As BLAST Pro Madrid approaches, discussions over the series’ influence on the circuit seems to be reaching a fever pitch. As more and more damaging details are revealed about RFRSH’s plans for expansion in 2020 and how top teams keep skipping top-tier events like ESL One Cologne, the upcoming Madrid escapade is going to get the most scrutiny a BLAST event has received to date.
Remember how Jordi Roig defended the BLAST Pro Series in an HLTV interview saying they only take up five weekends on the calendar for every participant? Well, even if you give credence to those arguments – there are very good reasons not to –, a leaked pitch deck seems to indicate that the exclusive circuit is planned to expand to 10-12 events. Interestingly enough, it was Sadokist who revealed this information on Twitter, who also previously intimated that Liquid skipping ESL One Cologne isn’t just a mere rumor. For a caster, he’s playing a really interesting role in this developing story, becoming more and more outspoken about the subject and soft-breaking important news about the matter.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an exclusivity push in CS:GO, but this is by far the most successful attempt so far. In way, you have to congratulate RFRSH for the setup, managing to tighten the screws over the course of a year and a half (the first BLAST Pro event took place in November 2017). It has now reached a point where other tournament organizers cannot reasonably compete – it seems like the teams’ contracts with BLAST essentially directly control which events they can go to, at least if the revelations made on the latest By the Numbers are accurate – and they’ve picked up the biggest teams as well. With an even more expansive circle planned for 2020 – a plan that, you’d likely imagine, already has teams lined up behind it if they’re confident enough to directly pitch it to investors –, it honestly seems like Valve are the only ones that can break this cabal apart at this point.
Counter-Strike’s esports scene was made unique by its uniquely strong slate of third-party tournaments, something that was uniquely suited with Valve’s laissez-faire approach. Say what you will about the DPC and how cool it would be to have a TI for CS:GO, any DOTA 2 event without DPC points is so severely devalued that they struggle to attract top-tier competitors – not necessarily a positive, especially if you consider how DOTA fans are also not entirely satisfied with that setup.
That said, setting a minimum criterion in terms of format to qualify an event for hypothetical “CSPC points” seems like a decent halfway solution. It wouldn’t help with RFRSH’s aggressive marketing push but it would at least force them to create more skillful format for their events. In fact, one of the most interesting questions about the current situation is how different the community’s reactions would be if the BLAST formats were more serious from a competitive standpoint – would there be just this much of an uproar if they were actually “serious” tournament? “Thanks” to RFRSH’s overreach, this is a merely hypothetical one.