The next CS:GO Major will once again be making its way back onto American soil – organised and produced by Turner’s ELEAGUE, with the grand finals being aired live on TBS. At face-value this announcement bears nothing but a net positive for the community as a whole with the prospective TV audience set to bolster the tournaments viewing numbers, but there are many nuanced caveats that might put the brakes on that initial TBS hype train.
Outside of the uptick in production quality and the mainstream ‘validation’ that eSports, and more specifically CS:GO receives from being on TV, ELEAGUE hosting of the Major has so far instigated very little change to the competition itself. Currently, the same format, qualification system, rule set, map pool, and prize pool will be used as for the January Major.
Although this is by no means a criticism against Turner or ELEAGUE, it runs counterintuitive to the steps that Valve have clearly been making over the last couple of months – implementing community feedback in an attempt to proactively improve the game and scene as a whole.
With countless bugs being squashed and the overall quality of life improvements, it’s surprising to think that this same level of care and attention to community detail hasn’t transferred outside of the game. The most significant features that the community and pro scene have been calling for centre around the tournament format of the Major itself and crowd-funded prize pools.
The single-elimination, 16 team pool, and Bo3 Grand Final nature of the major have been the most heralded points for change, a format that has pervaded since the first Major back at Dreamhack Winter 2013. Valve’s Dota 2’s International, utilising the format, has one of the most widely hailed tournament structures and prize pools in all of eSports.
With the buzzword of ‘oversaturation’ being thrown around in nearly conversation around the scene, the timing of the ELEAGUE major could not be scheduled for a worse time, The back-end of 2016 will already present some of the largest tournaments to ever grace CS:GO: the ESL Pro League Finals, ELEAGUE Season 2 Finals, and IEM Oakland to name but a few.
Both the Minors and actual Major qualifiers being held in the peak of traditional holidays means teams are forced to work overtime in bootcamps in the lead-up to the tournament, in order to be running at maximum efficiency for the most prestigious, televised, Major to-date.
This raises many issues in regards to the workload of players, marred hype for fans, and constant travel for the paid on-screen talent line-up of these big events. This puts the ball firmly in the court of players and community members to create a solution for holiday time, whether it be in the form of a union, league or general tournament organiser agreement.
There are rumours circulating that there will now only be two Majors held every year, as opposed to the three that were in 2014/2015. Whilst this does ironically alleviate some of the oversaturation issues mentioned earlier, it also begs the question of the selection process for the tournament organisers of the Majors.
One can only imagine that with ESL’s illustrious history of running Majors at both Cologne and Katowice, the second and final Major of 2017 will most likely be held at ESL One: Cologne, leaving any other prospective bidders for a chance at running the prestigious Majors, waiting for 2018. This is remarkably surprising considering the massive acclaim that MLG received at the start of this year for the first North American Major – MLG Columbus 2016 – and the interesting things both StarLadder, and FACEIT have done with their large prize pools and unique in-game customisation (seen in the StarLadder team gloves below) in their own tournaments.
Whilst it might make the most sense out of all of these names to pick ELEAGUE with the promise of TV audience’s and a sizeable financial backing from Turner, it also begs the what if question, with regards to how other organisers would put their own unique spin on a Major.
Whilst there are some important issues to highlight with this January Major, fans of good Counter-Strike should not be dismayed. With the most stacked LAN qualifier in the history of the game, combined with a television audience in the finals and a long break since the last Major – the hype from fans will be palpable in the lead-up.