Esports is seeing unprecedented growth and CS: GO is one of the games leading the charge. The Counter-Strike industry has repeatedly broken viewership records and availed new investment from sponsors. The simplistic nature of the game and its ease of understanding provide a good starting point for anyone interested in esports.
However, CS: GO does not have a structured esports circuit. The organic growth of the industry means that multiple tournament organisers host their own tournaments, sometimes even overlapping other events. It is rare to see teams pull back from invites, but top teams are doing so of late. They are allowing their players more time to rest and ensure optimal performance in events that matter to the team. One such example is that of Astralis who decided to skip EPICENTER 2018.
We are sorry to announce that we will not be able to participate in Epicenter in Moscow. The CS:GO calendar can sometimes be a challenge and on the back of a very tough period with a massive traveling schedule, we are forced to give the players time to recover.
— Astralis Counter-Strike (@AstralisCS) October 2, 2018
The Major Champions not participating in the tournament will definitely impact their earnings and exposure. However, it is also important for the team to think about their players’ schedule and its impact on the players’ health and performance.
The growth of Counterstrike is due to the several third-party tournament organisers who have invested millions of dollars over the years. They have expanded Counter Strike’s reach to various parts of the world and ensured its success over the years. The development of Counter-Strike at such a rapid pace would probably not have been possible without the involvement of ESL, FaceIT, Dreamhack, Gfinity, Eleague etc.
However, as more tournament organisers enter the scene, it increases the number of events drastically. This has an adverse impact on the players and the support staff. For players, travelling throughout the world while ensuring top-level performance is always going to be tough.
All other Major esports titles such as Dota 2, Overwatch and League of Legends provide match information to the players several months in advance. There is also a necessity for tournament organisers to space out their events while ensuring adequate travel time and rest for the players. Tournament organisers in Counter-Strike do space out their LAN events to account for several factors. However, the online leagues definitely put brakes on a player’s ability to truly enjoy his ‘rest period’. The online matches are always scheduled in between LAN events and they need a player to be playing counter Strike even while at home.
Online leagues and matches are necessary as a way to establish the overall form and consistency of the teams. However, they are a strain for the biggest names in Counter-Strike. A team like Astralis which is always invited to all the LANs and sometimes still goes through LAN qualifiers has to come home and play online league matches at the end of the day. This is a huge strain and can result in burnout for the players both in terms of skill and mental approach to the game.
Most of the teams rely on sponsorship money to pay their players. Astralis’ decision to take a break and not appear at EPICENTER 2018 is partly possible due to their most recent victories. They won the FaceIT London Major as well as the Blast Pro Series 2018. Having committed to an appearance at EPICENTER, this decision was announced after these victories.
However, for the other teams which did not win a Major and the tournament immediately following the Major, skipping events is not as easy. Teams like Faze and Na’Vi despite their recent loss in form can still skip events. However, it does break the momentum of the team as they see progress within their roster. The break in momentum is crucial in Counter-Strike as a team can have the best-skilled players but there is no guarantee of consistent performance throughout the year.
The choice of being able to take a break is available with only the select few at the top of the scene. For the majority of the teams, which fall in Tier 2 / 3 category, taking a break is not an option. They need to prove their performance to their organisations, their sponsors and their fans. We often see teams overwork themselves despite being moderately successful. The lack of adequate support staff is a big reason for the lack of thought given to players’ working capacity.
The unorganised events in Counter-Strike schedule are exactly why the need for a players’ association grows with every passing year. The tournament organisers will always look to extract the maximum amount of exposure and content that they can, from the teams and players. Their goal is to turn as many profits as they can. While they are not always unaware of player’s concerns, it is not up to them to negotiate the proper schedule and playtime for the players. That is a responsibility that lies solely with the team owners and the players themselves.
Without a collective negotiating power, teams and players do not have a strong enough voice to change the tournament schedule and dates. A tournament organiser will not change the dates for one or two teams. A players union, on the other hand, can decide beforehand a fixed schedule. This is particularly important for online matches which currently take place throughout the year.
However, a recent ESL decision to host only offline matches for ESL Pro league in 2019 raises hopes for players. Hopefully, FaceIT also follows suit. This would allow players enough time to rest. Often players had to play online matches even during their attendance at other LAN events. You can read all about ESL’s decision here.
CS: GO is notorious for achieving its current state in the industry without much in terms of involvement from Valve. The FPS game is one of the easiest games to understand and Valve has let third-party organisers take the lead. In its other superhit game, Dota 2, Valve has stepped in to ensure a proper schedule. They have also laid down several rules regarding the Dota Pro Circuit Season.
In CS: GO, Valve’s involvement is only till the development of the game and the biannual CS: GO Majors. This might be a good time for Valve to set the schedule in CS: GO. They also need to ensure adequate time for the top players and teams to rest.
Counter-Strike is only going to grow further as we head into the future. Other esport titles are already witnessing millions of dollars in investment. And Counter-Strike is a much easier and intuitive game to understand compared to other FPS games in the market.
Valve will not involve itself in the CS: GO circuit at this point, they have stayed away till now. However, with the CSPPA and the player’s awareness of their schedules, we expect tournament organisers to re-organise their events. They will want to allow ample rest for the players. However, for now, we hope other teams can take a cue from Astralis and provide adequate rest for their primary resources, the players.
Our focus should be on the well-being of the players from Tier two teams who cannot always afford to skip events.