As one of the most consistent, competitive, and dynamic esports video games, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was hit surprisingly hard by the scheduling shakeups of 2020. The Fall Major Championship was canceled and, though the regional major rankings (RMR) are looking to account for the lost action, there may be long-term effects for the CS: GO esports community.
With IEM Katowice already passed, top competitors have until early July to prepare for the ESL One Cologne start date. While professionals cram in extra training time, esports punters can refresh their betting skills. Given the popularity of the first-person shooter, CS: GO tips are easy to find, and offer breakdowns on some of the biggest teams like Astralis and Team Vitality.
However, some of the biggest names in the pro CS: GO world won’t be on the roster for the 2021 PGL Stockholm Major. In December of 2020, multiple competitors retired from Counter-Strike, with 60 experienced professionals stepping down amid some 200 retirements. Is the stop-and-go nature of the 2020 esports season to blame, or is it something else?
A Shift to Europe
Issues surrounding canceled events are certainly contributing factors for the case of retiring professionals. With fewer events, there’s more competition to win big at tournaments that were played last year. The winnings are slimmer—which is already an issue considering how many players compete in CS: GO.
Additionally, many teams are moving to Europe to take advantage of the worldwide competitions regularly hosted in Poland, Scandinavia, and Germany. Of the 60 professional retirees, 33 came from North America, which could hint that the CS: GO market is shifting to another global region. Players residing in Canada, Mexico, and the US may shift to compete in other games in order to meet local demand for esports athletes.
Other answers could simply be in burnout or disinterest, as could be the case with top FaZe Clan competitor Olofmeister.
Big Business: Valorant
In addition to CS: GO’s shift to the European market, Valorant’s return is likely to be bigger money for North American competitors. The 33 players mentioned above could simply be shifting to compete in Valorant.
For example, Australia’s DickStacy, one of the country’s top CS: GO competitors, is now competing for ORDER in Valorant. The same goes for ANGE1 of the Ukraine, who now competes for FunPlus Phoenix; for ScreaM of Belgium, who now competes for TeamLiquid; for daps of Canada, who now competes for NRG; and for nitr0 of the United States, who now competes for 100 Thieves.
Reports surrounding the high numbers of CS: GO retirees may project a dismal future for esports, when in fact the recent switches to Valorant signal that the pool of esports athletes is diversifying their skill sets and helping elevate the level of competition in Valorant tournaments.
Cheating Scandals Rock CS: GO
Lastly, one of the major issues contributing to the large number of retirees in Counter-Strike last year are the number of cheating scandals to occur in major tournaments. Established professionals could be attempting to distance themselves from any activity that could compromise their integrity in the industry.
Across the esporting world, issues related to hacking and match-fixing have provided challenges for governing organizations like the International Esports Federation. As the industry matures, organizations will have more tools and know-how when it comes to combatting results-tampering.
But even matchmaking platforms like Electronic Sports League (ESL) has been caught mining Bitcoin through a gaming client in 2013. Other concerns, like a KQLY shot or the Olofpass Boost, have been peppered in throughout the formative years of professional tournaments and teams. With less controversy surrounding cheats, Valorant and other games may be more attractive for professionals.