CS:GO's Perfect World: Chinese Counter-Strike Assessed
With the recent news that Chinese company Perfect World will partner with Valve to bring Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to China, it is the perfect time to take a look at Chinese esports and their relationship with their past and present Counter-Strike scene.
Prior to CS:GO, Perfect World was the publisher for the Chinese version of DotA 2, and was a main player in making sure it became the giant it is today. With a strong casual player base, the game had no problem in feeding into the existing Chinese esports infrastructure and growing it, also enjoying the influx of resources that came with wealthy individuals starting organizations for League of Legends and acquiring DotA rosters.
The culture that spawned and is reflected in both games is one that favors a heavily structured environment, with coaches and old players using their experience to raise newcomers, working hard to find whatever playstyle can net the team more wins, more so than one that they find themselves comfortably playing.
However, in the previous iterations of Counter-Strike, the Chinese market was never a big player. 1.6 was a relatively popular game but always lived in the shadow of other FPS games and other genres. There were still some teams that made waves internationally, namely Tyloo, but not one that ever took an event over top European teams.
Still, some incredibly skilled players, such as Kefei "Jungle" Yang and Bin "Savage" Liu, did come out of the Chinese region, giving the world the impression that there was some potential that remained unfulfilled. But it was too little too late, and as 1.6 started to die out, so did the Chinese scene, who shifted to the Asia exclusive version, CS Online, and later other games.
When CS:GO released, there was little excitement to move to it from the more popular CrossFire or CS Online, and Valve did not make a push to get it published through a Chinese company, which is necessary by law if a foreign company wants to release a product in China. With no official support or matchmaking servers in the mainland (to this day, the closest Valve servers are located in Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan), powerful competition in MOBAs and being a paid game in a free-to-play dominated market, CS:GO did not catch on.
Some die hard fans and veterans of the previous iterations did, however, believe in keeping the competitive scene alive through private servers and tournaments, and the 5ewin service was created, which even today is the main hub for the entire Asian competitive scene. Tyloo and QeeYou did form teams, but their few international showings were disappointing, and China remained silent and domestic until 2015.
Upon realizing that CS:GO as a game was growing at an unprecedented rate, the big Chinese organizations decided it was time to invest into creating, buying out or making changes to teams that could compete at the top in China and give them all the resources necessary to do so with gaming houses, full time salaries and coaching staffs.
Tyloo took newcomers under their old blood's wing, Born of Fire hired legend Bian "alex" Zhengwei as a coach, and in came Vici Gaming, picking up the Cyberzen that brought Savage out of retirement, as well as EHOME, LGD, Edward Gaming to get their share in the ever growing CS:GO pie. With more and more competition available, the Chinese scene finally started to fire up, though Tyloo continues to dominate to this day, even taking a best-of-three win over Luminosity in Europe, closely followed by VG, who managed to take maps off of the champions in domestic tournaments but never came into their own internationally. Online events started to come out and even some LANs, but with no official support for the game, the most important piece for an esport is still missing: viewership. No casual interest in the game meant that the scene could only develop so far.
This is what Perfect World aims to fix: with Chinese regional servers and localized publishing, a much bigger player base is sure to come as other FPS games like CS Online and CrossFire become obsolete, and with it, more viewers for domestic events. Surely, more resources will come for Chinese teams to be able to play against international competition and breed talent that can go toe-to-toe with Europeans, as was hinted at in the days of 1.6.
While it will still take at least a year or two before a team that can truly be a top contender will be fielded, if the Chinese have shown something in the past and in other games, it is that when they do funnel all their structure and resources into a game, there is nothing that can stop them from becoming a threat.
Image Credit: Dremhack, Adela Sznajder, PCGames.com.cn