How Counter-Strike: Global Offensive approaches its competitive eSports scene.
It is an exciting time of the year for eSports with many of the world’s biggest eSports competitions just around the corner. As the world starts to catch on to what has been brewing in the competitive eSports scene, eSports prize pools are skyrocketing. The total prize money awarded is at just under $450 million USD ($447,228,607.18 as of June 25th) and threatens to surpass half a billion dollars by the end of 2018.
With that in mind, we take a look at the biggest eSports in recent years and how their respective competitive scenes are operated in terms of the types of competitions they have, how they are qualified for and how often they occur to better understand what fans can expect from their favorite competitive eSport titles. The video games discussed here makeup 6 of the top 7 eSports in 2017 in terms of the prize pools of their eSports competitions, which will be listed from lowest to highest. Don’t miss the first part, discussing Hearthstone and Overwatch, the second, analyzing Heroes of the Storm, or the third, that looks at League of Legends.
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Counterstrike: Global Offensive
The first Valve title of this series of articles is CS:GO, the latest and greatest title in the world-famous Counter Strike series. Initially designed as a mod for Half-Life, Valve purchased the rights for the games and went on to develop Counter Strike, Counter Strike: Condition Zero, Counter Strike: Source and now Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Released in 2012, CS:GO is one of the world’s biggest games, with over 850 000 unique players in a month at its peak. As the 2nd highest paying eSports title it has forked out over $19 Million USD in 2017 and just under $59 Million USD since its release. Its fame as the most competitive first-person-shooter comes from decades of competitive events in previous titles of the series and culminates in its massive eSports audience. The biggest CS:GO events rack up over 40 Million total views and the game itself is one of the most intuitive and spectator-friendly games that unites gamers all over the world.
Valve traditionally has (and continues to) prefer an open model when it comes to their competitive eSports scene, unlike many other companies, such as Riot and Blizzard. The model for CS:GO relies on third-party organizers hosting tournaments under Valve rules and the sponsoring of certain tournaments by Valve, resulting in dozens upon dozens of high-level tournaments and hundreds of lower-level competitions, giving CS:GO an unparalleled scale in its competitive eSports scene. The scene revolves around the Valve-sponsored Major Championships (and the accompanying Minor Championships) and other events hosted by tournament organizers with no specific calendar season, but rather a continues cycle of events, making it an ideal eSport to bet on or cast due to the never-ending presence of professional competitions.
The Major Championships are the highlights of the CS:GO competitive scene and offer all the best the esport has to offer: the best teams, the biggest prizes and the most passionate audiences. The Major Championships are sponsored by Valve and feature the highest level of competitive play – and there have been 12 hosted since the first at DreamHack Winter 2013 with 2-3 every year since. The latest Major Championship – the ELEAGUE Major: Boston 2018 – marked the start of a new era in the competitive CS:GO scene.
Valve announced a new tournament system at Boston, increasing the number of teams present at Major Championships from 16 to 24. These tournaments now begin with an offline qualifier (that is closed to the public) called the Challengers Stage, where 16 teams – 8 who are the previous Major Championship’s Fallen (those who placed 9th through to 16th), and 8 who are the Minor Champions (Minors are the qualifiers for each region, where the top 2 teams from Europe, CIS, Asia and the Americas qualify) – play off in a swiss-system bracket, where the bottom 8 are eliminated from the tournament, and the top 8 progress to the group stage, dubbed the Legends Stage.
They are joined by the 8 Current Legends (the top 8 teams from the previous Major Championship) to play another 16-team swiss-system bracket with the top 8 progressing to the final stage, the Champions Stage. This features a single-elimination playoff bracket that will ultimately crown the champion.
The top 8 at the end of the tournament gain the Legend status for the next event and are directly invited into the Legend Stage at the next Major Championship. The next 8 (9th through to 16th) become the Fallen of that Major Championship and are invited to the Challenger stage of the next major championship. This repeats twice a year, creating a regular season of sorts.
The Minor Championships are the stepping stone for the smaller teams between playing small tournaments and potentially reaching the biggest tournaments. There are 4 in all, for Europe, CIS, Asia and the Americas. Each awards a $50,000 USD prize pool, with two tournaments per year played offline, one for every Major Championship. 8 teams qualify or are invited for the Minor Championship, with each region having a different split of qualified and invited teams.
Once 8 teams are determined for the main stage, teams participate in a bloodthirsty group stage that ends in elimination for half of the teams. The remaining 4 progress to the even more brutal double elimination playoffs, which decide the two teams that qualify as Challengers to the Major Championship.
In addition to LAN events, professional teams hone their skill in two main online pro leagues, the eSports Championship Series by FACEIT, and the ESL Pro League by ESL and ESEA. Each league involves regular online league play for Europe and North America, scheduled around large tournaments and an offline season final. The ECS final features the best 4 teams from Europe and North America in the usual group stage into playoffs format.
The most recent Season 5 Finals boasted a prize pool of $660,000 USD. The ESL Pro League Finals work in a similar fashion, but with slots for the Asia Pacific and South America regions, with 8 teams from Europe, 6 from North America, 2 from Asia Pacific and 1 from South America. It operates with an initial double elimination bracket for two groups with the two upper bracket winners and the lower bracket winner progressing from each group, with the winner of the upper bracket finals being seeded into the semi-finals of the next playoffs stage. The most recent ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals featured a total prize pool of $775, 000 USD.
Overall, CS:GO’s competitive scene is much more diverse and open relative to other eSports, primarily due to Valve’s unconventional approach to its eSports titles. This allows for a large variety of opportunities in the scene, whether as a player, spectator or commentator. CS:GO is particularly driven by the general growth within the eSports industry, as it is very accessible and intuitive to the mainstream audience, and as such will certainly continue to race ahead of the pack with its eSports scene.
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