Nick J. December 19, 2019
News has been swirling regarding two Counter-Strike: Global Offensive leagues that seem poised to shake up the entire professional scene.
BLAST Entertainment announced BLAST Premier, a 12-team tournament circuit with a structure similar to League of Legends. It includes two splits where pre-selected teams accrue points to make it to a World Final. In addition, the winners of both ESL One Rio and the unannounced Fall 2020 Major will be invited to this final competition.
On December 16, a report from DBLTAP confirmed that “B Site,” a 12-team North American league, will start in March 2020. B Site will feature a similar format to the BLAST Premiere with three splits. Once points are tallied, the top eight teams will make the finals.
B Site is expected to directly conflict with the ESL Pro League.
Both new tournaments offer revenue sharing to organizations that take part. B Site requires a $2 million dollar buy-in from teams in return for partial ownership of the league. BLAST Premier, on the other hand, offers a flat bonus for participating and a “share of the media and commercial rights.” This likely references broadcast rights deals made with Winstrike and TV2 Denmark, with others potentially on the horizon.
BLAST Premiere and B Site share PEA qualities
Both leagues share similarities with the Professional Esports Association, which was first announced in 2016. The PEA was an exclusive league founded by several top teams, including Cloud9, Immortals, Complexity, Team Liquid, and others.
The plan went awry when players from several teams, most notably Team SoloMid, pushed back against organizations' attempts to guide which events they participated in. This ultimately forced the PEA to cease operations.
WIN.gg has reached out to the Counter-Strike Professional Players Association for comment.
CSGO team Astralis, League of Legends team Origen, and the BLAST tournament circuit used to be owned by RFRSH Entertainment. These entities were eventually split into two separate companies, with one handling the team and the other operating the BLAST Pro Series.
RFRSH CEO and co-founder Nikolaj Nyholm discussed this in an interview with HLTV.
"Two years ago we spoke about how, after a build-up phase of a model esports team, a tournament operator and a team should not have common ownership. [Astralis is] now a profitable business, unique to the esports ecosystem," Nyholm said.
The expansion of BLAST's efforts have likely been in the works for a long while. With a number of top CSGO organizations signed up, this could spark a major change in the scene.
Players tired of travel could support a new CSGO franchise league
The teams that are involved in BLAST Premiere and B Site are among the same teams that founded the PEA in the first place: Cloud9, Team Liquid, Immortals through MiBR, and Complexity Gaming. Given Counter-Strike’s history with exclusivity, it’s not surprising that these organizations would try again when the general consensus was more in their favor.
Players travel farther and for longer than they ever have before to attend big tournaments around the world. Mousesport’s Finn “karrigan” Andersen had to leave CS Summit 5 in the middle of the best-of-three grand final just to ensure he got his visa for the next tournament.
At this point, both BLAST Premiere and B Site might actually be good for the pro Counter-Strike community. But esports veteran and player advisor Scott “Sir Scoots” Smith has spoken to the potential pitfalls of such a structure.
“Who’s on the worse end of the negotiating table: the guy that has the hidden agenda, or the guy that decides to trust what the other guy is saying?” Smith said.
The ramifications of leagues run by participating esports teams might not be felt for some time. A spokesman from the Astralis Group told WIN.gg that they had no ownership stake in either BLAST or RFRSH.
“We are a publicly listed company. If we acquire any assets, even a fraction of a tournament, team or anything else of value, financial or strategic, we are obliged to report this to the market via a company announcement and registration. So no...we do not have any connection to or own any part of BLAST or RFRSH other than being a part of the tournament," the spokesman said.
WIN.gg has attempted to reach out to BLAST Entertainment but has received no response.
B Site and BLAST Premier are alike in one more way than those mentioned above. The PEA started out as something that looked like it benefited everyone involved. It ended with what Smith called “a last resort” in the form of a public letter.
In an April interview with HLTV, RFRSH VP of Commercial Development and Partnerships Jordi Roig responded to a question on exclusivity.
"We have seven tournaments, every team is playing five. One tournament is Wednesday to Sunday. That's five weekends out of the 52 in a year. We don't occupy a lot of space, we don't have online leagues or two-week tournaments," Roig said. "If you count the days, we really don't occupy much time at all... [We’re not chasing exclusivity] right now, no. What we're trying to do is create a stable circuit and we just ask teams to play five weekends per year."
Evidently, RFRSH has changed its plans in the months since this quote was given.
What comes of both new leagues in the coming months is anyone's guess, but there isn't much for a casual fan to do about it either way. The only thing for certain is that change is coming to Counter-Strike.