It’s not often that a zombie gets warmly welcomed by a group of humans.  Usually there is plenty of running, screaming and zombies feasting.  The virtual hugs in a Skype conference call were certainly not what I was expecting when I agreed to it.  I was convinced it was a trap, but I still let my guard down.  Then the others present went for the jugular… but it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting.

“What do I do with my hands while Skyping?”
Sorry?  What?
“My hands.  What do I do with them?”
“Ignore Clint.  We’re merging.”
You’re what?!
“We’re merging.”

Now for some that might prove to be a bit of an anticlimax – especially if you were hoping for gratuitous violence.  However, if you’re reading any of this you’re most likely a gamer.  And as a gamer, you sit on one of two sides of an imaginary fence – PC or console.  Some of you might be a little more liberal than others, but generally, it’s pretty safe to say that you choose your part of the school ground and woe betide anyone who wanders accidently into your territory.  But thankfully someone has gone and done just that.  It may be only a small drop in the ocean, but welcome to the future of SA gaming – a future that includes everyone regardless of platform.

The two renegades involved in this “small step for SA gamers, but a giant leap for SA gaming” are PC clan =ASF= (Vitrolic Gaming also recently merged with clan ASF) and console clan F34R.  Both clans are well known and respected on their respective platforms, and under the merger, the 240 plus legged (or 120 peopled) machine will be known as =ASF=F34R, allowing each clan to retain their already established brands but feed off the other in their new symbiotic relationship.

This newly formed partnership is to ensure that the clans are represented across all the major competitive platforms – PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 – with the overall aim to “grow as an e-sport’s organisation”.  While perception in gaming is that “PC is where the action is”, ASF’s Nashief was keen to point out that he had a “new found respect” after watching F34R in action.  F34R believe that there is much to learn from the professionalism associated with PC clans but still in its infancy on the console side in South Africa.  They believe they will only benefit from the experience that ASF have in this regard.

So how is the clan – which by all accounts is shaping up to be South Africa’s biggest MGO – going to manage to operate and keep all the members happy?  My assumption that it would involve extreme measures with whips and chains was quickly denied.  The truth, while not quite as entertaining, is probably a lot more practical of course.  Three members from both clans will feature as ‘members of the board’ who will be responsible for decisions that will affect the main running of the MGO.  Decisions affecting the specific platforms will be handled by the leaders already in place under the old structures.

When asked why ASF considered F34R the right choice to be a partner in the MGO, Nashief said that he and Brandon from F34R had chatted and he realised that F34R’s willingness to “play cross-platform” and the PS3/Xbox clan’s desire to “grow gaming in SA” was the perfect fit for ASF’s ethos.  The sentiment was echoed by F34R who also felt it was the “right time in SA gaming to make the move.”

Both clans are already fortunate to be among South Africa’s few clans which have been sponsored and this merger obviously offers all their sponsors a great opportunity to improve their marketing in South African e-Sports.  Clan ASF are sponsored by Gigabyte via Rectron (BF3 Team Aquila), ECS Elite Group (BF3 Team Hawks) and Mweb GameZone who sponsors all their gaming and voice servers.  Gigabyte’s generous sponsorship of the clan meant that each team member was given a brand new gaming machine which totalled a mammoth R150 000.  Clan ASF’s sponsorship is thanks to their obvious skills as well as their community driven Gamers in Beta [GiB] program which assists new players to Battlefield 3 with lessons in how to get the basics – and even some advanced skills – right.

F34R has recently become a Tier 4 sponsored clan with Ozone Energy Drink, but there is no reason to think that the sponsorship potential will end there.  F34R have been on the PlayStation 3 scene for around four years since Call of Duty 4 and have moved on to the battleground that is Modern Warfare 3.  Currently boasting three teams on PlayStation 3 in F34R ELIT3, F34R PRIM3 and F34R D3LT4, they have made a tentative move onto Microsoft’s console where they currently have one team playing Modern Warfare 3.

F34R have also taken their first steps away from the first person shooter scene and have started F34R DOJO which is the clan’s “fight club”.  According to clan leader J4K3Z, this PS3 and Xbox 360 group of brawlers features the “best of the best” (yes… we see what you did there…) who have won their fair share of tournaments in the past.  F34R DOJO is represented by MSSA registered fighters F34R_FoxSt3v3 (currently at SBO in Japan), F34R_Draeka, F34R_PaasHaas, F34R_3CC0M4NC3R and F34R_J4GY who together J4K3Z says “will be a force to reckon with.”

Over the coming months, the new MGO will have a new website up and running and will start to make a play for domination on the three platforms and across a variety of games.  F34R, who are best known for their Modern Warfare 3 prowess (their current three teams will remain structured as they are) are especially keen to diversify and are considering teams for Forza 4 and FIFA.  You will soon be able to spot F34R in Modern Warfare 3 sporting their new [ASF] F34R_ tags.  ASF are meanwhile keen to improve their standing in Battlefield, Call of Duty, Dota 2 and Starcraft 2.  Both teams are also considering other games and there are a few special announcements coming soon about plans to really push the cross-platform concept to its very edge.

There’s a bright future in SA gaming right now, and mergers like this are the sort of thing that will certainly paint gaming as a whole in an infinitely more positive light.  As somebody, somewhere in the Skype call said: “everybody gains.”

CLAN =ASF= and =ASF=F3AR ‘Members of the Board’:

From ASF: Nashief ‘Ltdabull’ Hendricks, Rizaan ‘snake182’ Lakay and Pieter ‘Cyrus’ Venter (from the Vitrolic Gaming merger).

From F34R: Ismail ‘F34R_J4K3Z’ Jacobs, Clint ‘F34R_CS1977’ Smith and Brandon ‘F34R_SW4RL3Y’ De Pontes.

The MGO’s owners: Nashief ‘Ltdabull’ Hendricks, Rizaan ‘snake182’ Lakay, Pieter ‘Cyrus’ Venter and Ismail ‘F34R_J4K3Z’ Jacobs.

For can – for now – keep connected with the clans via:
ASF: Website | Twitter | Facebook
F34R: Twitter | Facebook