Also keep in mind that I am German and have no special expert insight into the French scene. Feedback on my English is appreciated as well.
France did a lot of things right in the past few years and is now able to collect the fruits of this labour. A flourishing scene with LAN's as well as online tournaments has made the competition in the country extremely hard and thanks to several big organizations, which engage themselves in different areas and have solid financial support, there now is an infrastructure that is unsurpassed in other western nations. Additionally France has a passionate community and a long gaming tradition. Sweden once was in the same position, has been going downhill for a long time now.
With Lilbow a Foreigner stood in the WCS Final for the first time since Season 1 of 2013 - and of course the finalist of the time, Stephano, is a Frenchman himself. His fellow countryman MarineLorD reached the Top 8 of the same tournament, three French (Lilbow, MarineLorD and PtitDrogo) got into the Top 8 of HomeStory Cup XI, beating the recent GSL champion on their path. Whatever online tournament and qualifier in Europe you watch right now, a new talent from France will be there to make a name for himself. The reasons for this success are the topic of this write-up.
The French scene has a lot tradition behind it, especially in RTS games. ElkY is one of the most successfull foreign Brood War players of all time, taking a Top 4 spot in StarLeague and a silver medal at the World Cyber Games. ToD is a WarCraft 3 legend whose name stands on a level with giants like Grubby and Moon. And of course Stephano continued this line in StarCraft 2. The new generation has a lot idols to look up to and can see itself as the successor of great legends.
Stephano may be a critical part of France's success. He was a natural talent, who didn't need great help to get as good as he got, no huge infrastructure to help him grow. Through his success a lot of people had an idol to follow, to look up to and to get inspired by. The people saw that this boy from their own country was able to defeat the allmighty Koreans and win glory and titles for himself. This might have been the encouragement that many players needed to give their very best and try to get better and better. But on top of that it mobilised the community and invoked its passion for game and the scene.
The French community also seems very unified. In Germany fragmentation was a big problem for the scene - we basically had three big casters (TaKe, HomerJ, Khaldor/Mori), who all had their own following... and these three groups didn't get along very well. Additionally toxic sites like readmore increased the tensions - cooperation between the casters was rare because of that. In France fragmentation like that is not existing as far as I know. Sure, it might not have been as peacefull as I imagine, but the result is the same: A community that mostly follows one organization, O'Gaming. One of the Top 5 SC2 channels on Twitch, over 12.500 during the last WCS final - a great viewership for a non-english SC2 stream.
Interesting is another fact: For a long time the French scene had their own, isolated streams on Dailymotion. This might have contributed to the unity of the community, because there weren't that many other options to watch on Dailymotion compared to Twitch. Regular viewership was easier to build up this way and these viewers came over to Twitch when the big French orgas made that switch.
O'Gaming with their charismatic casting line-up was able to unite the community behind them, create a huge following and use these numbers and this legitimacy to contact the big Korean orgas. They are now able to broadcast the Korean leagues at EU friendly times, a unique position. This way they could make their repertoire even broader and basically made the French scene independent of any other organization. Everything is available in French. And once again: No fragmentation whatsoever.
Another big factor of the strength of France's scene is Millenium. The organization has excellent financial back-up. This money had been spent on stuff like teamhouses and a newly opened esport arena in the style of Korea. This is the best try out all of the western organizations to emulate Korean infrastructure - EG, Minstry of Win, all of them more or less failed at that. Millenium and other orgas in France also invested heavily in tournaments that were designed to boost and promote homegrown talent as well as international competition.
To just name a few of these events: Underdogs, the Francophone Championship and the French Master Series. Some of them are running since 2010, have very fair prize pools and are being promoted very well by orgas like O'Gaming, which are able to gather a lot of viewers for these tournaments, despite not having the greatest line-ups. French national pride may have its part here - the fans love their fellow countrymen, they love to see them compete and win. More than German fans for example.
The sheer mass of events for French players - online and offline - enable them to gain valuable experience, to make a name for themselves and gather their first prizes. Especially the offline events are usefull, because offline experience is something precious. German players have benefitted from EPS this way for ages, the French have a lot of these chances now. Even though most of the events that are designed to grow new talent are for French speaking people only, France has made efforts to open itself to international influence. ForGG was one of the first Koreans to ever live and train in Europe. He was welcomed by Millenium and he was able to give a lot of knowhow in return - every EU player will probably attest to that.
Thats a big difference to the German scene. Yes, we have EPS, but EPS is restricted (you need have a certain age, be a ESL premium member, etc.) and EPS has been ruled by the 'Old Boys Club' for a very long time. It was this 'club' that complained about having Koreans in the league, when Germany became home to Patience, Golden, First and others. They didn't see the addition of these Koreans as a chance to improve, they saw it as a danger to their established regime. It was the new generation - Heromarine, ShoWTimE etc. - that welcomed the challenge and flourished. But many chances were missed, chances that France took: Players lived and trained with ForGG, played tournaments against him and improved accordingly.
Some more examples:
Most people don't know who Denver and DnS are - I don't know either, as do most non French people, but that doesn't matter right now. As we can see in the results of the talent-growth tournaments above, he has been a stable part of the French scene for some time now. That such a player can get into a well functioning teamhouse without having to fly around the planet and deal with the strange Korean culture is such an amazing boon. This is the sort of infrastructure, that is needed create really strong and competitve players - talent is discovered, promoted and given the chance to try the adventure of being a fulltime progamer. Without the risk that comes with a long time commitment in Korea for example.
A second thing we can read out of these Tweets is the following: Cooperation is an essential factor for success. There are several big and small teams in France, all of them rivals in several teamleagues and yet they all work for one goal: Improving the French scene. The same goes for the players themselves, culminating in the ad-hoc team 'Baguette', essentially a French national team that takes part in international teamleagues.
A short summary:
- France built up infrastructre in the Korean sense, that can discover, promote and hold talent through generous online and offline tournaments of many kinds and well functioning materiel infrastructure (the Millenium teamhouse); chances to get into this system are even for everyone who is willed and skill enough.
- The French community is heavily engaged and passionate and is organized on (mostly) the two plattforms of O'Gaming and Millenium, which promotes regular viewership and unity.
- National pride and language are huge factors, even in our globalized time, for promoting passion and interest (the first thing might be special for France, because it's really not a big factor in Germany at all... obviously).
- Teams, players and organizations have a sense of unity and common purpose, they cooperate to improve their collective scene more than any other country.
France has invested a lot - money, passion and many good ideas. The country has found the golden way between strengthening their home scene and opening it to the world. Players like Lilbow, MarineLorD and FireCake are the result of a long and successfull process, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. The production of talent in France has only now begun.
France was able to emulate a Korean-style infrastructure in european geographical and cultural conditions - that is their masterpiece.
Some points of my original article may have been lost in translation, but I hope it was a comprehensive summary of what I think are the strenghts of the French SC2 scene right now.