CS:GO: Too many cooks spoil the broth

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CS:GO ESL London
© ESL

I want to talk a little about the competitive aspect of CS:GO, the amount of tournaments, the formats, and why I think that the current state hurts the competitive scene. Not only from the teams’ perspective, but as well as from the economical view from the involved companies, and of course, the viewers.

What is the current state of the game?

Even though CS:GO it brings in big numbers of active players, millions of played hours, and so on, Valve decided to sell the majority of rights to host events to third-party organisations, and only sponsor a few events themselves – the Majors, by far the most important events in the scene.

The number of tournament and league organizers is incredibly long, and can be almost infinitely extended. But to name just a few – we have events done by ESL, FaceIt, sltv, EEE and Turner. Here is where the cooking begins: if you just take a look at the amount of organizers you might think „ok, that is a lot, but six to eight organizers isn’t that much, considering there are 12 months to be covered“.

True, but the real problem comes in when you take a look at how the organizers actually have to organize their events. Right now, Valve does not set too many rules in the way how the organizers can handle, well, the organization part of an event. Valve focuses more on the game that is played itself, and not so much about the circumstances of the events that it is played at. This doesn’t mean Valve allows organizers to host an event in a dirty war zone, but, besides a few rules, they are allowed to come up with pretty much their own play-book.

This leads to various things:

  • Organizers can come up with pretty much any rules they want

Unless they don’t violate Valve’s basic rules, they will be able to implement them. Now, many organizers choose to simple adjust to the rules Valve uses for the tournaments they sponsor themselves, because they want to keep their right to host an event in the future, and adjusting to valves rule-set is one premise to that. But since there aren’t many rules regarding formats and schedules, many problems still occur.

  • Organizers can make up any format

This is probably the biggest problem. Currently we are in the middle of October, which means we have ca. 2 ½ months until the end of the year. If you take a look right now at the upcoming events and formats you will notice that they are still EIGHT events left only for this year. 2 ½ months for eight events. And this includes only the premier events.

And some of the events aren’t only tournaments, which at least are played over the course of the weekends and only the weekends – maybe including Thursday and Friday. We also have several leagues within these 8 events, with all of them resulting in a tournament at the end of it. This leads to ridiculous schedules, where teams have to play several best of 3/5’s in one day, because the individual tournaments schedule needs to be tighten, so the teams can play in another league in the upcoming week without taking a break.

CS:GO ESL London - Ast. dupreeh. © ESL
CS:GO ESL London – Ast. dupreeh. © ESL

But where does this exactly lead too?

Many of the consequences are obvious and very well covered, but still need to be pointed out. I want to take a look at the seven parties involved in this (teams, organizers, valve, competition, sponsors, viewers and others).

  • Teams and players suffer from absurd exhaustion, which, in the end, lead to health issues.

They have to travel an absurd amount of time, they have to constantly fight “jet lags”, and of course, they are under consistent pressure by fans, sponsors and their own organisation. They only have a few days off, and within these “off” days, they have to adjust to new updates and patches, come up with new and innovative strategies, and of course, keep consistently improving their play-style in order to stay up with everyone else.

  • Organizer’s investment is too risky

Organizers might suffer less, but even they need to adjust their schedule to fit all the requirements, thus, they don’t get as much exposure as they intended to receive.

  • Valve outsource responsibility…

…and, by that, are taking the easiest route. CS:GO is only one out of a handful of games created by Valve that are successful in the Esports scene. So you might think it is okay for them to give away the responsibility and sell it to others as long as the money keeps coming in, so they can focus on other stuff to update their game. And right now it seems to be working, but I think it is not the right way in the long run. This might clarify when I talk viewers and sponsors.

  • Competition isn’t a factor anymore

Competition isn’t really a party in this, in the way that it can’t be represented by a person or a group, but it is still an aspect of Esports and CS:GO is heavily affected by the issue I am referring too. The current schedule kills way too much of the actual competition: you want people to improve and innovate the game, find new strats, hidden spots and ways to pull the game in their favor to make things exciting.

In a world where the time spent doing this by teams is minimized to nearly zero, competition dies out and it only gets repetitive. You will always see the same strats, the same nades, the same set ups and retakes. Because there is simply no time to practice them to a certain extend, and you probably don’t want to practice them in a match that counts in any way – doesn’t matter if it’s only a qualifier. And when there is enough time to do all that… a new patch is coming in.

  • Chaotic game leads to confused sponsors

Now sponsors, outside of the organizers and Valve, seem to have an easier time, because there is so much to choose from. But this only leads to the agony of choice, and often times, you only see the same sponsors over and over again. This might be a result of the chaotic state the game, or rather the scene, right now. As an outside sponsor, you might take a look at CS:GO and have no idea what is going on. Is this the same tournament? The same team? The same game? What is going on? Can someone give me an overview?

Because there is no particular rule set and you can pretty much have five new events next year, held by new organizers, which makes it very risky for outsiders to invest in organizers and pretty much impossible for any new long time sponsorship to emerge.

  • Viewers are getting bored

The viewer experience probably suffers the most. CS:GO is becoming a daily soap opera – lot of stuff is happening, but actually nothing happens. You get to see pro games nearly every day, and there are only few days off with no games to watch. Now this might seem like a cool thing in the first place, but it kills all the excitement.

It is really hard to build up story lines – roster shuffle? The #1 seed just split up into two different teams? Don’t you dare to worry, you will get to see them competing as soon as this is announced and even if you don’t, just wait two days, or three at most. A hot young talent has joined the scene and found his team? Don’t worry, we won’t let him practice and find his place inside the roster.

He will straight up have to compete and is expected to be at 100% right from the start. This also makes the viewer less willingly to spend money on event-based things done by the organizers or Valve, because it feels to have a lesser and lesser impact and there is little to no time to empathize with a certain player/team over the span of 20 different tournaments where they unavoidably fail to succeed at one point.

      • Others are overlooked and have to put in absurd amount of time and work

By others, I mean people involved in the scene, but not mentioned so far – analysts, writers, editors, Youtubers, andr in general, CS:GO content creators. How are these people supposed to put out necessary, creative, funny, entertaining content? You can have an excellent writer that wants to recap tournament x, but because he wants to put actual work in it, he might need 3-4 days to finish that thing.

By then, six tournaments have been played already and no one cares about the stuff from the past. The inflationary amount of online games might also be a reason why many analysts choose to put these aside, when they are making their content and analysis, mainly because there are simply too many to be considered, and even the players themselves can’t take every single one seriously. And besides all of that, many of them have to keep with the schedule as well – traveling around, jetlagged and sleepless are also factors to be considered, just to only put in even more work when everyone else is done.

CS:GO ESL Barcelona © ESL
CS:GO ESL Barcelona © ESL

So what is one way to put a hold on all this?

One of my biggest personal problems with the current state is that leagues don’t work with tournaments. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think it is great to have a league played out over a few weeks, resulting in a climatic tournament, that lets story lines conclude and dreams come true.

But, you can’t have these things when there is a league going on, which gets interrupted by a tournament, which gets interrupted by another tournament, where the same team from the first tournaments final face each other again and again only to disrupt the dramatic stories build up by other events.

Personally, I would much rather see the year split into its four quarters, where two are reserved for leagues and two are reserved for tournamentswith no overlaps allowed. Have an Eleague do their league somewhere from January to March. Have an EPICENTER-like tournament every two weeks from April to June. But don’t overlap them!

That way you can implement breaks, vacation, time for big updates and improvements and build up the competitive factor of the scene. You can also build up hype and story lines – let content creators help you with that. You also don’t make the matches inflationary and have the teams focus on the ongoing event and the ongoing event only.

This makes it easier for viewers to follow the scene, easier for sponsors to find a tournament to invest in, easier for organizers to adjust their schedule and allow the players to play the game at the highest level possible, while also bringing in the same amount of money, if not more, to valve and everyone involved. It is not a secret that people are way more likely to spend money on something that they are emotionally attached to.

But it is way more difficult to do that, when there is nearly no chance to make that possible. If you let your viewers focus on one thing at a time, maybe a few – but not 4-5, you can milk them even more, if you intend to do so. And, with a fixed schedule, it is way easier to produce event based merchandise produced from the side of the organizers and also by Valve itself.

Bring in some tournament based skins, gloves, sprays etc., and let the viewers contribute in some kind. Build up the hype, rebuild the competitive aspect, involve the viewers and everyone else that contributes to the scene and rebuild the way events are organized in cooperation with others.