It seems like 2019 is truly the year of the youngsters in Counter-Strike, with the rise of Vitality, ENCE and FURIA in a landscape peppered with big-name retirements and underperforming legends of the game. These exciting new times will undoubtedly mark an important shift in the attitudes of the decision-makers: it’s becoming less and less profitable to stick with those big-name players who can no longer cut it on the servers.
While they’re not quite running literal rings around their older counterparts, the evidence is mounting that the younger CS:GO players are getting ready to make their long-awaited takeover. The advancements in professionalism, support staff and money clearly lengthened the career or the previous generation – similarly to what happened in the world of tennis –, but the performance-related arguments for sticking with the old guard are rapidly dwindling in light of recent top-tier tournament results.
That said, CS:GO orgs have a multitude of reasons to stick with their old stalwarts – some more cynical than others. Leadership qualities and team chemistry can certainly play a part, and the marketing value of their ex-stars can be sometimes too tempting to ignore, even if it has a negative effect on their overall tournament performances. Recently, the extremely high buyouts also had a dampening effect on the market, as evidenced by the lack of those huge post-major roster moves this year that we’ve become accustomed to in the past. With most of the larger orgs sticking to their guns (and gunners), it makes sense that the teams lower down the ladder who were willing to infuse their sides with new blood are rapidly bridging the gap or even superseding their rivals.
This phenomenon is present in basically every region. FURIA’s recent rise highlighted the glaring weaknesses of the MiBR setup; Vitality left G2 in the dust and they’ve now become top-tier contenders with two LAN wins in a short period of time; ENCE’s young guns also established themselves as a top five team in the world, seemingly in the blink of an eye. Even Na’Vi decided to pull the trigger on a long-overdue roster move by shipping out the ineffective Edward for a 20-year-old talent in the region in the form of Winstrike’s Boombl4. Even if you look further down the ladder, you’ll find mousesports and Cloud9 also opting for younger prodigies to aid their rebuilding operations.
Consequently, the teams unwilling to make such changes are getting left behind. Since the start of the year, neither of FaZe Clan, NiP or G2 came anywhere close to a title win, and Na’Vi also had to rely on the tour the force that is s1mple to bail them out on multiple occasions. (Meanwhile, HellRaisers sunk without trace since putting their faith in oskar.) Even if the buyout clauses won’t suddenly shrink in value, we might just see the big orgs break the bank in a different way, opting to pay big for the next generation of CS:GO players. It’s become quite clear that the benefits are huge for those who pick up the right youngsters for the job.