What I hope for CSGO in 2016
2015 was an extraordinary year for Counter Strike. We saw unprecedented growth in terms of viewership. We saw the launch of five hundred thousand dollar professional leagues. The introduction of the some of the most prominent organisations within esports; TSM, CLG and Liquid. We heard about the launch of Turner Broadcasting's 2.4 million ELeague that will be broadcasted on live television in North America. We saw Fnatic show a level of dominance that surpassed even Ninjas in Pyjamas' performance at the launch of CSGO, an achievement that was initially unimaginable. We saw stars like Olofmeister, Device and Guardian shining throughout the year. We even saw kennyS finally win a major. 2015 was great, but it's over now; and now it's time to look ahead into 2016.
Photo credit // hltv.org
In this article I will be listing some of my hopes for CSGO's 2016:
Re-introduction of Nuke
Nine long, arduous months have passed by since the removal of Nuke from the active map pool. Often criticized for being far too CT sided - I'll admit, I was also on the same bandwagon several months back - Nuke saw itself being replaced with a newly revamped Train following ESL Katowice, the first major of the year. It was a contested change. For the most part, fans, players and analysts understood how CT heavy the map was, but to them, it wasn't an issue. Analysts such as Thoorin have actively argued that maintaining heavy CT and T sided maps adds diversity to the map pool. It gives professional teams with different playstyles opportunities to showcase themselves in their own ways. It creates variance in playstyles and in strategy which adds to the viewing experience and the competitive experience.
Initially, I was opposed to this belief. After watching a month of Nuke where it felt like every single match had over 24 CT side round wins, I concluded that enough was enough, that watching teams dominate on CT side made for an unpleasant viewing experience. I was blindsided. I ignored the context and focused solely on the individual map results. I didn't take into consideration the teams playing the maps or the veto system. After enough time I finally came to my senses and realized that the issue wasn't necessarily the map but rather the teams, how the teams were vetoing and how the teams were strategizing.
Nuke has long been a mainstay within competitive Counter Strike. It has always had a special flare to it that made it so entertaining to watch. It's unique in it's verticality. It forces T-side teams to develop intricate strategies to help secure those crucial T-side rounds. Strategy alone - flanks, fakes, map control - could secure your round wins. A map that required excellent pacing and timing. It required an in game leader capable of understanding rotational and positional play, one that would understand how to take advantage of an opponents weakness. It has provided us with classics such as Very Games vs NiP or Virtus Pro vs NiP. Watching the best snipers square off against each other outside near silo and garage, watching are players coordinate and dominate in so many different positions around the map, watching so many tactical outplays and outmaneuvers, it was always a treat.
Now that isn't to say Nuke was flawless. It obviously wasn't. I'm not claiming that valve removing it from the active map pool was a mistake. Nuke obviously had it's imperfections that people rightfully criticized and that valve should re-asses and revamp before implementing the map back into the active duty pool, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to see some nuke game-play. I've been craving and I hope valve do announce something sooner rather than later.
Expand into Asia
Asia has always been a dominant force within esports; whether it be Starcraft, League of Legends or Dota 2, Asia has a prolonged, well established, incredible history within esports.
photo credit // reddit.com
At nearly 1.4 billion inhabitants, China has the largest population on the planet. Consequently China also has one of, if not, the largest gaming audiences on the globe. Currently League of Legends, Dota and crossfire are reaping the benefits of that massive audience. Off the back of China's massive player-base, League of Legends has shattered records year after year propelling itself ahead of all it's competition. What's more is the professional scene has been made the plaything of millionaires and often times, billion dollar investors. Investors offering their players and teams up to million dollar salaries; The players have become superstars with groupies waiting for them wherever they congregate. Teams are investing in real coaches, managers and psychologists. In addition to the massive salaries the owners have acquired large complexes to house their teams within a professional environment. Take a look at EDG's League of Legends team's "gaming house" http://imgur.com/a/Ec7Gm.
China has really made strides for League of Legends but what's really pushed the game to it's highest potential is South Korea. South Korea raised the standards for professionalism, work ethic and overall competition level like no other region has within any other game. As a result, the level of dominance enacted is unparalleled within any scene. A team representing the South Korean league has managed to take home the world championship title every year for the last three years. This year both finalists were South Korean teams.
Korea was also the first region to really take advantage of gaming houses, managers, coaches and strict work regiments/environments. And this isn't something limited to CSGO. In fact Korea's dominance within esports started long before that. Starcraft 1 is where South Korea really established itself as the King of esports. That's right, over a decade and a half ago Korea were paving the way for modern esports. Professional players, professional leagues, professional salaries, government recognized esports associations, live tv broadcasting, professional coaching, professional management, strict work regiment, sister teams... and the ist goes on. Having an established Korea scene in Counter Strike would no doubt heighten the level of professionalism and competition.
While less developed than China and Korea, regions like South East Asia are also pivotal to the success and growth of competing esports.
It's time that Valve made an active effort to appeal to the Asian community. The only way CSGO can rival other esports on the international scale while continuing to grow at an incredible rate is to expand into Asia. The size and passion of the Asian scene is something that I believe Counter Strike deserves, which brings me to my next point.
Host a major in Korea or China
Most people would probably argue it's far too soon to start hosting majors in either of those countries. While they're both obviously capable of hosting incredible events, they lack the teams and the fanbase to fill out the stadiums. And to that I say, you're right. Remember, this list is what I hope happens for Counter Strike in 2016. I hope that CSGO expands quick enough that this is a real possibility. With the recent success of CSGO in China - several teams going full time professional with streams reaching two-hundred thousand viewers - I'd wager that there is potential. CSGO saw unprecedented growth in Europe and North America off the back of majors so I believe it's only reasonable to assume that CSGO could see similar growth in those regions given the opportunity.
While china has unfortunately had a history of running terribly organized events, Korea has had nothing but greatness. Great production, great organization and delivery, great support and in general, great events and shows for both the domestic and international audience. If you want an example of Korea's greatness take a look at OGN's League of Legends finals, OGN's League of Legends introductions, or Starcrafts finals introductions. And last but definitely not least, take a look at South Korea's League of Legends 2014 World Championships.
It's an exciting thought thinking about how much growth there could be or Counter Strike if valve did manae to succeed in expanding into the eastern audience, and it's something I'm incredibly hopeful for moving into 2016. #csgo2asia
EG, pick up a CSGO team
Founded in 1999 by none other than Mr Alex Garfield, Evil Geniuses was initially a Counter Strike team. It hard to believe that it has been this long and they have still failed to acquire a Counter Strike: Global Offensive team. We should note that they did in fact attempt to acquire a team in early 2015, however, plans did fall through when the elected players were banned from competing at Valve majors and most other esports leagues following matchfixing accusations. But I believe that's no excuse for them not to continue pursuing an alternative team. Other esports organisations - teams that don't have any history or affiliation with Counter-Strike - have managed to acquire and develop competitive rosters within 2015, namely teams such as TSM, Liquid and CLG. I see no reason why Evil Geniuses shouldn't also be one of the names listed alongside those other teams.
Evil Geniuses have always been a premier team within esports. With their long and impressive history they've maintained teams in a variety of esports such as League of Legends, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and a plethora of fighting games. The currently boast teams in Halo, Starcraft 2, Fighting games and their crown jewl, Dota 2. Their Dota 2 team recently triumphed in victory in The International 5, Dota 2's world championship, taking home with them a hefty $6.6 million. To go along with that, Evil Geniuses dota 2 squad also took home DAC - Dota 2's Asian Championships, at this event they only managed to acquire a minuscule sum of $1.2 million.
Without a League of Legends team or a Counter Strike: Global Offensive team, Evil Geniuses Dota 2 team really has had to do all the heavy work to try and maintain Evil Geniuses reputation as the greatest organisation in esports. Unfortunately, even with their success, I believe they haven't managed to succeed in doing so. Lacking Rosters within two of the most popular esports is just far too much of a blow.
So it's time, it's time for Evil Geniuses to reclaim their rightful title as the greatest organisation in esports. It's time to come back to the Counter Strike series and develop a competitive roster. Personally, I would love to see them develop a competitive international roster. Acquire star players from Europe and host them over in America with their North American teammates. We all know North America needs all the help they can get right now.
And if Evil Geniuses still aren't interested, at least allow their European branch, Alliance, to involve themselves within the Counter Strike: Global Offensive scene. GGA, please.
I've already mentioned them in the previous section so I'll keep this short.
Ex-IBuyPower, namely Dazed, Steel, Swag and AZK should all be un-banned as soon as possible, in my opinion. I believe they've served their time; a one year ban from competing in any valve major or major league is more than enough.
Although this a hotly debated topic, many fans believing their punishment should be permanent to set an example, I believe making an example out of them is both inefficient, unnecessary and unreasonable. First of all, there weren't any rules in place so valve developing punishments on the whim is both impractical and unprofessional. Secondly, in esports terms, a year is a very long time. Those players potentially missed out on hundreds of thousands of dollars and opportunities to travel the world and represent their region at the highest level. And lastly, their reputations are tarnished now. They'll forever be recognized as those players that threw matches for skins. They'll lose out on sponsor opportunities and the general community will not want to support people who effectively stole from them. Another point, while not an argument for their removing the ban, the IBuyPower players were the stars of North America. They were the only thing keeping Europe from dominating the scene like they did this year. Keeping them locked up actually hinders the scene from an entertainment perspective. It ruins the transatlantic rivalry.
Currently the rumours are that valve will be maintaining the major bans but will allow any other organisation or league to make their decision without any pressure from valve. So this is a request to all those organisations; Please unban the Ex-Ibuypower players.
Also let's not forget to mention that if they do go ahead and remove the bans they should be consistent and also remove the bans from any other players or teams which exhibited the same offense e.g epsilon.
Increase the major prize pools
Ok valve, it has been 2 years now and while we have seen tremendous growth in viewership, playerbase and revenue, we have not seen any increase in the $250k prize pool. Quite frankly I find this pathetic.
We have seen several non valve sponsored major events post up equally large prize pools throughout the entirety of 2015. ESL ESEA gave out $1 million throughout their whole league, $500k for the season and $500k for the finals. Turner Broadcasting recently announced a $2.4 million prize pot for their 2015 seasons which will be broadcasted on live television. Valve themselves announced their Dota 2 majors and funded a prize pool 12x that of CSGO's, $3 million - this goes along side with their $18+ million The International event, an event that has no parallels within counterstrike. Now Dota's majors have only been a recent introduction, CSGO has had majors for over 2 years and the prize pool has not increased at all since the very first one. This, in my opinion, absolutely has to change heading into 2016.
Nobody is asking for $ 3 million prize pools, however, increasing it to a reasonable sum such as $1.5 million or even $1 million dollars is more than enough to satiate me. Games such as Smite, Call of Duty and Halo - games that are no where near as popular or as developed, from an esports perspective - all have championship events with prize pools exceeding one million dollars. At the very least CSGO should have an equally large prize pool.
Yes, I know sticker money exists. I realise that. But sticker money is not given out based on how well you perform. Let us remember that CSGO is an esport. Valve's majors are competitive events. We should be awarding the best teams with the most money. Valve should be awarding based on the teams performance rather than how popular they are. We should also note that even with sticker money, Valve's majors combined fail to surpass Dota's The International event alone. Roughly $12 million was given out at valve majors this year, that's including sticker money and prize money. The international boasts a prize pool of $18 million and that is one stand alone event. Add in Dota's majors and Valve alone are giving out $27 million in prizes to professional teams and that money is given out based on the teams performance rather than popularity.
All in all, we shouldn't expect CSGO's prize pool to ever compete with Dota. Valve's Dota is in a tight competition with RIOT's League of Legends and that gives valve a reason to continue improving on Dota 2 in all aspects. CSGO does not have that rivalry - But that shouldn't matter. There should still be no excuse for valve not support and fund Counter Strike global offensive with the money and support it deserves.
Some additional notes:
I'd love to see Thoorin and ESL get over their past and start working together again. I'm hoping to see a grandprix style circuit similar to that of tennis implemented into csgo next year. And nothing would be greater than having UK players and teams actually be competitive next year.
photo credit // eslgaming.com
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed. Feel free to leave any constructive criticism.