CSPPA and MTG announce progress while Valve throw a wrench in the works.

Yesterday, the Counter-Strike Professional Players’ Association announced it would be included in some sort of fashion with the administration of MTG’s consolidated CS:GO tournament series, the ESL Pro Tour. In a joint press release, the CSPPA and MTG announced that the unofficial official CS:GO union will become partners with MTG’s DreamHack and ESL properties to “establish the participation framework for professional CS:GO players in the ESL Pro Tour.”1

The statement discloses few details, but outlines how the CSPPA will be wielding its influence as part of this new agreement. It suggests that the CSPPA will be negotiating revenue splits between MTG and players (outside of prize pools), as well as rights to players’ likenesses, and promotional expectations for players during competition. There’s a lot to be happy about if you’re a professional CS:GO player, in this agreement.

And normally, that would be it as far as analyzing news about changes to the CS:GO scene.

But this is no longer a normal situation.

Valve have seen fit to overhaul the qualification system for their semi-annual Major tournaments. Starting with this year’s as-of-yet unannounced Fall Major, teams will no longer qualify solely based on their previous Major results, and instead based on a points system from the Spring Major (organized by MTG) and two other unannounced tournaments.2

These two additional tournaments seem to will receive $250k USD in funding from Valve. The goal? Find the top sixteen teams and seed them into the Fall Major based on three tournament results.

On the face of it, Valve’s reasoning isn’t entirely wrong, here. Until these changes go into effect, the biggest challenge for top CS:GO teams in maintaining their position is not qualifying for the next Major, it has been keeping their five man rosters together in such a way that allows them to keep their Major invitations.

I’m bullish on this new system. It means team management will be more important than ever, and I hope that means that more teams will take more seriously the role of the sixth (or seventh) player for their squads. And I’m not talking about the coach. In my opinion, substitute players need to be given more priority and more consideration. Continuity of the squad and the flexibility of tuning your starting five to best compete with the opposing roster is a factor in competitive CS:GO—and esports at large, too—that isn’t nearly as exploited as it should be.

The biggest catch in this new system? The CSPPA is calling for a tournament break from 15 July to 15 August. I foresee many tweets of disappointment and frustration over the course of the weekend. If there’s one thing top-tier esports TOs have learned over the last year, it’s that it might be an unpopular decision to overlap your top-tier event with another.

In the context of yesterday’s MTG/CSPPA agreement, I believe it’s probably the move that sets MTG up for even greater success in 2020. With the players’ voice now at the table—something that doesn’t appear to be a reality when it comes to interfacing with Valve—MTG have gone from absolute mad lads to absolute mad lads with regards to the future of professional CS:GO. MTG have always shouldered the majority of the weight of carrying the professional CS:GO scene for years, and, for what it’s worth, I’m glad they’re taking this new endeavor seriously by including the CSPPA from the near-enough-as-makes-no-difference start.

Valve’s plans to shift its Major qualification system wasn’t announced publicly, however, so it’s important to understand that nothing’s been set in stone when it comes to the Fall Major. Even so, Valve’s public communication strategy doesn’t prioritize keeping the public in the loop until there’s something concrete to announce (something about a third piece of episodic content called, even though it’s current fucking year). I wouldn’t expect any official news until we’re a bit further along in the pitch process for these summer qualification tournaments.

B Site: the NA-based alternative CS:GO league

DeKay reports that a new CS:GO league, B Site, will be launching a competitive series in early 2020. Twelve teams will pay $2m USD for a franchise slot and partial ownership of the league. While other NA-based forays failed as a result of including exclusivity agreements on its teams, B Site will not place similar restrictions on participating in other tournaments. 1

While participating in events outside of semi-annual Major tournaments should be free from contractual limitation, B Site’s proposed schedule of three month-long regular seasons followed by a tournament playoff with a year-ending LAN final could easily eat up half a year of time in planning and execution. Forget the two million USD investment on a slot, that’s a huge time commitment for these organizations.

I wonder how MTG feel about the prospect of a successful NA-based venture stealing their thunder after being rebuked again for attempting virtually the same thing. Well, nearly the same thing.

How about the realistic returns on investment for orgs and rosters? DeKay shows off a chart of a projected revenue share and it’s a substantially higher rate than what the same chart claims MTG pay out for its ESL Pro League participants.

VP tops SK in a seemingly half-filled arena

I watched the grand final of DreamHack Masters Las Vegas last night and I’ve got a few questions that I want to, at first, ask rhetorically then immediately revert to type by spilling disorganized prose into this post via my keyboard.

DreamHack sure as hell doesn’t give a shit about fucks, right?

Personally, I don’t mind the lack of a language filter when it comes to expressing how important a previous play was or how impossible it appears that a certain team would lose in a situation, but compared to the last big CSGO tournament, the ELEAGUE Major (which Valve are keen on identifying as the Atlanta Major presented by ELEAGUE), there seemed to be a more relaxed-yet-mature atmosphere surrounding the entire production. While innuendo wasn’t necessarily the center stage of analyst desk segments and floor interviews, I don’t think the amount of joking present in this establishment was terribly out of place or demeaning to the nature of the broadcast.

How about them Poles, folks?

Virtus.Pro proved it deserves to remain a top-tier professional team by defeating the recently reorganized SK Gaming roster to win DH Masters Las Vegas two games to one (8-16 Cobblestone, 16-11 Train, 16-13 Mirage). The $200k USD first prize is a slightly bigger payoff than the team’s second place showing at the Atlanta Major and it’s about time.

SK’s roster woes aren’t really woes, but I’m sure they’re pretty disappointed with how quickly VP deconstructed their game plan. When the Virtus-plow is on point, you get rekt. Considering VP only needed the one map to warm back up after an extended downtime from playing, it’s pretty clear that the Polish side have rediscovered the advantage to its rock-solid roster in the current meta of CSGO.

Where was the audience?

I think it’s safe to say that the attendance for such an important event for CSGO was a little disappointing. There’s so many pockets of empty seats that are shown on camera even during wide-shots of the stage between rounds.

Now, I understand the MGM Grand arena is a considerably larger venue for a States-side DreamHack event to be held in, but you’d think they would be trying to give out tickets left and right to entice people to take a winter vacation to Las Vegas and watch a premier offline CSGO tournament live.

After taking two seconds to look up ticket prices to see how expensive it was to get into the arena for the weekend, I instantly understood why the areas in front of teams were filled with so many patches of empty seats: they were assigned to the $150 Premium ticket holders.

A bit of an oversight for an event that didn’t sell out.