titan’s Counter-Strike team was first signed, they were considered one of the best in the world, rising from the ashes of an organization called VeryGames. As Titan, they managed to win the first Dreamhack Invitational, but after that they continuously found themselves falling short in the knockout rounds of CSGO majors where they were considered favorites. Disappointment and roster changes followed shortly after—more or less until the very end. They had a few bright spots, but they never reclaimed their old glory. This isn’t an explosive finish. It’s the culmination of a long whimper.
Here’s a really good recap of their career from eSports journalist, analyst, and historian Duncan “Thorin” Shields:
Fans seem more mournful than anything else, despite the fact that there are valid reasons to be angry here—at least, depending on whose story about Titan and its management you buy. They’ve been expressing it through countless comments and videos.
Also, as of writing, Titan-themed CSGO cosmetic items are dominating the Steam community market:
The mournful reaction is an interesting one, given how much rage the decisions that led to this point—a now ex-Titan player cheating, Titan’s CEO’s rumored business decisions—generated at the time. Even now, you could make an argument for being pissed either at KQLY or at Titan’s CEO for pinning this all on him, depending on your perspective. There is, however, a tendency in team-based sports—and especially Counter-Strike—to sometimes overlook the sins of individuals and focus on team brands/identities. Titan is a shell of what it once was—it ended up becoming a revolving door of people and personalities—but people still carry a torch for the good old days. In a lot of ways, they’re mourning the past and the present, a tendency that can be both forgiving and blinding.
So that’s that for Titan—at least, under the name Titan. It looks like other organizations are already looking to snap up their core Counter-Strike team. This might not be the happiest ending, but perhaps the best—or at least, something less, er, bad—is still yet to come.
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