Insomnia63 : Have we fallen out of love with Counter-Strike?
So as we have no official stream or GOTVs on Day one, I decided to tailor my skills and go on a little bit of a writing rampage, especially as the usual crew I play with are also away currently. It is day one of the insomnia63 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament for a whopping £30,000 and I wanted to have a look at the numbers.
Writers Note: I started this during the Friday of insomnia63, and have since carried on after the LAN event (when I’ve had time).
I am not one for hyperbole or getting incredibly negative around numbers at LAN events, but looking at Battlefy for the last few days has had me in a little bit of quandary. This event sees probably the worst return of teams that we’ve seen at an iSeries event for a long time. With 44 teams to boot, it basically looks like Counter-Strike in the UK has finally kicked the bucket. Now I’m not saying that 44 teams constitutes as a “dead game” but one must ask, how much life is left in the old game as we are now past the 6th birthday of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive? There could be many factors to this, but when you have £30k on the line, and the top 16 getting paid, then somewhere down the line, teams should have been at insomnia63 this weekend.
Of course there are many factors around the low numbers for this specific event, so I will cover that however, here is the numbers at each event since CS:GO’s introduction at iSeries.
i47 CS:GO – £4k – 23 teams – Winter
i48 CS:GO – £4k – 29 teams – Spring
i49 CS:GO – £7.5k – 43 teams – Summer
i50 CS:GO – £2.5k – 24 teams – Winter
i51 CS:GO – £3k – 37 teams – Spring
i52 CS:GO – £7.5k – 54 teams – Summer
i53 CS:GO – £4k – 32 teams – Winter
i54 CS:GO – £10k – 47 teams – Spring
i55 CS:GO – £7.5k – 80 teams – Summer
i56 CS:GO – £7.5k – 54 teams – Winter
i57 CS:GO – £5k – 56 teams – Spring
i58 CS:GO – £7.5k – 80 teams – Summer
i59 CS:GO – £5k – 47 teams – Winter
i60 CS:GO – £7.5k – 70 teams – Spring
i61 CS:GO – £7.5k – 67 teams – Summer
i62 CS:GO – £7.5k – 59 teams – Spring
So the evolution of CS scene for Global Offensive has been a steady growth but we are seeing a small decline here at iSeries in recent times. Tough to compare to the Counter-Strike: Source scene as I’ve lost my archived numbers from the events back then and the former Clanforge website has since been taken down. But I know the heights we reached were i36/i37 with 121 teams, with averages spread across the iSeries being 70 – 90 at Spring, 90 – 120 at Summer and 40 – 60 at Winter events. CS:GO has seen a slightly different path, we haven’t breached 90 teams let alone 100 teams, whilst Spring iSeries has been the more steady out of the three (now two). Both i55 and i58 aside, Spring 2017 was the bigger event out of the two with a similar trend being set this year. Are we seeing people opt to go earlier and steer clear of the usual busy Summer event?
Here are some of the reasons as to why people may not be in attendance at insomnia63.
Peak Summer Holiday time
With the six weeks holiday in full flow currently, the bank holiday weekend, sees families travel away for a short holiday in the country and escape to the beaches that the UK has to offer. Whilst this excuse could be used every year, we are seeing that people are opting for family holiday’s away this weekend, especially as our audience of old have become family men as evidenced with my recent interview with Jay “f00b” Davenport as he explained his team’s schedule is full of navigating wives and kids and everything around family life. Are we all just getting older and is the fact that the game being 6 years old now, means less new blood coming through?
It’s certainly a question to ponder anyway.
The Reading/Leeds Festival effect
So as always is tradition on Bank Holiday weekend, there are a series of festivals across the country, the two major festivals being Reading & Leeds which always have the biggest of headliners and music artists. We know for a fact that some of the UK’s elite players had made their way to Reading or Leeds this year, but is that really something that wipes out 20 odd teams from the Spring event early this year? I might say that it really isn’t a factor considering the Reading & Leeds festivals have been around for many years now and have never really seriously impacted the numbers at a Summer LAN event.
So what else could it possibly be?
The Battle Royale Effect
So if you didn’t know, or had lived under a rock for the last 12 – 18 months, the battle royale genre has been sweeping the globe. First it was Player Unknown Battlegrounds that captured the casuals and competitive types alike, then it was Fortnite. Now after both games have become incredibly successful seeing millions of players flock to the games and millions of dollars being thrown into the prize pools, nearly every game publisher is trying to incorporate the genre into their latest titles, with both FIFA and Battlefield being this years games to showcase the genre somehow.
Of course with the rise of both games, we have seen a correlation in Counter-Strike’s high player base dwindling to the latest low of being cut in half effectively on a daily basis. The latest count being 450k players today (September 2nd). From the highs of 800 – 900k in the past that could raise the alarm bells. Although in the grand scheme of things we shouldn’t really be worried at this point until Counter-Strike comes down to under 100k peak.
The interesting part of this is that UK players are starting to break through in both PUBG and Fortnite with Alex “vard” Gouge and Justin “MiracU” McNally both making third place with the team “Welcome To South Georgo” at the recent PUBG Global Invitational in Berlin. Meanwhile in Fortnite, one of the UK’s former Counter-Strike players Josh “Tesqu0” Faulkner managed to rack up $25k in a recent Summer Skirmish EU competition. He eclipsed all of his former Counter-Strike winnings in one night. So UK players are starting to make it huge in both respective games whilst in Counter-Strike we are still yet to make any significant headway despite Owen “Smooya” Butterfield’s progress over the last 18 months.
Could this be the pivotal reason?
This may well be the single biggest factor (although there is one other that will rival this one), communities being a thing of the past. Take a look in the old archives from the Source days, and you will see what I mean by this one. For numerous reasons, ever since Counter-Strike: Global Offensive got big, it seems like that communities or at least the community spirit of old has dwindled. One could say that this could be the changing pace of the esports scene and thus people have taken gaming far more seriously in pursuit of a career from it. I asked the question to f00b in my interview ahead of insomnia63;
Let’s settle a small debate considering it’s something that has played on mind over the years. The Counter-Strike: Source UK scene or the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive UK scene? Which was better?
There is no comparison. LANs were better, the scene was a lot friendlier and there seemed to be a lot going on. Now there’s more money in CS:GO and lots of people streaming and professional players, but for me, and asking around my team we are very much fans of the old source scene. However that might just be us showing our age.
If you could bring back an element of the CS: Source scene from back in the day, what would it be?
Enemy down and EDCSSL
Those were the days, in the ED league, putting officials out and teams accepting as and when, so you could challenge any team you wanted. Would be great for our schedule now as we’d be guaranteed to get games when we wanted. We struggle with some of the competitions, especially when the games start at 5pm. Then there was EDCSSL, we used to look forward to that starting every season and the bragging right of the gold cup on your page.
Bring back EDCSSL please!!
It certainly is a talking point, here is a list of communities that frequently took 2 maybe 3 teams to LAN events of old;
Elite Clan Killers
Ministry Of Darkness
Death or Glory
Fragmasters (as they were called then Darren)
There were many more communities I have probably forgotten, you get the picture though.
The question is, has communities become a thing of the past or is there a root cause to the issue. I must admit I cannot really come up with an answer, because I think f00b’s thoughts nail it perfectly. We lack a central location for those communities to flourish. The lack of Enemy Down really crippled the scene in a way that it can’t seem to come back from. Some people may say “well why can’t it be built again?” or “why does it even matter?”.The reason it matters is that communities were the foundation to the UK scene and it’s incredibly big numbers. Communities would flock to iSeries (not so much epic.LAN or CLUK back in the day) but they would head to iSeries regardless of prize pool because LAN events served a purpose of meeting up, joking around and having a laugh with the rest of the community.
My first LAN memory was from Sawyer from Team Carrick who approached me as I was walking up to Newbury Racecourse, saying “HEY GUMPSTER…. IS THAT GUMPSTER?” and then following up with “We absolutely love playing Ministry Of Darkness in Enemy Down”. Sawyer at that point really didn’t know me at all, but he had the courage to come up to me and speak to me at i30 and greet me with open arms.
This in turn had a positive effect on numbers and is why iSeries was supported for so long, because everyone got along (for the most part) and enjoyed those casual 10v10s between communities and 20v20’s on ka_soccer. Numbers for i36, despite a reduction in prize pool hit the insane high of 119 teams at the event. Something we are now struggling to even match when the scene has far more prize money up for grabs.
You would start to ponder of why communities are not a thing now. The correct assumption is that the switch from Source to Global Offensive, the aging population of the Source scene and the fact that people have well and truly moved on has contributed into why communities have all but disappeared. There are a few of us, from Mick, Blanks, Darren, and myself who are still around in some form or fashion trying to make sense of the scene. Another huge factor that contributes to this is that esports from 2011 onwards basically grew an insane amount, and that explosion first caused by Starcraft2 and then League Of Legends, has seen esports a much more viable way to make money and live the dream. The cost has been that building communities and fostering players has dwindled because players sought the dream, whilst communities lost their identities when people moved on with their lives. The core founders lost their time because real life impacted them and esport organisations started to dominate calling out players from left to right.
The final point maybe one of absolute controversial scenes and I might get a bit of hate from some parts of the esports industry.
History & The Expense of it all
Someone pointed out the other day that anything I say in this part of the post should be taken with a pinch of salt because they quickly reminded me that I am epic.LAN Esports Manager and that criticising iSeries maybe deemed like a full frontal attack to win over customers.
It’s become a bit of a theme (or meme), delays at UK LANs is part and parcel of going to them is it not? The days of groups of three, the fuck ups that we’ve seen over the years from Multiplay & GAME, should see some form of consequences. The days of Clanforge dying, or the tournaments being run on Google spreadsheets have now come to a bit of a halt. However with all those fuck ups, there will be people who would have lost hope in admins or the hierarchy caring too much about what happened.
As I mentioned previously over the years, there comes an expectation that things should run smoothly when you have run as many events as Multiplay/GAME have, especially when customers are forking out £100 just to be there at the event. The latest of issues came at insomnia63 with server failures prior to the tournament start which ended up delaying the tournament by three hours. Meanwhile, there was no stream for all of Day 1, and not until 2:30pm on Saturday, if you want to attract future talent to your LAN event, then streams are a must. Not only was there no streams, but the server issues had screwed over the GOTV requirements, as the iSeries tech team prioritised the game servers first (rightly) but then never really went to fix GOTV at all throughout the event, meaning anyone who simply wanted to follow their friends or watch some of the more exciting match ups, were left disappointed.
It isn’t something that is new to iSeries either, ever since the switch from Clanforge to another tournament platform, the GOTV IPs have always been a little bit meh, it doesn’t install faith into the CS community when team’s friends at home cannot simply watch them, and instead have to watch Steam Friends or HLTV (in the latter stages) for score updates. All these issues do add up, and coupled with how expensive iSeries is these days, it is understandable when teams suddenly stop supporting them. It could be a case of too little, too late.
In terms of how expensive iSeries is nowadays, here is the basic outlook of any person heading to LAN.
|Early Arrival Service||£15|
|Travel||£50 – £100|
|Food & Drink||£200|
|Total||£404 (or £454)|
So that is being incredibly conservative with my estimates on food, drink, and travel, and being strict to a budget. Do that with 2 events in mind and you get just over £900 you are forking out for both iSeries events. That is a lot of money for those either still at university, or those who have their own costs to worry about elsewhere. I’m not even factoring in a hotel, where being around the NEC and next to an airport, the hotel prices can be insanely high, so then you are adding extra travel if you want to go to a hotel inside of Birmingham or elsewhere, which then eats away at the budget.
I imagine a factor in all of this is how expensive iSeries is to go to, even if you are being conservative with costs. I’m also not saying that epic.LAN is any better for those that may point this out. I’m looking at factors that may explain the low attendance this iSeries and this is a valid point when people have to keep an eye on what money they spend. Not every team is bank rolled by an organisation willing to dosh out the free candy to some players.
However, on the flip side of the coin, and something I should note, over the last two iSeries, the GAME/UKMasters staff have deployed Swiss incredibly well, which has taken out the incredible issue that we used to have ever since the Source days, seedings. There isn’t a need for rushing around to seed anymore, when you can simply Swiss it, and let Swiss determine the seedings for you. Had we had a stream on Day 1, there was multiple good games that the casters could chose because that is how Swiss goes, the later it gets, the better the match ups are for every skill level.
It should also be mentioned that many teams were happier as a result of this iSeries and the single elimination bracket and having sensible times to play their matches instead of the cramming of matches into a very tight schedule. So perhaps there are small and subtle improvements that are being worked on at iSeries afterall.
So there we have it, all the various factors that could show why the numbers were down on this event, from Battle Royale craze to the fact that we don’t have a community anymore, but more a conglomerate of organisations. Maybe in some part all of these factors played a little part in why insomnia63 didn’t get the numbers in. Do you have a theory as to why and want to share? Why not submit an article on the UKCSGO website, and tell us about that theory.
Hopefully everyone has enjoyed our coverage throughout this weekend, please make sure you follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep in the know with everything related to the UK CS:GO Scene