There’s not many that like to talk about money, simply because people will think that you’re greedy if you ask for more than you’re already getting. The same goes when Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen tweeted
about the fact that the level of prize money being paid out at the bigger CS:GO events has stagnated. Reading his tweet, I immediately had to check it out and sure enough, it turned out to be true. With one exception, ESL Pro League.
ESL Pro League is commonly regarded as the highest ranking league in CS:GO and has most of the world's top teams, competing for a grand total of USD 1,000,000 per season, up from USD 750,000 during the two seasons that ran during 2016. This means that ESL has increased the prize money for their top-tier league by an impressive 33 percent for 2017. But that’s about it. One of the other major leagues, Esports Championship Series (ECS), has instead decreased the total amount of prize money that’s being paid out during every single season. We do, however, need to remember that teams participating in the league get a cut from the revenue. Or at least that’s how it was announced back when the league was instituted.
Switching focus, looking at the major LAN events of 2017, there’s not really any increase at all in prize money. The largest prize pools still come from the two Valve sponsored Major tournaments that we’ve seen. We did also have the first installment of WESG, with a total of USD 1,500,000, but that’s another story. ESL One events, Dreamhack Open and the new additions are all still at 2016 levels when it comes to their prize pools.
The Steam statistics isn't flattering
Is this really such a big deal? Well, yeah, it kind of is. The stagnation when it comes to prize money might be a first indication that our beloved CS:GO is on the decline. There are some other indications as well such as Steam statistics and the struggling Swedish scene, which has parallels to the end of CS 1.6, but that’s another story.
CS:GO turned five earlier this fall, half the life-span of the previous installment of the game (1.6) that survived for ten years before ending up in the gutter. But things change, and so does the lifespan of esport titles. At least to some extent. We have never seen as many different titles being used as we do today, with all of them competing for pretty much the same financial support to build up their scenes. Counter-Strike has had a unique position within esports, due to the lack of other FPS titles that could compete with the game in popularity. Now? Well, now it’s a whole other situation. There are games like Overwatch and Paladins, but the one having the most impact today is undoubtedly PUBG - stealing away most of the casual players from CS:GO.
How does all of this go together then? Well, it’s pretty simple. If tournament organizers observe a decrease in interest for their tournaments, then it’s only logical that they won’t invest even more to their tournaments. I’m guessing that many of them are looking into how they can use the up and coming titles to further their financial prosperity.
There's always hope
Getting back to MSL’s tweet, I do most certainly understand his question. I simply don’t think that it’s a sign of greed or anything like that. It’s most certainly him showing that he’s worried about the future of the game, and that’s not strange at all. All professional CS:GO players should be worried, because the game that has built their careers and that has become their livelihood might soon be marginalized, forcing some of them to transition to another game - if they still want to make the same money as they are today.
Is there a way to break the stagnation and keep developing the CS:GO scene? Of course, there is, but it’s in many ways dependent on the success of other games. Another thing that could help is an increased regrowth within the CS:GO scene, bringing more new and talented players to the top tiers. However, in the end, most of the future of the esport title lies in the hands of tournament organizers. Because if they were to decrease both the number of events and the prize pools, then they’d also be ordering the future tombstone of CS:GO.
Last, but not least, what could Valve do to stop this saddening development? Probably quite a lot, but I have no such hopes. They might instead be working on a new installment of Counter-Strike, maybe glancing on games like PUBG to bring new game modes into the game. I really don’t know. But I’m pretty sure that they won’t invest any more money into CS:GO Majors, nor other CS:GO tournaments.
Could we hope for an increase in prize money for 2018? Sure we could, there’s always hope, but don’t expect it. Do instead brace yourselves for a decrease, because if the current developments were to continue then we’ll almost certainly be moving towards the end of an amazing era of CS:GO.