Almost every esport has some type of World Championship: a culmination of a season, year, or league; something that teams fight just appear in once a year. League of Legends has Worlds, Dota 2 has The International, Call of Duty has the World League Championship, but CS:GO has no equivalent. Instead, it has the Majors: two opportunities throughout the year to be a global champion.
Typically in esports, two types of tournaments matter the most to fans and to players: the one with the most prize money and the one sanctioned by the developer. Usually the two coincide. But that line is sometimes muddied in CS:GO esports with the development of the Major format, and that can make it difficult for teams to decide which to truly aim for. Regardless, the current structure not only gives top-tier teams double the chance to achieve global domination but it opens up more chances for teams to fight for their own version of success outside of Valve-sanctioned events.
Of course every CS:GO team in the world wants to hold up that Major trophy and will fight till the end to even make an appearance at an event, but if that doesn’t happen it’s not the end-all, be-all for that team. When OpTic launched its CS:GO division in 2016, Valve had just begun reconstructing CS:GO esports, limiting Majors to two a year and increasing the number of teams to 24 while increasing the prize money from $250,000 to $1 million. But in the end, when that title is earned six months later, it will be awarded to another team. With an equal prize pool, with equal honor.
Thanks to the rich history of the scene, the saturation of talent in the community, and the tournament organizers that support the scene, there’s various amounts of ways for a CS:GO team to find their own version of success.
Consider that the ELEAGUE Premier and WESG were both non-Valve events and yet they both had at least a $1 million prize pool. Two events that, despite a difference in format, were held to a standard just as high as the Majors themselves. In January, Cloud 9 won the ELEAGUE Major but in July they only reached 7th/8th at the ELEAGUE Premier. Both tournaments with equivalent prize pools.
Similarly with ESL, ZOTAC, Gfinity, DreamHack: all well known tournament organizers that hold competitions simply because the community is hungry for it. In 2017 DreamHack Open gave out $900,000 in prize money across nine different events throughout the year and none were won by the same team.
But is that how you factor success? By prize money? By Major wins? Appearances? Win record? Why not all of the above? Or maybe none of the above. The competitive CS:GO community is unique in the sense there is no World Champion. Surely the Major titles are important, but they’re expendable.
Rankings and outside opinions matter less now more than ever. Most public rankings consider Astralis first across the board, factoring in success at multiple Valve and non-Valve events. But if you factor in prize money, Fnatic takes the lead due to flat out being a presence in Counter-Strike since even before the beginning of Global Offensive esports, winning three Valve events in the history of CS:GO and simply participating in more events. Those same public rankings classify Fnatic in 8th, 11th, and 7th.
One ranking sits OpTic at 14th in the world. Another at 20th and another at 27th. Does this affect the way the team plays? Of course not. We hold proud our North American titles when the team was new, achievements at ELEAGUE, and recently advancing to our first Major since 2017. Nothing came without hard work and dedication, especially when completely changing regions this year. And even if we fail at the Major we will still consider ourselves successful because of the standard we hold ourselves to.
Competitive CS:GO is quite literally a cut throat environment due to the Majors format and there’s no way around it. But thanks to the dedication of the community and tournament organizers it’s very well possible to find a certain level success in this booming esports scene.
We’re certainly lucky to have it, and certainly lucky to be part of it in any facet. #GreenWall