Bunyamin Aydin is the owner and founder of the esports organization Space Soldiers and he is trying to put Turkey's esports scene on the map.
Space Soldiers had a small breakout at ESL One Cologne 2017 when they defeated SK Gaming in a best-of-one, but unfortunately they weren't able to make it past the group stage. The team made headlines again ahead of DreamHack Montreal 2017, but this time on a dour note as they were unable to attend that tournament due to visa issues.
Turkey not being part of the European Union plays a part in the team's ability to function in a global industry such as esports, and Aydin spoke to theScore esports about his goals for the Istanbul-based org, such as the hope of becoming a more international presence and growing esports in Turkey.
What inspired you to start an esports org in the first place? What is your vision for Space Soldiers and what are the goals you hope to achieve, both personally and for the organization?
My brother and I have been gamers since childhood. I knew that esports would become big one day and look at us now.
My vision is for Space Soldiers to be a role model esports organization that pioneers and takes esports further in the industry. It’s more than a team, we are a community and I am an open book in terms of giving knowledge to other smaller organizations.
Space Soldiers are the athletes of the future. We are currently based in Istanbul, but I see the team as an international team. Part of the DNA of Space Soldiers is that we all come from international backgrounds.
Space Soldiers started out in the beginning of 2015. What are your thoughts on how the organization has progressed since then?
We were solely focused on performance and since we have received investment it allowed us to really focus on it. Now, we are focusing on building up our community and also [our] storytelling.
A lot of people are curious about Space Soldiers, it seems like a mysterious esports organization to many people. Soon, you will also see bilingual content and an update to all our social media platforms.
Any plans to expand beyond CS:GO?
We entered into FIFA and signed Emre "Riv9" Kayir, who is a very talented FIFA player, and are in talks with football clubs discussing possible collaborations.
I believe that you shouldn’t rush with entering into too many game titles. My rule is get to Top 20 and add another game.
Tell us what it’s like owning an esports team in Turkey and perhaps some of the difficulties involved with that as opposed to owning a team in America or in an European Union country.
Most of the hardware and game developers are based in US and EU. This of course gives an advantage to consumer brands being familiar with esports, but if you start up an esports organization in Turkey, you definitely have a disadvantage. However, we are now an international team which allows us to talk with global brands.
Space Soldiers doesn’t believe in borders, races and countries. The beauty of esports is the internationalism and I hope it will stay like this.
Turkey has a pretty strong presence in League of Legend, as Turkish teams qualified for MSI in 2015, 2016 and 2017, among other achievements. Has that presence helped legitimize Space Soldiers and esports in general in Turkey?
Definitely. League of Legends also has a Riot Games office in Turkey with a lot of employees that manage the league locally. They definitely are doing their best efforts to educate the local industries and have pushed three of the biggest football clubs to enter the league.
The Counter-Strike community is one of the oldest and biggest. However, I felt like it was spread out and it needed a platform to unite and share important moments. Space Soldiers has filled the empty spot of building a community in Turkey.
Actually, a lot of companies, brands, and startups are getting in touch with us due to the amount of active gamers in Turkey.
Not too far away, the country of Jordan has established an esports training center, after Team Liquid’s Dota 2 team won The International 2017 with Jordanian Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barqawi. Do you see something similar happening in Turkey? What steps can be taken to get there and further improve the local scene?
We definitely have a lot of projects planned that I can’t talk about right now. However, we don’t rush things. The goal for Space Soldiers is to build an organization that will last for 200 years and more.
Jordan has a very small Dota 2 scene, yet produced an International champion. Turkey is in a similar spot, with XANTARES, Calyx and the rest of Space Soldiers, w0xic trialing on HellRaisers and, technically, tarik on Cloud9, but they haven’t been able to take an event on the level of a Valve Major. What can you say about Turkey’s talent pool for CS:GO?
There are still many talents to be discovered. Also, some of the players find it difficult to evolve since professional teams are very limited in quantity. Soon, we will be launching a project for the community to help the Turkish scene to be seen by other teams and also get a chance to be part of Space Soldiers.
There's also a language barrier as lots of people don’t speak fluent English. It’s again a subject we would like to tackle and help people that can’t afford to learn. All of these projects take years in making and, of course, there is a budget aspect.
Would you like to see a Turkish player be part of an international super team such as FaZe Clan, or do you prefer full-nationality teams?
Of course, but what we are aiming is to see Space Soldiers itself becoming a super team by 2019. Again, we don’t care about being a full-national team. You can’t foresee the future, but we are always open for any national to join Space Soldiers.
What's important is synergy, performance and self-discipline. Our head coach Polat "hardstyle" Yildiran is doing a great job at scouting the best talent and improving [the] in-game skills of our players.
Is moving Space Soldiers out of Turkey and into a region with more infrastructure such as NA/EU an option or consideration? What about bootcamping abroad?
Sure, it’s always an option. We already have started doing bootcamps in Germany by renting a villa prior to important tournaments.
Small aside. You’re also the founder of influential Istanbul-based streetwear label Les Benjamins and we’ve seen streetwear crossover with esports before, such as DRKN, Fnatic Black Line and esports’ overall sneaker obsession. Do you see more crossover happening in the future, such as Space Soldiers x Les Benjamins?
That’s correct. I’m the first designer streetwear brand to design the pro jerseys and pants for an esports organization. Also, I have collaborated with NIKEiD to design the sneakers for Space Soldiers.
We are definitely the most fashionable esports team. In terms of sponsorships I’m always open to collaborate with teams and individual players. I love esports, it’s my passion.
Any final thoughts, or would you like to mention anything that I may have missed?
We are all part of the esports industry. In order to sustain a healthy growths we have to work together. I hope I can inspire other people around the world to do what I’m doing. Always open to help and give suggestions to other teams and individuals. Don’t be afraid to share.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking
Discipline Priest Pharah a silenced Cavity 9mm Ryu Bounty Hunter. You can follow him on Twitter.