After hearing the news some months ago that ESL One Cologne would not be a major tournament this year, I was disappointed. Since its conception in 2014, Cologne set the benchmark for tournament organizers all over the world. Its ability to provide great games, a great atmosphere and most of all major champions made it a must watch for any Counter-Strike fan. I believe we must credit much of Counter-Strikes transcendence into super-stardom to the infamous ESL One Cologne. This is why I believe, now more than ever, we should continue to support the tournament in the same way despite losing its major status.
At the heart of any tournament, there has to be amazing games; without that the viewer would simply be bored. Over the years Cologne has provided plenty worth watching again and again. One of the most obvious would have to be the 2014 grand final between NiP and Fnatic. At this point in time NiP had made the final of every major, only never to win, with Fnatic the team beating them out in the very first one. The series went to a decider map on Inferno, one of Fnatic’s best maps. However, clutch plays from Adam “friberg” Friberg and Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund sealed their first and only major win.
Another playoff series that stands out is Team Liquid’s win over the same dominant Fnatic side. The crowd was rooting for the Americans and European outcast Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev to get a juicy rematch of the previous major semi-final which Liquid threw away. The Americans narrowly defeated the Swedes 2-0 after winning both maps 16-13. S1mple sealed the deal with one of CSGO’s most memorable plays which earned him an in-game graffiti to commemorate his efforts.
There are even many astonishing group stage games to be re-watched. Hell, we just saw sixty something rounds between Cloud9 and Natus Vincere. One of the most shocking series of all time is Flipsid3 Tactics beating NiP in a best of three at Cologne 2016 knocking them out of the group stage for the first time in CSGO history. One group game full of exciting plays was at Cologne 2016 between Cloud9 and Team Dignitas. Late game heroics from Spencer “Hiko” Martin and Sean “seang@res” Gares secured a much-needed win.
The Mecca of Counter-Strike
Host Alex “Machine” Richardson hailed the LANXESS Arena as being the Mecca of Counter-Strike despite not being the first large-scale arena used in Global Offensive. Fans might be more familiar with the Spodek Arena, the venue for IEM Katowice. The Spodek was first used in 2014 a year before Cologne was moved to the LANXESS, so what makes the latter our very own Mecca?
Until this year IEM Katowice played host to an array of esports titles including Counter-Strike, League of Legends and StarCraft. In previous iterations, all the grand finals were played on championship Sunday meaning that there was an abundance of fans all attending for different games. The LANXESS arena was the first time a large-scale arena was used purely for CSGO. Not only that but it was actually free to get in, meaning that people all over Poland and Europe could attend at very little cost.
Heading into Cologne 2015 people were skeptical as to whether such a huge venue could be filled. However, the European fans did not disappoint. The year saw record numbers with over 12,000 attending in person and a peak concurrent viewership of 1,323,960.
After the removal of betting skins within CSGO, it seemed as if viewership was going to take a big hit. Despite concerns 2016 still saw an increase in attendance with 14,000 fans knocking on the door according to ESL. Even now with the tournament losing its major status it seems as if the pilgrims will be back again this year to echo the arena with their prayers.
— ESL Counter-Strike (@ESLCS) June 30, 2017
ESL and their efforts
Although ESL might be the burden of many mishaps, they have been running events for well over a decade now. They have always stepped up their efforts when it comes to Cologne. Last year the biggest was bringing on PGL to handle the stream. However, that relationship might be a bit frosty now. In spite of that, they are still bringing on new ideas this year. One example was showing the B stream during a technical issue on the main stream. It not only made for better viewing but eases the pressure on the casters.
Just the inclusion of a B stream alone is something many tournament organizers won’t do so they don’t split viewership. The system means that we can have more games played in one day and means that more games are played overall. This avoids teams playing two best of ones and being knocked out of the tournament.
Although ESL One Cologne might not be a major this year I believe it is important that we continue to support it as if it is one.