Much has been made about the coronavirus outbreak and its effect on everyday life, including the bans on large public gatherings and travel leading to the cancellation of sporting events across the globe. Esports as a whole has also been adversely affected by the pandemic, with an ever-growing number of LAN events cancelled, postponed or moved online across a wide variety of titles. Though each have their own story to tell, CS:GO is a special beast. Not only is it one of the largest competitively played games out there, the nature of the open circuit and the constant globetrotting, coupled with the disparate decision of the many different TOs puts those involved with in a special sort of bind unseen in other games. However, time may be on our side.
With the esports calendar melting before our eyes, most tournament organizers and teams are scrambling to revamp their plans for 2020. It’s a massive challenge across the entire ecosystem, with a set of added wrinkles in the case of CS:GO esports. With its many third-party tournaments hosted across the globe, there isn’t one big decision-maker like Riot Games or Blizzard’s requisite esports department to make sweeping changes and adjustments that apply to every event at the same time. Though official policymakers will inevitably impact the LAN portion of events (just consider the last-minute decision by Polish authorities about the Katowice playoff attendants), the individual TOs are ultimately all tackling these concerns in a different manner.
Consider the difference between ESL’s Pro League and FLASHPOINT: the entirety of Season 11 of the former competition was moved online while the newly formed league opted to keep the LAN broadcasts going for the group stage of the event, only cancelling their Stockholm playoffs. (To contrast and compare, the RLCS Season 9 World Championship live event slated to take place in Dallas between April 24-26 was fully canceled and even the broadcasts were moved online by Psyonix.)
The recently announced US travel ban on foreign visitors from most of Europe also goes to show the potential of further disruptions going forward. With a growing number of countries around the world placing limitations on travel and entry, and no standardized location for CS:GO events, it’s getting increasingly difficult to predict whether any specific tournament will be able to go ahead at any time until the coronavirus situation is resolved.
The consequences of this can be far-reaching and instantaneous to many different parties. The limits on public gatherings can directly threaten the insolvency of companies behind festivals, and the rapidly changing conditions and growing travel limitations pose an added threat to such events in the esports scene.
That said, if you do have the option to move your event online, that can be a fairly large relief all things considered. The LAN portion of esports tournaments amount to most of the costs and a fairly small part of the returns – a very different case from traditional sports where smaller clubs are much more reliant on matchday revenue and are looking at some fairly dark clouds on the horizon due to this disruption.
In fact, the traditional sports leagues and the directly controlled franchised competitions in esports are both facing major scheduling difficulties – not to mention the sudden problems of broadcasting companies like BT Sports who are now facing gaping holes in their schedules. Euro 2020 may very well be moved to 2021 in order to accommodate for any potential room needed to sort out the currently shuddered club football competitions, and by the same token, one has to wonder how competitions like the LCK or the Overwatch League will be able to crowbar in the cancelled events to round out the calendar and maintain competitive integrity.
There’s also the simple fact that it’s dicey to fly to an event if you don’t know whether you’ll be allowed back home after it’s done. Jamie Padua, FURIA’s founder and CEO suggested that North American teams should not fly to Europe to play in the Pro League, and these complications no doubt played a large part in ESL’s decision to move the league online. It’s also been floated that the US travel ban was also the reason Valve (and ESL) ultimately decided to fully cancel the Los Angeles Major for Dota 2 instead of just playing it behind closed doors.
In fact, rumors are already abound about the restructuring and relocation of this year’s CS:GO Majors as well. Ultimately, the CS:GO calendar is a very different beast than something like Dota, with much fewer Valve-handled events concentrated smaller clusters instead of the sort of quasi-complete control afforded by the DPC, even with the impending new system of Majors increasing the developers’s footprint in the competitive scene.
The clock is ticking on the Rio Minors, and with CS:GO’s growing overall numbers, any disruption to 2020’s first Major would be a painful change of trajectory. However, the calendar is fairly sparse otherwise for the next few months, with the competing leagues sucking up most of the oxygen for the near future. Currently, it seems like the action is only going to pick up in June, with BLAST’s Spring 2020 Showdown slated to start on June 2 and DreamHack Master Jönköping’s openers penciled in for June 9.
This means that as most of the esports world is reeling from the cancellation of events planned for March and April, CS:GO people have a bit of time now that the Pro League and FLASHPOINT have been sorted out. No doubt the global health situation will have the biggest effect on the Counter-Strike calendar, but right now, most of the added complications stemming from the game’s open circuit only add another layer of uncertainty instead of an immediate scheduling catastrophe.