Call it a Valentine’s Day card: Katowice was super fun, and it also showed how the next generation of players are already knocking at the door, not heeding the clarion calls of the many doomers around the place. Their genuine love for the game also portends well for a potential continuation of the esports winter and promises a great time heading into the RMR.

A farewell to Katowice

Looking back, Katowice was a triumph for the youngsters. Team Spirit’s exploits have been well-documented, even on these pages. What is let to be said about donk that hasn’t been said already, beyond the fact that NiP found yet another way to embarrass themselves through him? Over on the side of the defeated finalists, the ropz-frozen-broky trio in FaZe could also stick around for a decade.

Slotting down to the semis, MOUZ has an entire squad of a brand new generation, ready to compete, with a conveyor belt of academy talent continuing to churn out gold. Even if you look at those who underperformed at Katowice – Vitality and NAVI are the first to come to mind – they also made strides in terms of bridging the generational gap, be it the ruthless dispatching of dupreeh or the less-expected post-s1mple adjustment.

Things were strong from the viewership side as well, with just a smidgen below the million-fan watermark for the grand final’s peak viewership, a neat figure even accounting for just how short the spectacle was. Across the whole event, it marked a 20% growth over the 2023 edition, which is undoubtedly a good sign.

Bring on the RMRs!

Good thing come to those who wait

Perhaps it’s a little silly to say this, but this new generation of talent is also unburdened by a certain sort of bullshit.

As an industry, esports hasn’t lived up to its lofty promises from the past decade, and many games and jobs fell by the wayside as a consequence, most of what remained is consolidating in savvy yet unsavory hands. (Personally, what I found the most disappointing was the emergence of our own set of TMZ-like bullshit drama with streamers and other creators, their actions breathlessly discussed in tabloid format: I thought a generation of oft-ostracized gamers would know better than to succumb to that kind of bullshit.) However, there still remains a lot to enjoy, with bright smiles on our faces, and if anything, CS might be

Valve already have their golden goose and they don’t have to make many of the compromises other actors in the space must. (That didn’t stop them from letting China run roughshod on Dota competitions or a growing number of third-party events ending up in Saudi Arabia, which is a great disappointment, but unlike others, they have the means to cut that stuff out with a two-line e-mail without threatening their own caveat or bottom line, as evidenced by their swift destruction of Counter-Strike’s partnered leagues.)

But no matter which way the industry goes, it’s the bright young players who make me feel great about what is to come for Counter-Strike esports. Talented, intelligent, energetic folks with great work ethic, standing on the shoulders of giants who survived all the late-night LAN parties and the Mountain Dew-poisoning, those who made many of the contractual missteps so that they now wouldn’t have to.

Then again, I've got a feeling that the kid who's been grinding 1.6 at the age of four might not quit CS esports even if the scene ends up facing economic headwinds.

Meanwhile, CS2 may not be perfect, but it’s getting there, and for every annoyed burnt-out player, we can already see that someone from the new generation will rise to take their place. Not many franchises can celebrate competitors who spent their entire childhood playing earlier entries, garnering knowledge that remained relevant all the way to the present – but Counter-Strike, with ZywOo born on the day of its release, and players like donk grinding it before most of us figure out how to read, is a promise of greatness no other game can match.

So smile because it happened. Smile because it will keep happening. CS2 matches continue to be awesome.