Counter-Strike is nothing short of a legend. Ever since its creation as a mod for Half-Life in 1999, Counter-Strike has grown into an eSports giant and has become the “de facto benchmark” of one’s gaming skill. Even the game’s main creator Minh “Gooseman” Le was amazed at the amount of community praise it received in its humble beginnings.
The game’s latest installment, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, has managed to grow even bigger than its older brothers: Counter-Strike 1.6 and Counter-Strike Source. It has become the pioneer of competitive video games and has attracted the attention of big name companies all around the world. One of the game’s most well-known tournaments, ESL One Cologne, offers a $1,000,000 prize pool. Players and audience thought the game couldn’t grow any bigger, but boy were they wrong.
Well known television company Turner Sports together with WME|IMG created what would be the game’s first nationally televised tournament, ELEAGUE. The tournament is now broadcast both on TBS every Friday night, but also on Amazon’s game streaming platform, Twitch. Not only that, but it one-upped the ESL million dollar prize pool to one of $1,400,000. However, television companies aren’t the only companies interested in investing serious sums of money into this growing industry.
Just last month, the multi-billion dollar Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, had announced that they will begin investing in eSports. Their sports branch, Alibaba Sports Group, which was established late last year, has announced that it will be partnering with the International eSports Federation (IeSF). Not only that, but they will launch 1,200 CS:GO events across 15 cities in China, with an overall prize pool measure at $5.5 million with $149 million in investments. Big name restaurant chains Arby’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, also announced last month that instead of traditional sports, they will begin broadcasting ELEAGUE on their restaurant televisions. Even basketball celebrities are interested in throwing their hat in the eSports ring.
In December of last year, basketball figure, Rick Fox, bought the League of Legends team Gravity Gaming, renamed it to Echo Fox, and created a CS:GO branch. To date, the CS:GO branch has acquired over $47,000 in prize money and is the 25th best team in America according to GosuGamers rankings. Even Shaquille O’Neal announced earlier this month that he will be partnering with NRG eSports to create his own Overwatch team. How does Valve make all the money to sponsor these tournaments you might ask. Simple, in-game weapon skins.
For a year after its release, CS:GO did not show any signs of being the sensation we know it to be today. In fact, it was still being overtaken by its 13 and 9-year-old siblings. However, a year later, Valve released CS:GO weapon drops in their Arms Deal update, in the form of decals or “skins” which can be applied to weapons to make them unique. This was the event that led to Global Offensive permanently overtaking its siblings and the one that led to it becoming the most popular game on Steam. Not only did skins bring in players by the truckloads, it also brought it money by the truckloads for Valve with the addition of ultra-rare knives. Once skins came out, the player base moved from a meager 25,000 players or so to a booming six-digit count. This money incentive also convinced Valve to spend more money on the game, and brought it where it is today.
That brings us to where we are today. A multi-millon dollar game in a multi-billion dollar industry sponsored by fans. A place where anyone can become a well-known professional with the right motivation, skill set, and dedicated time. There is no question that in the future, eSports is bound to overtake traditional sports. Even market data research website, SuperData, calculates that the worth of eSports by 2019 will skyrocket to a monolithic $1.23 billion. It is something we can’t escape, and something that will eventually become popular to everyone.