The StarLadder Berlin Major, the 15th Valve-sponsored CS:GO tournament, will be played from Aug. 23 to Sept. 8.
Counter-Strike Majors have evolved a lot since its first edition at DreamHack Winter in November 2013. It started with only three days of competition, a $250,000 prize pool, and no stickers for the teams and players.
Here are the most important changes to the CS:GO Majors since 2013.
DreamHack Winter in November 2013: Where it all started
Since it was the first CS:GO Major, Valve and DreamHack had to figure out which teams would fill the 16 slots. Six spots were handled through invites, while the other six were allocated to tournaments leading up to the Major, like DreamHack Summer in June 2013 and EMS One Fall in October 2013. To complete it, two slots were reserved for the European qualifier and the last two were given to the bring-your-own-computer tournament that preceded the Major in Sweden.
DreamHack Winter only lasted three days. The teams were put into two GSL groups that featured best-of-one matches and the best squads moved on to the quarterfinal best-of-three series on the second day. The semifinals were played one after another on the third day of the Major before the grand finals, the only series that was played in front of a stage. Fnatic defeated NiP 2-1 to become the first Major champion and earn $100,000.
The event only had five maps in the pool: Inferno, Mirage, Nuke, Dust II, and Train. Although the tournament lasted just three days, it was a success in terms of viewership, mostly because of the case drops given via Twitch or GOTV, which massively boosted CS:GO's numbers. Roughly 145,000 viewers watched Fnatic vs. NiP, a CS:GO record at the time.
EMS One Katowice in March 2014: The first stickers
Four months later, the Major improved in many areas, starting with the tournament’s length. It expanded to four days of competition and all of the playoff games were played on stage. But only the grand finals were played on Spodek Arena’s main stage.
The eight teams that made it to DreamHack Winter’s playoffs were directly invited to EMS One Katowice, creating the term “Legends,” which is still used to this day. Six slots were decided trough European qualifiers and the remaining two were given to teams outside of Europe: iBUYPOWER (North America) and Vox Eminor (Oceania). Virtus Pro defeated NiP 2-0 in the grand finals, winning the event on home soil and earning $100,000.
This was also the first time that teams received in-game stickers with the profit being split between Valve and the organizations.
ESL One Cologne in August 2014: Map pool expanded to seven maps
For the third CS:GO Major, Valve expanded the map pool to seven maps, adding Overpass and Cobblestone ahead of ESL One Cologne. From that date on, Valve started to dictate the map pool, which brought stability to the competition.
The map-veto process wasn’t ideal, though. It had a random aspect in both best-of-one games (ban-ban-ban-ban-random) and best-of-three series (ban-ban-pick-pick-random). This led to NiP, one of the best teams at the time, playing the new map Cobblestone in four out of six games.
In this edition, the Major became a little more global since Valve added qualifiers for three new regions: North America, Oceania, and India. NiP finally won their first Major after beating Fnatic 2-1 in the grand finals.
A Major graffiti was added to Overpass after Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer made a miraculous defuse while burning to his death. The second Major of 2014 was also the first to feature the "Pick'Em Challenge," a competition that awards in-game trophies based on your predictions.
ESL One Katowice in March 2015: Introducing the Major Main Qualifier
In the fifth CS:GO Major, ESL One Katowice, Valve added a main qualifier to be played on LAN since the majority of the slots were given to online qualifiers, which resulted in cheating suspicions every time an upcoming player played well against a known team. Titan’s Hovik "KQLY" Tovmassian and Epsilon’s Gordon "Sf" Giry were also VAC-banned ahead of DreamHack Winter 2014, the fourth CS:GO Major.
The viewership record was broke once again when 1.1 million people watched the grand finals where Fnatic beat NiP 2-1 to win their second Major. Keyd Stars, a Brazilian team led by Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, were the first South American team to play at a CS:GO Major.
ESL One Cologne in August 2015: The player stickers
Ahead of the sixth CS:GO Major, Valve hosted LAN qualifiers for three regions: North America, Asia, and Europe combined with the CIS. The regional qualifiers were a mixture of today’s Minors and the Main Qualifier.
Valve also added player stickers for the first time, which racked up more than $4 million, a huge financial boost to the competitors. This Major ended up setting a bar for the future when 19,000 fans watched the playoffs live in the LANXESS Arena, the cathedral of Counter-Strike.
DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca in October 2015: Player profiles and length expanded to five days
This was the first Major tournament held outside of Sweden, Germany, or Poland. The competition was expanded to five days, which added best-of-three series for the group decider matches. The group matches were played over the first three days while the playoffs took place during the last two.
Valve made player profiles for the first time, a tradition that remained up until the ELEAGUE Atlanta Major in January 2017.
MLG Columbus in March 2016: $1 million prize pool for the first time and Minors added
The eighth CS:GO Major was the first one played outside of Europe. The length of the tournament was expanded once again, this time to six days, in which three of them were played in front of the crowd at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Valve increased the prize pool from $250,000 to $1 million after receiving criticism from the fans and players because other CS:GO tournaments were starting to catch up with the previous Major prize pool. Luminosity Gaming earned the big prize of $500,000, becoming the first non-European Major winner.
The first version of the regional Minors and Main Qualifier was finally established, but it also led to more teams having issues in the Major due to the roster lock. This was the case for Team Liquid, who couldn’t play with Keneth “koosta” Suen because he attended the North America Minor with NME.
ESL One Cologne in July 2016: Valve limits the impact of coaches
For the first time, Valve tested out the swiss system for this Main Qualifier, which received positive feedback from the community for making it more difficult for dark-horse teams.
Following the ESL One Cologne Major, Valve limited the communication between coaches and players to only four 30-second timeouts during the game. Coaches were previously allowed to speak all the time and some of them were even in-game leading their team. That was the case for Luis “peacemaker” Tadeu on Liquid and Sergey "starix" Ischuk on Natus Vincere.
ELEAGUE Atlanta in January 2017 and PGL Kraków in July 2017: Swiss system used in the group stage and randomizer removed
The Major adjustments slowed down in 2017. ELEAGUE Atlanta hosted an eight-day tournament and used the swiss system for the first time in the Major group stage. The most significant change was made in the veto process, though, when the randomizer between the last three maps in a best-of-three series was finally removed. It was used in seven out of the nine other Majors.
The randomizer was definitely removed at PGL Kraków after it was used for only best-of-one games at the ELEAGUE Atlanta. The randomness in the veto process was abolished and it hasn’t returned to the Majors since.
ELEAGUE Boston in January 2018: The last significant change
At this Major, the Main Qualifier was extinguished and it's now part of the CS:GO Major. It's become the New Challengers stage and the teams and its players are also rewarded with in-game stickers, which provides a big financial boost for underdogs.
With this merger, the ELEAGUE Boston competition lasted 17 days. Although it was a good change for smaller organizations, part of the community still doesn’t recognize the New Challengers stage as part of the Major. Cloud9 made history in the grand finals of this event by beating FaZe Clan, the heavy favorites at the time, 2-1 to become the first North American team to win a Major.