When 727,000 people tuned in to watch the grand final between G2 Esports and ENCE at IEM Cologne, the event became the most-watched non-Major tournament in the history of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). This latest record marked a fitting finale for the last gig in the game’s competitive history before its pro players and playerbase move over to its upcoming successor, CS2. In celebration of CS:GO’s final act on the stage, let’s take a look at the reasons why CS:GO has established itself as the world’s greatest Esport.
Whenever you’re trying to make something appealing to a mass-market of consumers, it’s vital that your product doesn’t scare off any newcomers. Games like League of Legends or Dota 2 are stalwarts in the Esports space, but it’s safe to say these Massive Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games aren’t nearly as accessible to those who haven’t played them before as CS:GO is. Thanks to the longstanding popularity of games like Call of Duty or Fortnite, almost every gamer has an understanding of what a first-person shooter (FPS) looks and plays like, with most casuals being able to call upon real-world experience in games like paintballing to work out how their game modes work.
The same is the case for CS:GO. Two teams of five, one acting as the offensive the other as defence, attempting to kill eachother or successfully detonate/defuse a bomb from one of two bombsites on a map. Even if you have never seen a CS:GO match before, it doesn’t take more than a handful of rounds to be able to dive in and understand what’s going on.
The perfect Esport is the one that can appeal to a large playerbase with an easy entry level, but hold them for hundreds of hours with a stacked skill ceiling. The best Esports games have been dominating the industry for over a decade now, showcasing their impressive range of strategies and competitive metas that never allow even pro players to feel like they have ever ‘cracked’ the game.
And whilst CS:GO might be an easy game to grasp, it is incredibly difficult to ever claim that it has been conquered. Everything from a shifting map pool, the volatility of the economy system that can swing with every kill to the natural chaos that can arise from the quality of communication in the server, CS:GO is a game that always manages to throw something new in with every event.
It’s safe to say that whilst Esports is a giant industry, most of its leading titles are very concentrated in certain countries or regions. The majority of Overwatch professional players are Korean, LCK and LPL teams have won 10 League of Legends World Championships, whilst France still dominate the top tier of competitive Rocket League.
CS:GO, on the other hand, is perhaps the most global Esport on the market. Teams from Europe, North America and South America have all won Majors in the past, and international lineups have become the norm for most orgs. One look at the Esports markets at Unikrn.com will showcase the vibrancy in countries and nationalities competing at CS:GO events. This diversity not only makes for a more interesting competitive scene, but also allows the game to be marketed to hundreds of thousands more fans around the globe.
We touched on it earlier, but the real hero of CS:GO’s success is its gameplay formula. MOBA titles are the masters of strategy, communication and long-term planning, whilst side-scrolling fighter games have that fast-paced adrenaline-pumping experience, but no title is able to blend all of these facets together quite like Valve’s FPS. Winning a game of CS:GO requires patience, resilience, strategy, concentration, focus and the ability to think five or six rounds in advance. However, it also allows for instantaneous, split-second moves that demonstrate an otherworldly reaction times to get a crowd’s pulses racing. It is this winning formula that has made the game such an enduring part of the industry, one that millions of people always make time to tune in to.
CS:GO has one of the most well-developed and stacked competitive calendars in the industry. Teams are constantly on the road to packed out venues for the latest S-Tier event, with prize pools regularly surpassing the $1 million mark. Not only does this make the game one of the most potentially lucrative for a budding pro or organisation, but it means the stakes are amped up each time two rivals go up against one another in the server. Venues such as the LANXESS in Cologne or Spodek Arena in Katowice have become cathedrals for the entire Esports industry, being kitted out annually with jaw-dropping production values on everything from the cast, commentators, make-up, sound and lighting, refreshments and merchandise to the in-studio entertainment between matches.
All of this magic going on behind the game allows the world’s best players to strut their stuff and write unforgettable storylines whenever they step onto the stage. CS:GO pros have come to embrace their new rock-and-roll superstar status in a way that is still alien to most other players in other games. This added dose of stardom makes CS:GO just as much a show as it is a competitive sporting spectacle.