Esports is a rapidly growing market: it is exptected to bypass 1 billion in revenue (see Statista.com) this year and experts don’t see the trend settling down anytime soon. Any market growing at this rate will attract interest from people who have previously had no interest in the business and if you’re one of them you’ve come to the right place.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the by far the biggest first-person shooter (FPS) esports game in the world. In 2018 CS:GO’s Major Tournament was the third most watched esports event in the world with over 61 million viewers in total and 1.3 million simultaneous viewers at its peak (according to escharts.com). As esports grows as a spectator sport attracting more and more “regular” people (more of those who don’t play the game themselves) I have a firm belief that CS:GO will surpass the current biggest games Dota 2 and League of Legends. I’ll explain why.
CS:GO In A Nutshell
As said above, CS:GO is the only relevant FPS game in the esports market. League of Legends (LoL) and Dota 2 are both MOBA games (multiplayer online battle arena). In CS:GO you have two teams of 5 players: one team attacks (terrorists) and the other one defends (counter-terrorists). A game of CS:GO consists of about 2 minute rounds and once 15 rounds have been played, the teams switch sides. The team that gets 16 rounds on the board will win.
There are seven different maps (which change from time to time, keeping the game always fresh) on which the game is played and each of them requires different kinds of strategies. Each team has its own “map pool” meaning the maps that they are good on. A single game can be played on a single map or it can be in a series of multiple maps – usually three. A best of 3 series would then be played on three different maps, unless one team will win two in a row. An average map lasts about 40-50 minutes unless it ties at 15-15, then there will be an overtime.
The “easy to learn, hard to master” nature of CS:GO makes it a fantastic spectator esport: it’s extremely easy to get basic understanding of what’s happening on the screen and the more you watch the more nuances you start picking up. When two even teams meet, there will be numerous intense moments and some breathing room during build-up phases thanks to CS:GO’s money system (weapons and utilities cost money). The various heroes, monsters, spells and abilities in MOBA games require a lot more studying before you can even begin to understand what’s going on. In CS:GO it’s a level playing field for everyone: all “characters” have the same abilities – it’s raw skill and teamwork that will set the teams apart in a match. This is a story that is ultimately the same in every team based sport.
Show Me The Money
Top professional CS:GO players are millionaires (read more) even if you only count prize money, but the player salaries and transfer fees are also catching up on the big boy sports. A famous CS:GO deep throat neL (a journalist working for French esports media 1PV) most recently revealed some numbers behind the trade of Benjamin “blameF” Bremer to a US based team called Complexity: $500.000 for the transfer and a $25.000 monthly salary. And blameF is not even considered a top player, he is more of an up-and-comer.
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Professional CS:GO organizations behave like in any other sport: they participate in leagues and tournaments, create content and advertise their sponsors. They attract fans and engage with them, create stories and most importantly compete. Players can have their individual streams where they interact with their viewers and teams can have their own YouTube channels on which they post videos. Especially the streaming aspect in esports make these stars of today a lot more easily approachable than star football players for example.
There’s more and more CS:GO tournaments going on all over the world: at the time of writing there are events coming up in São Paulo, Bangkok, Sydney, Hanoi, Mexico City, Kuala Lumpur, Copenhagen, Beijing, Atlanta, Shanghai, Arlington, Jönköping, Jakarta (source: HLTV)… and all of these will take within the timespan of less than two months. These events will have hordes of fans purchasing a ticket to the venue to cheer for their favourites and countless more will be watching the games online. They will commentate, speculate and share content in social media, just as in any regular sport. Esports is yet to pivot into pay-per-view model, but many experts believe it will happen in the near future.
Technology is unsurprisingly an integral part of CS:GO: in order to properly compete you must have proper equipment. In addition to a computer there’s a wide array of different gaming oriented peripherals: gaming mice, monitors, headsets, keyboards, mouse pads and even mouse bungees (it’s a device that holds your mouse cable out of your way). Gamers are constantly looking for new gear that will suit them better, ask their peers for insight and experiences, Google reviews and so on. There’s a lot more to cover about comparing highly sophisticated electronic devices than shoes with studs on them, so there are plenty of sites to choose from (see CSGOGuru.com for example).
All of these products are being sold with the faces of esports stars: want to aim as good as the best player in the world? Buy the gaming mouse he uses! Just like the aspiring young footballers who want to be just like Cristiano Ronaldo and start drooling over the newest set of Nike’s he’s wearing. It’s extremely targeted and effective marketing.
Tech giants like Logitech and HyperX are constantly creating new models aimed specifically for gamers, but there’s also room for newer companies to make some buck: we’ve seen new brands like Endgame Gear and FinalMouse pop out of nowhere and gain popularity through their campaigns with professional players – they have deals with players to only use their mice. They know that it’s a common thing to look up what gear the role models are playing with and using it as their advantage. Even the biggest esports Wiki site Liquipedia that is covering all kinds of data about professional players reveal the peripherals they are using. Social proof at its finest.