ESL’s recent statement claiming that this year’s Pro League, despite still only being in the group stages, has already surpassed the viewing figures of the entire viewership of the whole of the previous event was great, if unsurprising, news to hear. In the past the two weeks Esports, with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in particular, has experienced a serious boom in popularity. On top of the rising viewership, Counter-Strike has broken its record for concurrent players twice in the same timeframe, having 1 million and then 1.3 million players active last week.
You could obviously point to events in the wider world as a foot-up for the game, Counter-Strike’s sudden surge in Chinese players isn’t necessarily a coincidence, but this was a trend that has been on an upward trajectory for a good few years. CS:GO is a game that requires immense levels of skill and provides the level of excitement other sports usually have to reserve for their major finals. There’s never been a better time to get involved in the scene, but we’re going to look at 3 of the top reasons why here.
The High Skill Ceiling
Unlike MOBAs like Fortnite, League of Legends or Dota, Counter-Strike isn’t a game that is particularly hard to follow. Two teams of five compete over a best of 30 series of rounds that last two minutes or so, one team is the ‘T’ side (Terrorist side) that have to plant a bomb in one of two bomb sites whilst the ‘CT’ side (Counter-Terrorist side) have to stop them. Even if you have never seen a CS match in your life, it’s an easy premise to follow and get wrapped up in.
With that being said, unlike something like Call of Duty, Counter-Strike has a skill ceiling high enough that allows the serious pros to flex their muscles. Each and every map is designed differently, with certain variances to maybe hand either side a slight edge, which allows teams to master their own ways of playing. On top of actually being good at the game, CS pros need to know all the callouts, rotations around the map, the placement and knowledge of where/when to throw each type of grenade and develop a strategy on when or what to buy weapon-wise. Ultimately, there’s a reason why they have coaches.
Like most games in the entertainment world, Counter-Strike jumped to a free-to-play model last year. All you need is a Steam account and away you go. Valve Corporation has a well polished matchmaking system that only pairs you with players around your own skill level and has various training courses and the ability to play offline with bots of varying skills to help the casual players hone their skills.
On top of that, whilst the rest of the world of sport does everything it can to alienate their fans via lucrative sponsorship deals with the likes of Sky Sports and BT, Counter-Strike is readily available and free to stream on sites such as Twitch, YouTube or via Valve’s own streams via Steam. CS:GO has one of the most stacked calendars in the world and one of the best collection of organisers, as well as the added benefits that come with rolling chatrooms on these platforms.
There’s A Team For Everyone
Counter-Strike is arguably the most geographically diverse Esport of any title out in the market currently. Unlike games like Dota, Overwatch and League of Legends where Asian teams are usually dominant, Counter-Strike has its hub in Europe. Fnatic, Team Vitality, Na’Vi and Ninjas in Pyjamas all recruit players exclusively from their homelands, whilst Astralis, always a favourite in esports betting markets as the world’s best side, are arguably Denmark’s biggest sports side now.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t sides dotted around the world that don’t compete at the very highest level however. Renegades and 100 Thieves have sides based from Australia and New Zealand, TYLOO is China’s best CS side, FURIA and MiBr fly the flag for Brazil and Evil Geniuses and Team Liquid represent North America, with the latter currently possessing the record for the fastest Counter-Strike Grand Slam.
Counter-Strike is a game of high skill ceilings, adrenaline-pumping bursts of action and possesses a level of engagement for fans both online and at events around the world, on a scale that few other sports (electronic or otherwise) can compete with. With the game free to play and watch, and its popularity only on the verge of surging further in the months and years to come, there’s never been a better time to get involved.