Efrag.net’s World Championship is an oasis in the desert, but it’s an oasis where someone has poisoned the waterhole. Despite eSports’ impressive growth over recent years, the scene still lacks tournaments for national teams. Fortunately, TWC goes some way towards filling that gap, at least for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, yet like every other CS:GO competition, the unique international tournament has some serious defects.
The decision to halve the number of finalist on display has added an additional ‘con’ to the predictable pros and cons argument – once again the weighing scales seem to be inevitably shifting towards the negative aspects of the competition. Last year, when Belgrade hosted The World Championship, there were 16 spots up for grabs through continental qualifiers: Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Ocenia and Africa had seven, three, two, two, one and one spot respectively.
But this year, Efrag.net made an inconceivable decision to lower the attendee number to eight, completely alienating fan support from eight separate nations, a move which will inevitably lower the number of viewers who watch the event – bad news for Efrag and TWC 2016.
The main problem faced by Efrag’s World Championship is the number of number of spectators: 165K as the highest in 2015, approximately 12% of the numbers ESL One Cologne 2015 racked up. Reducing the number of attending teams by half, it’s difficult to see how the move will serve to boost those numbers.
Spectators were incentivised to tune in and watch their fellow countrymen play, with there evidently being more than just eight capable national teams. Canada united to cheer for Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey, Xizt and Pronax stand together on stage, Hiko and N0thing can be seen on the same roster once again and perhaps the most exciting spectacle: S1mple alongside Ukranian Na’Vi players. These are the squads the audience wants to see in the finals of Efrag – they stand to lose a large number of spectators who won’t feel inspired to follow the tournament when their nation’s fantasy squad doesn’t participate.
In its current state, The World Championship feels like pre-tournament preparation, rather than being a grand tournament itself. Eight is a number that is incomprehensibly low for an international competition, a significant oversight made by the organiser, but in many ways, the players are just as culpable for trying to sabotage such a unique event.
Last year, some of the scenes star players – perhaps most notably Fnatic and NiP’s Swedish players, with the exception of Pronax and Xizt alongside the entire Virtus.pro and Astralis squads – refused to participate or claimed they couldn’t participate for whatever reason. Wasn’t the $100.000 prize pool enough for them to tolerate playing for their national teams? If you’re an athlete, which professional players claim to be, playing for your country should be your dream even without filling your pockets.
At this point, Efrag ought to contact the deserters and ascertain the reason behind their absence. If it’s a thick schedule, just organise the international event during the off-season like every other sport. If it proves to be the case that the players are being greedy, so be it – increase the prize pool and make sure they attend. Higher viewers, better sponsors and more prestige would prevent the company from losing money and CS:GO would finally having the international event it undoubtedly deserves.