With the year almost over, it’s time to look back at all that happened in esports. 2019 was a tumultuous one, with highs following lows and vice versa. As the esports continues to grow, with more games developing an esports scene and brand new multiplayer games sprouting competitive communities, each consecutive year is crammed full with more memorable moments.
But what truly defined esports in 2019? We asked this question to the Inven Global writing staff. They dug in their memory, searching for an answer. In 10 years, what would or should people still remember about esports in 2019, whether it was positive, negative or something in between? In no particular order, these are the events our writing stuff decided on.
G2 Esports wins the Mid-Season Invitational
History was written in May this year. For the first time since Fnatic won the League of Legends World Championship in 2011, a Western team won a major international tournament. The lineup of Wunder, PerkZ, Caps, Mikyx and Jankos soared above the competition, bearing the G2 flag.
Nick Geracie: “The MSI Finals match against Team Liquid was an extremely one-sided sweep for G2, and felt more like a victory lap for a team who had roleswapped its star player and seemed to be able to draft whatever they wanted in any position. G2 didn’t just deliver on its hype by winning MSI, it solidified itself itself as the elite, creative squad Western fans had been clamoring for since the days of Moscow 5. In winning MSI, G2 Esports took its first true step in 2019 towards being recognized as the greatest Western League of Legends team all of time.”
Axe wins Smash Summit 8
Nick D’Orazio: “Jeffrey “Axe” Williamson is a veteran Super Smash Bros. Melee competitor that hails from Arizona. He has been a meme, a fan favorite, but before smash summit 8, axe was never a champion. Always popular due to his insane technical skill and obscure game knowledge, Axe plays Pikachu at the highest level possible. Since Melee’s main stream resurgence in 2013, Axe has been a consistent figure in Melee esports.
"He is always considered in discussions about the top 10 players and the tantalizing “what if” scenario always hovers around his name: “What if we played a top tier character instead of pikachu? Axe winning one of the most important Smash tournaments of 2019 is a huge moment for Smash Bros. esports. It catapults Axe to his rightful legend stats and washes any doubt that, if you are determined enough, any player can win with any character.”
The fall of Echo Fox
Lara Lunardi: “Echo Fox caught on fire in 2019. A team with hopes to fly high in the LCS ended up free falling and burning as it crashed. Actor and former professional basketball player Rick Fox left the organization he had found at the end of 2015, due to multiple incidents of racial slurs used by Echo Fox shareholder Amit Raizada. After an exchange of lawsuits between the executives involved in the business venture, the org came to its end.
“Rick Fox intends to remain involved in the esports world: “My experience with Echo Fox has in no way diminished my abiding passion for esports”, creating a new organization, Twin Galaxies International.”
Team Liquid wins the Intel Grand Slam
Tom “Matthieist” Matthiesen: “Team Liquid wasn’t the first team to win the Intel Grand Slam, a $1,000,000 prize created in 2017 for Counter Strike teams who showed merciless dominance. That honor goes to Astralis, the best CS:GO team in history, who completed the Grand Slam in December 2018. However, Team Liquid’s title claim is equally as monumental.
“Before Liquid rose to the top, Astralis reigned supreme in a strongly defined era. But the squad of nitr0, EliGE, Twitszz, NAF and Stewie2K put that to a rough end, guided by their coach adreN, when they went on an absolute tear. As fast as was possible according to Intel's rules, Team Liquid laid their hands on the Grand Slam title in 2019, bumping Astralis from the throne and ending an era. Following Liquid’s quick ascension to the 1 million dollar cheque, Intel announced changes to the rules of their Grand Slam, making it more difficult for teams to obtain the title in the future.”
G2 defeats SKT in a semifinals. Twice.
It’s G2 once more. During the LoL team’s most successful year to date, they went through some of the toughest opponents imaginable. It included a top tier Fnatic, Team Liquid, DAMWON Gaming and Griffin. But the most exciting opponent was, by far, SK Telecom T1.
David “Viion” Jang: “Both SKT and G2 formed "dream teams" for the 2019 season. Even so, not many expected G2 to come out on top. The two teams met for the first time at the MSI, where G2 defeated SKT at the semifinals. G2 went on to win the MSI, and thus the EU hype began. They met again at the Worlds stage semifinals. Even though G2 won the Mid-Season Invitational, there still were many doubters. However, again, G2 took the series, proving the doubters wrong.”
100 Thieves chooses not to join Activision’s Call of Duty League
Parkes Ousley: “For those in the industry, this may not be extremely surprising... But it is worrying. Nadeshot and the 100 Thieves brand are very closely associated with Call of Duty, so a CoD franchise without them feels wrong. Time and time again, publishing companies and other big money corporations incorrectly value the market and don't heed advice from long-tenured professionals. Esports is not a bubble, but when the market is overinflated, it slows progression and can surely send esports backwards.
“Nadeshot specifically mentioned the $25 million franchise buy-in as a main reason 100T didn't participate. While it's a great sign that he and 100T are being cautious with their finances, the fact that the new CoD franchise loses out on what would've been a fan favorite org means it won't be as successful as it could've been.”
FunPlus Phoenix wins Worlds 2019
Daniel "Quest" Kwon: “Despite being the champions for LPL summer with an amazing record in the regular season, FPX was never considered the favorites of the group at Worlds 2019. Even up to the finals, many thought that G2 would win, but instead they beat G2 3-0. Going from being considered semi-underdogs in the tournament to bringing back the Summoner’s Cup to the LPL for a second year in a row is quite an accomplishment. Also, the Worlds theme song being Phoenix fits the story well, and especially the Doinb-Umi side story help shape the narrative of FPX’s monumental victory.”
OG wins The International for a second time
Tom "Matthieist" Matthiesen: "Never before had Dota 2 esports seen a repeat winner of The International, the game's world championship event with record-breaking prize pools every year. Natus Vincere came close after winning the first ever International in 2011, but grabbed the silver medal the following year. But finally, a king managed to defend the throne.
"Many people were questioning how OG would perform at The International 9. The roster hadn't performed particularly well in events leading up to the big stage, with a 5th/6th place at the Paris Major, and a 7th/8th place finish at the EPICENTER Major. Yet, when they needed to shine, they did. The squad emerged from the group stage without a series lost, and swept dominantly through the upper brackets in the playoff stage, securing their second Aegis of the Immortal."
Collaborations between esports and the fashion industry take off
Lara Lunardi: “Video games have become the most profitable form of entertainment, estimating the global gaming market to be worth $152 billion by the end of this year. When it comes to fashion, the global market is projected to exceed 1.5 trillion dollars in 2020. The demands for clothing and gaming is on the rise across every corner of the world. It only makes sense that eventually, they would collaborate.
“The insertion of gamer focused apparel articles have now reached every type of consumer in the fashion realm. From the fast fashion collaboration between Forever 21 and Overwatch to handbag collections, and the overly referenced collection between haute couture brand Louis Vuitton and League of Legends, we can go on and nominate countless brands that have licensed video game IPs. But who are they creating for?”
The chaos at Griffin
While Echo Fox became the center of negative attention in the LCS, Griffin got embroiled in their own mess. From Kanavi’s unfair contract to accusations of abuse by coach cvMax, it never seemed to end. Riot Korea intervened, forcing the management to step down. All players were granted free agency status, and many seized the opportunity to flee the organization.
Joonkyu “Lasso” Seok: "For a long time we've been drawn to the strength of LCK, but we (especially for foreign fans) don't know what's going on behind it. This is a huge accident that reveals the negative side of not only Griffin but also whole LCK system. Will this make the LCK better? It will depend on the outcome of this fight not yet over."
Blizzard trips and falls over international politics
Esports rarely reaches international mainstream news. But in October this year, one incident spread like wildfire. Hong Kong Hearthstone player Ng "blitzchung" Wai Chung protested against the Chinese government while on an official Blizzard stream. Blizzard's initial punishment of blitzchung was so severe that it led to boycotts and weeks of outrage, as people saw it as a message to Blizzard's Chinese business partners. US Members of Congress even sent a letter to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, urging to reverse the punishment.
Tim Rizzo: "Who would have thought that a simple game of Hearthstone would unveil the delicate balance game publishers must traverse when players of their game begin using their platform for political purposes? After gaining international attention, Blitzchung helped shift the conversation within the gaming industry from "What can game publishers do?" to "What should they do?"
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