The CS:GO ecosystem is all the better for what HLTV has to offer, and a look at other esports shows it shouldn't be taken for granted.
The announcement of the annual HLTV rankings is always an exciting time for CSGO fans. Regardless of who you might support, or where around the world you hail from, it’s generally the case that when the top players are announced most of the scene will agree that the winners were just, and the losers should have tried a bit harder if they wanted to be the best. It's a sturdy system, one many other esports would kill for.
The reason it’s often hard to argue with who they judge to have been the best player of 2019 in the HLTV ranks is the fact that the site spends the entire year publishing their reasoning in the form of stats, analysis and so on, and would be far less valuable if there were a suggestion of bias. We take this for granted in CS:GO, as do other esports with robust ranking systems, but it’s certainly not the case that every esport enjoys having an organisation like HLTV looking out for it, much as they would love to.
For instance, Super Smash Bros is technically one of the oldest active esports around (although it’s also not if you consider the fact that games like Smash 64 and Melee are lightyears apart from the modern, less-challenging versions Nintendo has released in recent years). The newest iteration, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, recently saw the release of the Panda Global Rankings (PGR) released, to much criticism from the community about issues with the way points are awarded and the lack of balance between regions.
There are certainly problems outside of PG’s control, most of which stem from the fact that the developers of the game do not support the competitive scene and that there is no real esports circuit a player can rely upon outside of North America. A combination of the fact Smash is too small to support a worldwide scene and its consequent focus on NA when it comes to awarding ranking points has meant the list has long been controversial. That’s before you even get to the elephant in the room.
For those who wondered, yes, Panda Global is an organisation, and one that actually sponsors players in the Smash scene. You read that right: a team that has financial interests in players that will appear on the rankings is also involved in the ranking of said players, and pretty much nobody seems to have a problem with this, despite the obvious issues it could cause.
For a start, rankings are used to determine or at least influence seeding at a number of events, and players will also be able to gain sponsors based on them. Likewise, if you are an existing player who has an impressive ranking, your team may be able to parlay that into more favourable deals with sponsors too, which in a scene as small as Smash could be crucial to the survival, sometimes even of an entire organization.
This is not to say that Panda, or any other org, are abusing the system, but simply act as praise for HLTV, and to remind you lovely readers that us fans of the big esports take our privilege for granted at times. To have a site like HLTV act independently (for the most part) and provide the scene with unbiased, stat-based rankings is a massive benefit for any game, and the knock-on effects are felt at every Major and big event by the analysts, fans and even players.
As we look through the list fraggers to be feted and praised for last year's performance, let’s remember that they are among the best coverage sites esports has to offer, and the benefit to CS:GO goes far beyond just the writers who enjoy having a great repository for facts and figures. So remember to toss them a coin and express your thanks next time you have a chance, as not all esports are lucky enough to have a reliable player ranking system.
Photo credit: HLTV