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  • "I believe in my people": Team Vitality co-owner Neo on expectations for 2023, current League of Legends roster, and more (Exclusive)
Team Vitality co-owner, Neo, speaks up about his expectations for 2023 and the difficulties back in 2022 (Image via Sportskeeda)

"I believe in my people": Team Vitality co-owner Neo on expectations for 2023, current League of Legends roster, and more (Exclusive)

Fabien Devide, popularly known as Neo, is the co-owner and founder of Team Vitality. The organization competes at the highest levels in games like League of Legends and CS:GO. Undoubtedly, Team Vitality is arguably one of the most successful and influential esports organizations in current times.


Unfortunately, Vitality's League of Legends roster did not have an excellent year back in 2022, prompting Neo and the rest of his team to put in even more effort and bounce back in 2023. In an exclusive with Sportskeeda, Neo opened up about the issues the League of Legends roster faced in 2022 and how the team worked to set up something more stable for 2023.

Neo speaks about Team Vitality, the 2022 roster, and the work that went in for 2023

Hello Neo, hope you are doing well, and congratulations on the great start to 2023. For people who are unaware, can you please briefly introduce yourself?

Neo: I’m Fabien “ Neo” Devide. I founded Team Vitality in 2013. I am a pure OG of esports, meaning I spent more than half of my life in the industry. I started when I was 12, grinding and building up esports in France while also building Team Vitality to be the leading French organization in esports worldwide.


After ten years of following my passion, I now have a job where I oversee all the strategy for mostly the esports side of Team Vitality. However, I am like a Swiss Knife, overseeing marketing and community engagement.

Currently, I actively focus on ensuring that everyone working on a project is passionate about where it's heading while also ensuring that there are the proper guidelines in place to ensure that we engage with the esports community constructively.

I want to discuss Team Vitality's League of Legends roster. 2022 was not a great year, despite the expectations. What mental preparation did you and the team take before starting work on the roster for 2023?

Neo: Firstly, it was essential to understand what we were lacking and have a proper mental reset. Because even if we have one of the best teams on paper, we couldn't deliver results. So the first thing was to ensure that everyone was aligned, still motivated, and possessed the appetite to continue to compete. When players are feeling low and down, some players can also begin to feel demotivated and are not in the right mindset to bounce back.


This means they would be less willing to pull themselves back again to be a strong contender. We were as transparent as possible to the players we identified as unhappy and tried to open doors for them that offered a better solution. We also conducted a post-mortem interview to ask questions for a proper reset to ensure that 2023 will be far from our 2022 performance.

I have no regrets about the effort and decisions we made in 2022. Our team, from the outside, appears pricey, which it was. But we decided to invest in considerable talent to stay relevant in the industry and show that we can take on leading players in the future. We are now refocusing on building rookie teams, taking on players with huge prospects to return to the top.

I think the reason behind our current success is that we have a good combination of veterans and rookies who are aligned on their objectives and happy to work on any weaknesses actively. So while we didn't perform as we hoped, I have no regrets, as we have now built a team that is proving to be a massive success for us.

The first No context Vitality of the year is available on our YouTube channel


Perkz has been known to be a leader since his days in G2 Esports. What role did he play in rebuilding this new roster, and in what way did you support him to achieve that?

Neo: Perkz is a true competitor. We love his combination of winning spirit, culture, and the mindset that he possesses. When our team from last year collapsed, it was devastating as it was. It was the first time we had seen him genuinely emotional. This wasn't good because he had put so much faith and confidence in himself and felt that he had somehow betrayed or let down the others.

We highly disagree with this because he gave 100% of himself and worked super hard, so we did not doubt that he was hungry for 2023, and he was even more proactive in bringing transparency to advise us on where we went wrong and suggested solutions.

He began working even more closely with our new English coach, Alexander "Carter" Cartwright, who, in his own right, is an excellent addition to the team. He is a true game-changer, giving us more structure, is easy to work with, and is doing a fantastic job.

Together, they are a perfect fit and have been working super hard to create a team that makes sense and is well-balanced. Perkz is a true captain who never leaves his ship and has endeavored to build something special with us from day one, with the same objectives from last year.

Bo has hit the ground running this year but has been working with the team for a while. What was the scouting procedure behind Bo?


Neo: When we had an issue last year with our Jungler, we relied more heavily on data because it gave us more insight into a player. We then combine that with our human perceptions because you cannot replace human insight at the end of the day - our thoughts, feelings, and how we perceive others to behave.

But we detected Bo through data and noted that he was one of the best Junglers in the world. Unfortunately, for him, he was under a soft ban in China, which allowed Team Vitality to recruit him.

Under usual circumstances, players like Bo will not leave the LoL scene in Asia to become world champions. Based on our screenings, data, and interview, recruiting Bo was a fantastic opportunity, and it allowed us to meet our priority which was to unload pressure off Perkz's shoulders. Bo becomes the man who can carry and lead the team through his technique and basic skills.

We built the team around Bo, which was a challenge, but we managed well. It was also a challenge to help him acclimatize to Europe. However, over six months at our base in Berlin, Bo would slowly get involved in our practices. He worked hard with English teachers and became accustomed to European culture. We were intent on taking things slow with Bo as we realized we had a special species on our hands and wanted to ensure we had all the tools he could need.


What preparation did you take as a co-owner to integrate Bo into the LEC infrastructure?

Neo: We supplied an English teacher for Bo, and we also imported Bobby Shen, who has experience working with players from China in the western world. We invested in resources for him, such as hiring people who can act as a guide, big brother, translator, and someone who could provide us with tips on the Chinese market to give him a voice.

We also ensured that everyone was entirely responsible for his introduction to the team and fully aligned with their objectives regarding Bo. Everyone has been super nice and helpful. We are mindful of using simple words and sentences where less is more to make it easy for him to understand.

Right now, we are focusing on improving communications further. We have invested heavily in his comfort to aid him in becoming acclimated efficiently to Europe so that he can feel more comfortable in the LEC as quickly as possible.

Photon is also an excellent choice, primarily since few top laners in the EU can compete at the highest level. Did you and the team decide to bring in an import right after your season ended last year, or was it a decision that you all came up with much later after assessing your options?

Neo: I think that we had several scenarios, and during the off-season, you have Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C of where you are happy with the first two, and even C is still a competitive choice for budget and timing-wise, but not your first or second choice.


Players can also be uninterested in what a team offers, so you must devise multiple scenarios to move forward when a potential player says no. Initially, we were a little worried about having two imports who both bring about communication issues, so our initial priority was securing top European talent. But we cannot do an excellent job at scouting if none of our European players are viable with the team for several reasons.

Photon was the same priority as our European picks, and when one of our prospects turned down our offer, we jumped at the opportunity to secure Photon as soon as possible. We thought that he would be such a great addition to the team, and when we interviewed him, he had already started taking English lessons for six months - in preparation for himself to be able to join a team somewhere else across the globe.

So once we had initially begun discussions with Photon, he quickly became our first option, and together we closed a deal within a few hours - which we were excited for.

Again, this was a fantastic job done by our coach Carter, who had Photon on his radar for quite some time and was confident that Photon would be the right fit for Team Vitality, bringing stability to the dynamic we had built around Perkz and Bo. So far, Photon is becoming accustomed to Europe quite quickly, and like Bo, Photon is dedicated and hard-working.

2022 was not a great year for Team Vitality's League of Legends roster. Would you mind shedding some light on the team's challenges last year?


Neo: I think there were a few things, we had players who individually were very skilled, but we didn't think about the team's chemistry. We thought they were on the same page and wanted to win and dominate. We thought having veterans would give us a shot at gaining a title, but this is sports, and you cannot buy titles.

While we did build a super team, unfortunately for us, it just lacked chemistry, and the process became complicated because there were too many prominent voices. We needed to go back and make it simple, which was our most significant learning. While we had such big and unique players last year, it appeared that Team Vitality would have pure domination on paper, but we failed to make it work and give the team a proper direction.

We wanted to reset as fast as possible, as we knew that most players needed to bounce back because their careers are at risk when they have a failure from one season. We had to admit that the 2022 team was dysfunctional and that we needed to move on to build something that has a true identity.

What are your realistic expectations this year? Do you feel the experience that Team Vitality's imports bring from the other regions will be the key ingredients for Europe to compete against the likes of T1, JDG, and others and challenge for the Worlds 2023 title?

Neo: I think imports work in certain positions where you lack top talent. We are delighted here. Some are the best in the world. But in certain positions gaining players based on their overall level is not the best decision for the team. Imports help to push everyone in the right direction because if the league is more competitive, for example, solo queue, everyone is learning and growing from this, which is good and different.


Once again, the World Championship is our primary objective, but we are far from that. We are not focused on international competition for now. In the meantime, we want to be a reliable, solid, and consistent team in Europe first, and then sure, maybe we can have a shot. In the past, we saw ourselves lifting loads of trophies when we lifted nothing, so this time, we need to focus on what's next.

What are your thoughts on the brand-new LEC format and the current level of competition?

Neo: I think it's a great format. I think it's way better for spectators and even for the players. Of course, at some point, it's tough but fair at the same time. It's tough because you are playing many games in a super short window of time, but it's fair when a team has qualified for the playoffs.

All in all, it's well-balanced for the audience. I think every game matters, and there are no redundancies when you are watching Team Vitality against G2 because they are all the best. Even for players and for the international stage, it will be better because we will have practice in best-of-one, best-of-three, and practice best-of-five, so we have the perfect panel and tools to be more competitive against other teams.

Everyone, especially the audience, is winning because they have a super aggressive Michael Bay Movie production style. And as we're still learning, we have more games to practice, and I think having more official games is needed internationally.


Who do you think are your primary competitors in the LEC when challenging for the title?

Neo: I think the league is pretty stacked right now. Of course, saying that, I think that our main competition is G2. If G2 doesn't win, it will come as a shock for everyone. But for the remaining teams, you have Mad Lions, who have veterans and tons of talent, which is this year's super team, and SK, as they have a rookie team but are also very unpredictable.

Everyone is good, but if I had to pick, I'd say KOI because they have the reigning LEC champions, Mad Lions and G2, saying that the whole league is super competitive this year.

It is the LEC roster and the LFL team in top form. Success on two frontiers at once is a big ask. Do you feel as an owner you motivating your players and pushing them to perform consistently has helped the teams to start the year on a high?

Neo: What we applied in LEC, we applied in the LFL, where we went for a mix of veterans and rookies. We made many decisions based on the data we analyzed and the same processes we used in the LEC. So I am happy that the team is performing well and that our process is working because it means that so far, we have found the right formula.

But we still need to work hard every day to ensure our growth. How we executed scouting during the off-season was super rewarding at the beginning of the year. I am happy that we are not afraid to try new things and see the benefits at some point.


If our team is surrounded by love and support, everyone is aligned on our objective, and everything is headed in the right direction to have a great year. I'm glad we used this process and hope our performance will continue as it is.

Your CS:GO team has also been lighting the stage on fire, especially with the impressive results against Fnatic and NiP. What are your thoughts on that?

Neo: I think we had good preparation. Our players had more time to digest transfers of other players, such as Spinx. He didn't have a lot of experience. Throughout his career, he had only been a part of two teams before us.

This off-season allowed everyone to recollect themselves and become comfortable with what we were asking of them. We repeated our objectives from last year and ensured that they understood our international aims because this year, we have moved from speaking French to speaking English due to the addition of an international player.

We had a year-long transition that acted as a buffer allowing us to learn and grow in the long run, unlike the challenging year in 2022 because we had to transition and endure a long year rather than a winning year. Because of 2022, we grew, and I think everyone understood that we needed to do more and push further as a collective.

That is why our attitude has shifted this year, where the fighting spirit seems so different. You can see the effects of this shift from our performance at IEM Katowice; we made it to the Quater-Finals in the playoffs, which was a massive improvement from last year and leaves us room to improve. We must continue to work hard on our road toward the Paris Major and remain confident.


What preparation did you take for the CS:GO team that led to its performance skyrocketing?

Neo: This year, we had more tools around them, we have fully employed our mental coach full time this year, and we decided that he shall attend every match. This has led to a massive improvement in our players' health and mental state. We are having more open conversations with our analysts to spend more time with players and to understand their passions and any pressure they're experiencing.

Everyone pushed their limits last year, and now we look forward to being competitive and peaking at the Paris major, our main objective.

New LEC vlog ... 80% loading

Lastly, I would like to ask how you keep yourself motivated when the rosters go through challenging phases. How do you handle the pressure of answering the investors and sponsors and assuring them next year will be better?

Neo: It's part of the job. We learned last year to manage expectations and go step by step. When we invested a lot last year, failure was not an option because we tried super hard to deliver, but we have to manage expectations if these happen.

As I said with the LEC, we needed visibility to ensure that we become relevant again to players in the team. It was also a strategy for future investment, making Vitality part of the landscape where we can prioritize top talent. You are not consistently winning 100% of the time. It can be like this, but to be honest, I believe in my unit, and I believe in my people who are working hard for Team Vitality.

Edited by
Srijan Sen
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