It used to be commonly said that playing video games was not just a hobby, but a waste of time. But these days, gaming just might be the gateway to success, wealth, and fame. And one of the games that’s become a career for so many gamers is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
CSGO has become one of the biggest esports out there, compared to the likes of League of Legends and Dota 2. That ascension has more to it than just popularity in the gaming community. It is also attracting more attention from fans and, even more importantly, from cash-rich sponsors.
Esports hitting the mainstream
2020 has been a game-changing year for most people. Businesses have been closing. Others have been changing the way they conduct business. Many activities have felt the effect, too. Esports, however, has not only survived 2020 but thrived.
To see the growing commercial interest in esports, you need only look to the world of casinos. In July, Betway took the unusual step of appointing Baiano, a respected League of Legends pro, as its brand ambassador. He has 250,000 followers on Twitch and gets around three million channel views every month. The attraction for Betway is obvious, and it seems inevitable that others will follow suit. For example, you can imagine the extra exposure well-established Canadian online casinos could garner by getting behind someone like Shroud, arguably the best-known former CSGO pro in the country.
Even without a lockdown, competitive gaming was gradually reaching a wider audience. The broader world events, with regular sports placed on hold, simply accelerated the process. The League of Legends 2020 World Championship saw over 3.8 million viewers. Twitch viewership has also continued to increase each month as more and more people watch streamers and competitions from home.
Turning your hobby into a vocation
While the esports industry has continued to thrive and gain popularity, that still doesn’t mean just everyone can become a professional CSGO player. Competitive players have a different mindset than the casual gamer. As with traditional sports, rising to the top demands not only skill but also dedication and a good sprinkling of luck.
There are millions of people out there who love football or soccer and are naturally skilled. Yet less than one percent will end up in the NFL or English Premier League. Becoming a pro gamer might have marginally better odds, but gamers still need to put in hours of practice, and then to be in the right place at the right time to rise to the top.
Joining a pro team
So what is the right place? In football, the answer is simple: athletes need to get noticed and drafted by an NFL team. Likewise, in CSGO, getting into a pro team is a stepping stone to the next level. The magic formula here comes down to a combination of demonstrating both hard and soft skills.
Not only must gamers be at the top of the ranks, but they have to be an asset to the other team members. They need top-notch communication skills and the ability to practice up to 10 hours a day. Scrimming, a strict diet, and one on one coaching are all part of the job.
BIG towers above the rest
BIG’s story is one of extremes. Back in 2018, they shocked the esports world by coming from nowhere to reach the final of ESL One Cologne. But no sooner had the dust settled than internal strife saw BIG shrink in stature. Owen “Smooya” Butterfield departed, and despite the arrival of the highly rated Xantares, the team found itself languishing outside the top 20 by mid-2019.
A brief return from Smooya later in the year brought no reversal of fortune, and earlier this year, BIG had its most significant shake-up yet. Two young players were drafted in from Sprout, and the team immediately started to click, picking up one LAN win before everything went online. That proved to be the spur that got BIG back to the top of the tree. The new-look lineup took on the best in the world and came out on top, winning the DreamHack Masters final 5-4 in dramatic style.
More support with every passing week
Naturally, there are those within the CSGO community who suggest it might have been a different story if this year’s event had taken place at a LAN event as opposed to online. Those arguments will run and run, and time will tell who is right. However, for Xantares and the rest, the question is a moot point.
This year’s DreamHack Masters tournament enjoyed record viewer figures, and the dramatic finale won more than a game for BIG. It also rewarded the sport with thousands of new fans who will be back for more. The CSGO eports machine gains momentum with every passing week, and there has never been a better time to be a part of it.