After two years of jibes about Counter-Strike being a "ded game" and VALORANT replacing Valve’s first person shooter at the pinnacle of the esports ecosystem, the greatest shooter of them all came roaring back at PGL’s Major in Stockholm. Record viewing figures started rolling in long before the day of the final, and by the time the dust had settled and a champion was crowned, the previous high marks for CSGO viewership had been blown out of the water.
For those unlucky enough to have missed the action, the tournament was won by Na’Vi, led by the irrepressible Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev. Watching s1mple play in a Major final is a treat of course, but the previous CSGO viewership record of 1.3M, set at the 2017 ELEAGUE Major, had fallen before the final even began. Both semi-finals, where Na’Vi took on Gambit and Heroic fell to G2, hit the 1.4M mark in terms of viewership, much to the delight of the CSGO community.
When the final day came, the numbers were expected to be decent again, but few were prepared for the huge outpouring of support that came when the two teams took to the stage. According to Esports Charts, a record 2.7M peak viewership was achieved during the final, which is more than double the previous mark set by the game.
Co-streams and COVID
There are a number of factors involved in this landmark moment, chief among which was probably the sheer lack of real LAN competition CSGO has had in the past two years. As a game that has always put online second, the scene struggled to maintain the same level of interest from fans during the pandemic, a problem that was exacerbated by other organizers being able to run events, most notably the VALORANT LANs that took place in Europe.
It will also have helped that the most entertaining and arguably most talented players in the game were set to go head to head, with the narrative around s1mple’s first major driving interest just as much as G2’s amazing fanbase did. That’s before you get to the fact G2 themselves were led by Nikola "NiKo" Kovac, who had been in astonishing form during the Stockholm Major, and was clearly looking to vanquish the demons that had followed him since his fateful loss to C9 during the FaZe days.
Finally, it will have been helpful for the figures that the event was staged in Europe, with pretty much every significant contender from that part of the world. Furia were an outlier, but with all the final four teams being either EU or CIS-based, the time zones worked out perfectly. This, alongside other small factors like co-streams from big names and the event being on both YouTube and Twitch, would all have made for a perfect storm of discoverability.
Changing of the guard?
While this is obviously amazing news for the tournament organizers and publishers, it does come with an interesting caveat for Valve, the makers of CSGO. While the shooter was doing record numbers, the company’s flagship Dota tournament, The International, was also pulling in record viewership, with TI10 held in Bucharest this year, and pulling in 2.7M viewers for the final between Team Secret and PSG.LGD.
While it is fantastic for Valve to have seen growth in both their major titles, this is the first time that a CSGO Major has beaten a TI for viewership, at least in terms of western numbers. The viewing figures for CS from China are never going to match up to those from League or Dota, but it is hard to gain reliable information for those parts of the world, meaning industry leaders like Esports Charts tend to focus on just the western side of things.
Whether this represents a changing of the guard or simply a high point with the return of CSGO is impossible to say now, but the record-breaking return to LAN for CSGO is a positive thing not just for the game and its fans, but all of esports. Record figures for both the Major and TI10 show fans are thirsty for the return of elite-level LAN competition, and it’s great to see TOs are finally able to deliver that once more.