Artur Minacov – The Forge Arena – Building an esport from scratch

What came first, the esports game or its community?

As the industry grows, so does the popularity of the games that it compromises of – so it’s understandable and expected that more and more new titles are hitting the market hoping for a piece of the pie.

One of the more exciting and intriguing upcoming titles that are launching with an ‘esports ready’ mindset is The Forge Arena: an FPS (first-person shooter) from the brain of Artur Minacov, Co-founder of OPSkins, Partner at Freezing Raccoon, and Owner of Minacov, the studio behind the forthcoming title The Forge Arena. 

The Forge Arena is set to go live with its beta on June 22nd (find out more here), so in an effort to understand Artur’s new project and how prepared it is for competitive play, we spoke to the man himself.

Esports Insider: First of all, please can you a give a little background as to how you got into the games and esports industry and what led you to develop and launch OPSkins – a platform for trading in-game items?

Artur Minacov
Artur Minacov, Owner of The Forge Arena

Artur Minacov: I have been an avid competitive gamer since I was 5 years old.

I remember the day that my dad purchased me Half-Life 1, which had a bonus game called Counter-Strike. I have been in the CS community since that time, and I played day and night trying to achieve greatness. At 14 years old, I founded my first Counter-Strike communities, and successfully ran major Deathrun Mod & JailBreak Mod Servers in Counter-Strike: Source. At the age of 16, I had my own game servers hosting company. My parents were quite strict with the fact that education always needs to come first, but I had a different opinion.

At 19, I quit college. I did not leave because I had bad grades. I left because I felt like I was wasting my potential & time in getting a college degree. I’ve always been a person that can not be bossed around. So, the thought that after college, I would get a job in a marketing company or any business, managed by bosses, it did not feel right. So at 19, I was like: “Fuck it, I will learn as I go”. I started building a fashion app. An industry that I did not know anything about. We applied to some business incubators, and got accepted into a program in Toronto, Canada. Long story short, we went bankrupt, and I personally went bankrupt because I took a 15k loan under my name to try keeping my company alive.

“Creating a game was always a dream of mine”

Having a big ego, I did not want my parents to pay for my debts, so I declared bankruptcy at the age of 21.

I told myself, it was time to go back to the roots. Get back to what I know the best; gaming. The timing was perfect, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive released the Arms Deal update, which featured the weapon cosmetics that we call “skins”. At that time, allowed users to bet their skins on professional esports games, and a lot of people were starting to bank on skins. However, at that time, there was no third party site to allow you to cash out your skins, so everybody was trying to sell them through ebay, PayPal or even Reddit, resulting in them being scammed by the buyers because of charge-backs.

I knew there was a need in the market, and this is when me and my partner John came up with OPSkins.

ESI: What was the deciding factor for you to go from creating OPSkins to actually creating your own video game?

Artur: I sold my equity in OPSkins almost two years ago, because I always wanted to have my own gaming studio.

Creating a game was always a dream of mine. So it was no wonder that my first major project since my success at OPSkins was to build Freezing Raccoon Studios & Minacov (Publishing company).

ESI: What’s the unique selling point for The Forge Arena? It’s an FPS title and there are plenty of established esports titles in this genre – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty and Rainbow Six Siege, for example.

Artur: Our core game mode consists of creating an explosive device by capturing a central spot in the map.

The team that managed to capture the device now becomes the attacking team for the remainder of the round, and they must activate it at specific sites in order to gain the maximum of points for the round. The unique selling point would be how the round progresses from capturing an explosive device, to a search and destroy. You have to try the game to understand entirely how fluid that experience is, and how competitive it is.

“We are here for the long run, and our goals are high”

ESI: What’s your take on building an esport from scratch? Do you think it’ll be easier to cultivate a competitive scene for your game from launch rather than establishing the game first then creating competitions for it?

Artur: Our ambitions regarding esports are mostly related to the fact that we are creating a game mode and a scoring system that can be similar to the common grounds of any sports.

“We are also planning on having our first big prize pool event at DreamHack Canada”

We came up with a concept that you can showcase to future fans as well as people that are having a first contact with our game. We pretty much summed it up to “if you can’t explain to someone what the core of the gameplay is all about in less than 10 seconds, then your potential viewers will probably not generate interest in such a sport”. So we created a game that is relatively simple but provides intense and competitive game play. We are also planning on having our first big prize pool event at DreamHack Canada.

We are clear on one thing; once our game releases later this summer, we will actually be ‘esports ready’.

ESI: How do you plan on creating the aforementioned competitive scene for the game? Communities are a big part of whether a game is success or not – whether it’s an esport or casual title.

Artur: We are gamers first, and we understand the value behind having an active and dedicated community.

Most revenues will be put towards funding our esports circuit prize pools. We plan to inject most of the cash into helping develop players, professional esports organisations, and third party companies who can help us fuel our esports circuit forward.

ESI: Where do you envisage The Forge Arena reaching in terms of competition when it reaches it peak – can you see it surpassing the level of popularity and competition of titles such as League of Legends and Dota 2? Do you have ‘Tier One aspirations’?

Artur: We are here for the long run, and our goals are high. We are definitely looking to be considered as Tier One in the esports scene.

“The goal for The Forge Arena is to be a game that still has a community in 20 years”

ESI: The game’s beta is set to launch on June 22nd, do you have a prospective or hopeful date for when the first tournament will be held with the title?

Artur: Indeed. DreamHack Canada, which will be held at the Olympic Stadium in Montréal in September 2018, will feature a The Forge Arena Showmatch.

We invited top 10 gaming influencers to face each other for a prize pool of $50,000 (£37,944.50) to $150,000,000 (£113,845.50). Following DreamHack Canada, we are planning to run at least 3 Minors, and 1 Major event featuring hundreds of dollars in prize money.

ESI: Have you had any early days conversations with pro teams and tournament organisers?

Artur: My experience at OPSkins allowed me to be super well connected in the esports scene with major organisations, event organisers and professional players. It goes without saying that we have been in discussions with some pro players, as well as team managers and coaches about the future of our game.

ESI: How will you consider this game a success overall? Is it based on the amount of money it generates, the size of the community it builds? Or perhaps something else entirely…

Artur: I think what matters to the people in the studio, who are working day and night on the game, is that our success is measured by the size of the community.

We are very close to our early adopters, and we have an A1 Customer support. The goal for The Forge Arena is to be a game that still has a community in 20 years time, similar to Counter-Strike.

We envisioned our game one way, but we are constantly listening to our community, because at the end of the day, the goal is that our game is built with the best interest of the community in mind.