In 2014, 250,000 concurrent viewers tuned in to the ESL One tournament on Twitch, watching titans Ninjas in Pyjamas fall to Virtus Pro on their home turf of Poland. That nearly doubled the total who tuned into DreamHack Winter three months before the tournament.
Today, over 1 million concurrent viewers watched Fnatic take this year’s ESL One title in Katowice over Ninjas in Pyjamas. Over 700,000 people tuned in on Twitch, while many more watched on the in-game client.
It certainly helped that the final match was so close. The two Swedish teams traded maps and traded rounds, with Fnatic finally coming out on top in a close 16-13 game on de_inferno. Over the course of the best-of-three match, Ninjas in Pyjamas actually won one more round than Fnatic.
That pushed the game itself set a new record in peak concurrent players. Last year’s article praised Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s steady growth into a peak of 160,000 concurrent players. But this year’s Katowice event shattered that tally with a whopping 595,439 concurrent players.
Of course, that pales in comparison to the 27 million people that play League of Legends every day. Or the 11.2 million concurrent viewers that watched Samsung Galaxy White obliterate Star Horn Royal Club in last year’s League of Legends finale, the Riot World Championships. But that hardly puts a damper on a historic Counter-Strike: Global Offensive event.
In fact, a comparison against League of Legends at this year’s Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) is reason to be even more excited for Counter-Strike fans. Last year, League hit 481,000 concurrent viewers at IEM, a total more than doubling Counter-Strike’s viewership. But this weekend, the first-person-shooter has steadily topped League’s viewer counts on Twitch.
Even the League final, a historic match between the teams with the two biggest fanbases in the world, American side Team SoloMid and China’s Team WE, couldn’t topple Counter-Strike‘s numbers on Twitch, hitting around 640,000 concurrent viewers at its peak.
Granted, that ignores the massive Chinese League viewership (around 2 million viewers for the final). But it’s a sign that Counter-Strike may in fact return to its spot as the most popular esport in the West, something that seemed impossible at last year’s event.
For over a decade, Counter-Strike reigned as North America and Europe’s most prominent esport. When it goes toe-to-toe with the lofty viewer numbers of the no. 1 game on the planet, you know it’s back.
If 2014 was the year of Counter-Strike, perhaps the ’10s is the decade of Counter-Strike.
Photo via ESL One/Flickr