ELEAGUE first impressions: Counter-Strike turned up to 11
Previous attempts to bring Counter-Strike to a television audience have not been successful, to put it mildly, but all the noises heading into Tuesday were good. Turner had brought on board leading industry figures, and seemed committed to preserving what's made Counter-Strike one of the biggest esports in the world.
After Tuesday's broadcast, that approach was brought sharply into focus. This is everything you know and love about Counter-Strike esports, turned up to eleven.
Turner is treating this like a real sport
From the minute the show opened, you could see just how seriously Turner is taking ELEAGUE. The Turner Sports intro played, with footage from ELEAGUE sitting alongside the NBA, MLB, and PGA tour.
In an article earlier this week on ELEAGUE, the New York Post wrote, incredulously, that "geeks playing video games are coming to your TV." The opening video of the day seemed to be a direct response. Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz of Astralis set the Post straight: "We're not just a bunch of nerds sitting in the basement."
In an interview with HLTV, host Richard Lewis said that Turner's ELEAGUE producer has more than a decade of sports broadcasting experience. This level of experience shone through in the finished product, which was easily one of the most polished esports broadcasts we've seen to date.
The talent are allowed to be themselves
Some feared Turner might try to either bring in new or inexperienced broadcast talent, or restrict the freedom of those they did hire. That freedom to banter, take jabs at each other and analyze honestly and directly has become one of the hallmarks of Counter-Strike esports. It was good to see that ELEAGUE extended that same freedom to ELEAGUE.
Richard Lewis was cracking jokes with his cohosts as soon as the show started. Some of those quips won't be as close to the bone as on other broadcasts, but the relaxed style is front and center.
Mohamad "moe" Assad became an early talking point after delivering some very harsh words for Renegades, and in particular captain Chad "spunj" Burchill, in the opening segment. The debate between the panelists was engaging and interesting, for new fans and old. The analysts didn't shy away from being critical where it was warranted. This is Counter-Strike as it is, not some glossed up portrayal where every player is a superstar.
The final member of the broadcast team, Chris Puckett, is an MLG employee who made a big impression at the Columbus Major. Puckett's style and delivery is perfect for ELEAGUE. He wouldn't look out of place in the NFL or NBA, but has serious knowledge and credibility within esports. His backstage segments were well produced, and provided some nice color outside of the studio itself.
Talent and players were given the tools they needed
The players were given exactly what they needed to play—top-quality equipment, from chairs and headsets to the PCs themselves. Aside from the shiny studio and giant screens everywhere, the player areas looked exactly they do at any other major event. That was mostly to be expected.
The analysts, for they part, sit at probably the swankiest desk ever seen in esports. Not only is it huge and very attractive, it moves and rotates when the show switches from pre-game analysis to the match itself.
Turner also brought in an experienced pair of observers: Heather "sapphiRe" Garozzo and DJ "Prius" Kuntz. SapphiRe gave a glowing portrayal of her experiences at the event, highlighting Turner's commitment of Turner to take feedback from her and her colleagues. Even Turner Sports executives were happy to discuss her suggestions, and she felt her ideas "were appreciated and welcomed." SapphiRe complimented the setup for the observers, emphasizing it was clear that they were no afterthought.
Day one showed the full spectrum of Counter-Strike games
Okay, so Turner didn't exactly have anything to do with this, but it certainly helped that the games themselves were a great microcosm of Counter-Strike.
We saw some great examples of the amazing action Counter-Strike can provide in the three best-of-two matches yesterday.
Reigning major champions Luminosity Gaming kicked off the league with a nail-biting overtime win over underdogs Renegades,. Luminosity have proven to be vulnerable against underdogs, as shown by their loss to Tyloo at DreamHack Malmo, but they showed the other end of the spectrum in map two. A rare 16-0 map win to seal the 2-0 against Renegades champions' strength.
Luminosity played Team Liquid to seal out the day, and though it would have been less of an upset than Renegades, Liquid jumped out to a surprising 12-3 half lead against the Brazilians. Luminosity mounted a heroic comeback to win 16-14 for their fourth victory of the evening, showing the power of momentum in Counter-Strike.