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The Future of Counter-Strike

Jack "Westerman" Westerman on Thu, 02/02/2012 11:53PM


Once you’ve played a game competitively for a few years, everything gets old...

Players come, players go, teams form, teams fold, tournaments rise and fall, teams win tournaments, teams drop players, players join other teams, teams lose tournaments, sponsors sign, sponsors disappear… it’s all the same in the end. After a while, everything is just stuff. It’s the same old players, same tired teams, same frag highlights across the same classic maps – nothing is ever new after ten years of playing, it’s all just noise. That's the problem. You make all of competitive Counter-Strike your back yard, and what do you have? A back yard.

Neo clutching... again.
Counter-Strike 1.6 is boring – that’s my point. And sure, you probably see Source players write that every day, so let me be a little more articulate. The 1.6 scene is stale, the players are stubborn, the teams are predictable, unchanging and completely monotonous, and the gameplay is exhausted. Nothing is ever new anymore. Neo had a 4-man clutch on banana bombsite last week? Who cares? I’ve seen so many 4-man clutches on banana bombsite over the last decade that they’re all the same now. What made Neo’s so special? Oh, it was really important in the context of that one tournament? Is that the same tournament that’s been happening biannually for 7 straight years, always contested by the same basic mixture of teams and players? Come on.

Heaton in his prime.
Sure, it was amazing when HeatoN first pulled off that clutch in 2001. It was still kind of cool when shaGuar did the exact same thing in 2004. And yeah, maybe n0thing’s rendition in 2007 was alright I guess... but 2012? How many more times is that same clutch, on that same map, in that same tournament, against those same players going to be interesting? How many more variations of that one play do you need to see before it becomes completely and utterly tedious? When are we all just going to admit that we’re bored to death of Counter-Strike 1.6?

Yes, this is an opinion article – but I’m not alone in my opinion. The big brands and cash-rich corporations upon which eSports have always depended are bored too. It’s obvious. Hardcore 1.6 players will sit there and swear blind that their game still has huge interest from major corporate sponsors, but it doesn’t – they’re just short sighted. The most recent Counter-Strike 1.6 tournament (IEM Global Challenge Kiev) was sponsored by Intel and BenQ. Two pretty big names, right? Well that’s nothing. Last year, Major League Gaming had Dr Pepper, Old Spice, Stride, Bungie, Castrol, Gamestop, HP and Ubisoft on their books, while the Korean StarCraft League ‘GOMTV’ had Intel, Sony, Pepsi, LG and Blizzard.

Valve supporting the DOTA community.
These days, international Counter-Strike 1.6 tournaments attract a grand total of TWO big-name sponsors, while other game titles and leagues have companies tripping over themselves to get involved. And if you take nothing else from that comparison, at least recognise that Valve doesn't even sponsor their own game. Bungie sponsors their Halo series in MLG’s Pro Circuit, Blizzard sponsors StarCraft in South Korea, but Valve has never had enough faith in the Counter-Strike franchise to invest anything in the community. Sure, developers aren’t obligated to throw money at the people who play their games, but it’s a particularly bad burn when you consider that Valve DID host a $1.6 million DOTA 2 tournament just five months ago. I know, ouch right? They’re even planning on making it an annual event. Double ouch.

StarCraft 2 - Counter-Strike's competition.
These days, you don’t have to look far to realise that most 1.6 players are delusional in their persistence. The eSports universe is becoming vast and crowded, and Counter-Strike is finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the bright stars of Halo, StarCraft and MOBA. The Counter-Strike player base is divided almost equally between 1.6 and Source, weakening us as a whole while both games fade slowly into the dark. I mean, just imagine if Source hadn’t been completely disregarded by stubborn 1.6 players when it was first released, and now regularly had 120,000 simultaneous players instead of 60,000. Counter-Strike would still be massive. And no, before you say it, we shouldn’t have stuck with 1.6 in the first place – don’t be delusional.

The CGS... terrible for NA Counter-Strike?
Source players aren’t safe either though, because the North American scene has been struggling to regain poise ever since the Championship Gaming Series stomped all over the place in 2008. Entire teams whimpered out of the game for good, suddenly deciding that there was nothing left for them anymore. Try telling that to 3DMAX and Dynamic, who are on target to attend more international events within six months than any other American team did in the four years prior to CGS. Nevertheless, DirecTV’s gaming experiment was allowed to stifle all the major Source LANs while it was around, as well as stripping the top players of their motivation, and American Source has yet to fully recover as a result.

The 1.6 and Source ships are sinking, and you can either drown with them or move on. There’s only one way out of this, and it’s a simple one. All you have to do is give Counter-Strike: Global Offensive a chance.

1.6 players are already taking to the forums to tell everybody that they’ve lost hope, CS:GO looks horrible, or that it’s dead before it has even begun. Of course, they don’t really feel that strongly, they’re just trying to touch base with the hive mind, reassuring one another that, “we’re still going to play our decade-old game, right guys?” It must be a nostalgia thing. Either way, they want the grenade physics to be the same as 1.6, the guns to feel the same as 1.6, the model scale to be the same as 1.6, the maps to look the same as 1.6, and everything to be completely and totally exactly the same as 1.6 all over again!

Different games - treat them as such.
The sooner you accept that Global Offensive is a new and different game, the better off you’ll be. Unlike real sports, computer games age noticeably over time, and so the most consistent eSports are those which are continually refreshed by new releases, gameplay changes, and graphical updates. Case in point: Halo and StarCraft, yet again. Everybody gets bored of everything eventually, and Counter-Strike is no exception. We need Global Offensive, and all Global Offensive needs is players. Yes, that means you.

So, die-hard 1.6 players have a choice to make in the next few months. They can either give Global Offensive a chance, staying alive and relevant within the competitive Counter-Strike community, or they can spend the rest of their gaming days in the same old corridors and bombsites - stuck in their dying 90’s game. I guess it all depends on whether you actually want to compete, or just play the game for fun

And to Source players: please don’t become the next generation of 1.6ers. When you finally do get access to the CS:GO beta, don’t draw comparisons to other games, don’t write it off after a few hours of play, and don’t bash it because you can’t go 20 – 2 right off the bat in a public server. Embrace change. Play PUGs on the beta, start a CS:GO team, enter some leagues, and enjoy some new sights, sounds and experiences for once. Games are supposed to be fun, after all.

Sure, all my love to long ago... but here’s to days to come!

Image credits: HLTV.org, GotFrag, Valve Corporation.
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