Blog: History of Counter Strike: The CGS Years


Go and check out my Youtube video on the CGS!

[HEADLINE]2007 and 2008 in Counter Strike will forever be remembered as the years of the CGS. But what was the CGS?
The CGS stood for the Championship Gaming Series and found its origins through The World Series of Poker on ESPN. David Hill, an executive at Fox Sports and DirecTV saw how the World Series of Poker had transformed Texas hold’em poker into a spectator sport and wanted to do the same with competitive video game playing.

In July 2006 a pilot episode was filmed as the Championship Gaming Invitational. The invitational took place over 2 days and featured Counter Strike 1.6, Battlefield 2, Halo 2, Project Gotham Racing 3 and Dead or Alive 4. The 1.6 side of the tournament had a $71,000 prize pool and featured 3 NA teams – Complexity, Team 3D and Jax Money Crew and also the Swedes of Ninjas in Pyjamas. The finals were an all American battle between Complexity and Team 3D after HeatoN’s boys on NiP suffered a loss to 3D in the semifinals. The final’s saw Complexity with fRoD and Warden take down Team 3D featuring players such as Rambo and Volcano (a player now well known as being one of the co-creators of the map Cache with FMPONE). Th event was then broadcast on DirecTV channel 101 from September 8th to September 10th and was said to produce a 400% increase in ratings at the time.

The success of the invitational led to a full blown season being greenlit for 2007, as more than $50 million was provided by News Corp to fund the series for 5 years, although almost immediately they suffered a setback as David Hill – the architect of the league – moved back to Fox in March after News Corp sold its shares in DirecTV, leaving the league without one of its creators. DirecTV partnered with British broadcaster Sky and the Asian STAR TV network to ensure the League was to be a truly global league, viewed all around the world.

Expenses were also incredibly high in the league, with a prime example being Fatal1ty’s salary, despite never having played Counter Strike he was paid a reported $300,000 a season due to his status as one of the only main stream names in gaming and every player in the North American league was paid $2,500 a month, had housing paid for them in Marina Del Rey and were given a stipend of $50 for food each day. This meant the league was paying out over $1.8 million in salaries a year.

It wasn’t only the management which did things differently however, but the entire league. Teams were assigned to cities with 6 teams in NA - Team 3D and Complexity sold their brands to CGS to become New York 3D and Los Angeles Complexity, whilst players from other teams joined the new teams which had been set up in the CGS “draft”, Jax Money Crew became Dallas Venom, Evil Geniuses became Chicago Chimera, Team Pandemic became Carolina Core and EFGaming (featuring mOE) became San Francisco Optx. 10 more cities from around the world were also assigned teams in Season One. In the Latin American side of things, mibr (a Brazilian team which had done well internationally featuring big names such as cogu) became Rio Sinistro and Art of War (featuring the current core 3 of Team Quetzal) became Mexico City Furia.

The UK saw some of its strongest teams ever with the core of Team Dignitas becoming Birmingham Salvo and the core of 4Kings becoming London Mint which between them had some of the most prominent UK players in Counter Strike with HenryG, RattlesnK and duo Harriman and Mangiacapra. In Europe Swedish Squad NoA became Berlin Allianz and they were joined by Stockholm Magnetik, a team managed by the legendary HeatoN. The Pan-Asian region had 4 different teams just as North America with Singapore Sword and Sydney Underground featuring topGun and Spunj (aka Chad) being the dominant teams in the region.

However each team was not only a team of Counter Strike Source players but also included Dead or Alive 4 players, FIFA 07 players and PGR 3 players. This meant that teams results were not only based on Counter Strike Source but also the other games as well – distorting how good some teams look like in comparison to others if we look primarily at CSS.
Each game of Counter Strike Source in the tournament consisted of 18 rounds with each round won equating to a point for the team, and if the match were to finish 9-9, a sudden death round was played to find a winner. A tie breaking round was also played at the end of a game if the overall teams were tied on points.
In DOA 4, games were a best of 9 rounds with 1 point being awarded for each round won.
In Project Gotham Racing 3 teams were awarded 4 points if their driver won the race, 2 points if their driver came 2nd and 1 point if they came 3rd.
And finally in FIFA 07, games were 8 minutes long and each goal scored was equal to one point. If the game finished as a draw it would go to penalties and each goal in penalties would also count as a point.

The CGS version of Counter Strike was also highly edited from what we are used to today, the CT and T models were edited to look non-military and instead had sports jerseys with the players name on. As the games were a lot shorter than MR15 which we are used to today, teams started with 16k and so pistol rounds did not exist and eco rounds were a rare occurrence. Some maps were also not allowed, Train was taken out of the active map pool as it was deemed too dark and was replaced with Tuscan instead.

The CGS also had limited exclusivity, as teams could not go and play in other leagues (as we have now with ESL Pro League, ECS and eLeague etc) however they could go and play at say a one-off LAN event if they had obtained written consent from CGS and ensured they followed some rules such as making sure they wore their CGS jerseys and mentioned CGS in any media appearances. Punishment for breaking these rules could be harsh with an example being Kevin Azn Wang who had $5,000 of his $30,000 salary docked as he decided to compete in a 1.6 tournament with his friends.

After the NA region’s regular season had finished playoff’s began and here is where you really begin to see what I mean by results being weird if you look at them purely from a Counter Strike view, as although mOE’s San Francisco Optx beat Carolina Core in the CSS game 10-8, it was Carolina Core who progressed to the World Championships with Chicago Chimera after getting much better results in PGR and the male competition for Dead or Alive. (Oh yeah did I forget Dead or Alive had male and female competitions).

The World Championships took place in December and although originally scheduled to have 12 teams from around the world only had 11 due to the Chinese team Wuhan Dragons not having valid visas (doesn’t history have a wonderful way of repeating itself cough tyloo at eleague cough) The format of the tournament saw the winners of each region going straight to the quarter finals with the runners up for each participating in a round of 12. There were no real surprises in the tournament or controversies in the Counter Strike sense of having a team win the CS game but not advance until the semifinals of the tournament where the British team Birmingham Salvo played the Americans of Chicago Chimera, and although the Brits won the Counter Strike game 12-6 the other games let them down and they lost 25-17. On the other side of the bracket Carolina Core took down Fifflaren’s Berlin Allianz both in Counter Strike and overall. The finals saw another disappointment for the winning CS team as although Carolina Core were able to take down Chicago Chimera 11-7 in the Source Game, all of the players for the other games could only get 1 point and it was Chicago Chimera who won the $500,000 grand prize.

The first season was fairly successful as it drew a reported 50 million viewers (although 90% were in Asia), however the lengths to which it were successful can definitely be argued as statistics for the Americas were unavailable as DirecTV was only broadcast in 20 million households at the time and so was too small to get Nielsen ratings, however due to the tournament expanding to a global one almost instantaneously it was way over budget.

However these issues were not yet well known and so members of the eSports community were still dedicated to making the CGS a success. For example in May 2008, Jason Lake sold his law firm in Georgia and moved his wife and two children to Los Angeles. However despite the issues the league was starting to face, Season 2 began with the North American region on June 2nd as Chicago Chimera were decimated by the Carolina Core 13-5 in Source and 30-13 overall, and LA Complexity lost to San Francisco Optx 25-20 even though they destroyed them 13-5 in the CSS game.

The 2008 season saw a few changes coming into it, FIFA 07 was naturally changed to FIFA 08 and Project Gotham Racing 3 was replaced with Forza 2. 2 more cities were assigned teams in the Pan-Asian region with Kuala Lumpur getting the Kuala Lumpur Taufan and Dubai getting Dubai Mirage, although neither managed to qualify for the World Championships. The UK teams had to qualify for the World Championships through the European Finals this time instead of a seperate UK Finals and the number of teams at the World Championships was reduced from 12 to 8.
2 teams from North America, 2 teams from Europe, 2 teams from Pan-Asia and 1 team from Latin America made it to the World Championships with the final spot being decided through the Wild Card Finals featuring 3rd and 4th placed teams from North America and the 3rd placed team from Europe battling it out. San Francisco Optx were the eventual victors after beating 3D overall (although losing the Counter Strike Source game) and by beating the London Mint.

The Season 2 World Championships started much sooner after the regular season than they did previously starting on the 14th July, and again we saw teams that won their Counter Strike games not progressing due to the format of the tournament. In the quarter finals Sydney Underground beat Berlin Allianz 10-9 however were completely outshone in every other game and so lost 26-14. Birmingham Salvo suffered a heavy loss in CSS to Mexico City Furia, losing 12-6, however still managed to progress due to strong showings in Forza and both Dead or Alive sexes, and finishing 22-19.

The semifinals did not suffer this problem though as Birmingham Salvo advanced over Carolina Core, after Messy managed to defeat Offbeat Ninja in an overtime round as the scores were tied 20-20, even though he had lost 5-0 in the regular game. The Salvo were met in the final by San Francisco Optx and it was here that UK CS would see it’s first and only major tournament win, even though the Counter Strike game was finished early at 8-4 due to it now being impossible for San Francisco Optx to comeback and win.

In August 2008, registration opened up for the CGS Pro-Am division which would offer $40,000 across 3 games – Team Fortress 2, Counter Strike: Source and to many’s surprise Counter Strike 1.6. Pro-Am was very similar to how ESEA is today. The Pro-Am division finished for each game at the Pro-Am finals with the CS 1.6 finals on the 17th November, won by LA Complexity and the CS S finals the day after.

However, November 18th would be much more eventful for CGS than the CSS finals of the Pro-Am Division, as via a blog post on the CGS website that they were shutting down as it had become inherently clear that profitability was too far in the future.

This shook the Counter Strike world. Players and companies had been promised 5 seasons of CGS, 5 seasons of security, all the top NA players and the top UK players had made the switch to Source because of CGS, and without the CGS Source did not have a pro season – due to the exclusivity CGS had had. Many NA players tried to make the switch back to 1.6 and failed or simply gave up and quit CS – with CGS being a main argument for why the NA scene failed to accomplish anything substantial until very recently. People such had Jason Lake had previously been doing very well for themselves, owning a major esports brand and in Jason Lake’s case his own law company, and were now left with nothing – no brand, no job, no salary.

One positive – or negative I guess some might argue – to come from the fall of CGS was the creation of the E-Sports Entertainment Assosciation League or ESEA for short by Craig Levine, another man who had lost his brand with the fall of CGS as the previous owner of Team 3D.

To conclude, CGS taught people in the scene many valuable lessons – on the problems of exclusivity and how TV was not the holy grail for esports, leading to many possibly bad scenarios never really playing out – for example the exclusive super-league ESL, Vulkun and Twitch were rumoured to be trying to create last year in 2015.
Canada SquishyMuffinz 
rly nice
2016-11-07 00:02
2016-11-07 00:07
Good work!
2016-11-07 00:16
its origins*, its* shares, fRoD*, Warden*, Fatal1ty*.. considering how most of the blog is really well written those small mistakes hurt my inner grammar-nazi.
2016-11-07 00:39
United Kingdom Jabzilla 
Sorry, edited <3
2016-11-07 17:05
Really great video. This was before my time, and I'm glad we havent made the same mistake we did back then, at least not yet.
2016-11-07 03:41
Brazil junera 
gj m8! i like dis
2016-11-07 13:45
United Kingdom Jabzilla 
2016-11-07 17:06
2016-11-08 05:47
Xeno | 
Netherlands Xenoo 
Nice blog lad.
2016-11-08 10:07
CGS biggest cancer cs history has ever seen
2016-11-08 10:23
Great blog. Fuck CGS for ruining NA scene.
2016-11-08 10:48
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