Looking back at 2016
2017 is around the corner, which means it's time for us to take a look back at 2016's biggest news, some of the most interesting lineup changes and significant updates which affected the scene.
In 2016 we saw more tournaments take place and more prizemoney distributed than ever before, as new organizers entered the scene to get a piece of the pie and the longer standing parties had to up their game to battle the fierce competition.
Similarly, the top teams had to face much tougher opponents as the year progressed; the elite tier was continuously expanding and new threats emerged, each able to take better opposition on paper to their limit.
Throughout the year Valve came up with several updates and news that affected the remainder of 2016 and more, such as the coaching limitations or hammering down on skin betting.
Read on to find out what the biggest moments of 2016 were as we go down the list in chronological order:
THREAT joins NiP as coach (January 1st)
Last year ended with NiP presenting their new lineup, the addition of Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi to the roster that had lost Aleksi "allu" Jalli in December. It turned out the news had not finished with New Year's Eve, as the Swedes added Björn "THREAT" Pers for the coaching position at the very beginning of 2016.
The veteran took the reins as the newly appointed in-game leader and turned NIP's famously loose playstyle into a heavily tactical approach, completely reinvigorating the team who had only changed a single player in the active lineup.
It took the Swedish giants a couple of months before the hardcore changes came to fruition, but they did at DreamHack Masters Malmö, NIP's first of three titles in 2016.
THREAT reinvigorated NiP with a heavily tactical approach
Valve: "Match-fixing bans are permanent" (January 5th)
At the beginning of 2015, Valve and nearly every other organizer banned Joshua "steel" Nissan's and Sam "DaZeD" Marine's iBUYPOWER lineup and added several other players to the list later on, such as Robin "GMX" Stahmer's Epsilon.
After a year of questions surrounding the players' futures, such as whether they'd be unbanned at any point, Valve put out a statement saying all match-fixing bans are permanent and everyone caught match-fixing from then on would receive permanent bans as well.
Liquid attempt to tame the Ukrainian beast s1mple (January 12th)
After being relieved of his duties in FlipSid3, Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev spent the second half of 2015 going from team to team waiting for a new opportunity. That came in Liquid, who decided to take on the challenge of taming the Ukrainian beast.
s1mple's tenure there ended fairly abruptly after some of the players were unhappy with his behavior and the Ukrainian star got homesick, but not before he helped the North Americans take a semi-finals finish at MLG Columbus.
He and the team improved on that result with the region's best placing at a Major, a second place at ESL One Cologne, after Liquid temporarily brought him back.
CyberZen attend SL i-League StarSeries XIV Finals #CSGO2ASIA (January 13th)
The SL i-League StarSeries Season 1 Finals was the first international event attended by an Asian team, Bin "Savage" Liu's CyberZen, who went on to take G2 (who transferred to FaZe shortly afterwards) to a close best-of-three.
Valve quadruple Major prizemoney to $1,000,000 (February 24th)
Since 2013 when DreamHack Winter was announced as the first Major, all seven Major tournaments in the next two years featured a $250,000 prizepool. As other organizers matched that amount and some even surpassed it, the community was calling for an increase and Valve obliged.
MLG Columbus was the first Major with $1,000,000 on the line and Valve promised that same amount would become the standard for Majors to come, including July's ESL One Cologne and next year's ELEAGUE Major.
fnatic's winning streak comes to an end (April 1st)
At the beginning of 2016, fnatic had already been on a streak of three titles in a row, FACEIT Stage 3 Finals, Fragbite Masters Season 5 and ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2 Finals.
With three more tournaments under their belt, the Swedes extended the streak to six before they headed into this year's first of two Majors, MLG Columbus. However, Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer was unable to bring his A game due to an injury and fnatic finished 5th-8th after a loss to Astralis.
That era's best player in the world then took a break and didn't come back until three months after, but the Swedes had never become the same dominant force since and eventually broke up the lineup in half after ELEAGUE Season 1 playoffs.
fnatic's winning streak stopped at six, with IEM Katowice being their last title
Luminosity triumph at 2016's first Major, MLG Columbus (April 3rd)
Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo's Luminosity began showing improvement at the end of 2015, miraculously finishing second at FACEIT League Stage 3 Finals only days after the change from Lucas "steel" Lopes and Ricardo "boltz" Prass to Lincoln "fnx" Lau and Epitacio "TACO" de Melo.
With multiple more great results at their first three events of 2016, the Brazilians looked to improve on their two quarter-finals finishes at the previous two Majors. Defeating Virtus.pro, Liquid and finally Natus Vincere in the playoffs, the Major title went to a non-European team for the first time.
Ex6TenZ departs the top-tier scene (April 9th)
Kévin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans had been part of various iterations of the original VeryGames roster since the beginning of CS:GO in the second half of 2012 and long before in CS:S.
After nearly four years of leading his team in CS:GO and making several lineup changes, he ended up on the chopping block himself, as he was replaced by Alexandre "bodyy" Pianaro on G2 who then went on their solid run in summer.
The Belgian attempted to invigorate LDLC, but so far he has been unable to come back into the top-tier scene and is looking to take advantage of a possible third episode of the French shuffle.
Ex6tenZ has been trying to push LDLC to a new level since his departure from G2
Nuke replaces Inferno in the Active Duty map pool (April 22nd)
At the time, Inferno had been part of the Active Duty map pool from the beginning of CS:GO, while new maps (Cache, Cobblestone, Overpass) emerged and others received a revamp (Mirage, Train, Nuke).
In April it was Inferno that went back to Valve's workshop to undergo massive changes and instead a new version of Nuke returned to competitive play, shortly before the Minor Championships prior to ESL One Cologne began.
Mid-October, the reworked Inferno dubbed "Infernew" entered the Reserves map pool, though Valve have not yet revealed their plans for its comeback into the Active Duty list.
ESL announce WESA federation (May 13th)
May saw ESL announcing the World Esports Association (WESA), founded by six European and two North American organizations, which was introduced as a federation that would aim to regulate, standardize and professionalize the competitive scene.
So far WESA has only sanctioned ESL events, most importantly the ESL Pro League, and has been fairly quiet since the announcement, apart from the unveiling of their Player Council.
SK, Team X disqualified from ELEAGUE (July 6th)
On July 6th, ELEAGUE made one the most controversial decisions in the history of CS:GO, disqualifying SK and X from ELEAGUE Season 1 following the Brazilians' transfer from Luminosity to the German organization.
The shocking ruling revealed ELEAGUE spots are held by organizations as opposed to the teams, as the league's commissioner Min-Sik Ko stated that neither SK or Luminosity could field the roster they submitted at the start of the season.
SK become the second team to win back-to-back Majors (July 10th)
Before ESL One Cologne 2016, fnatic had been the only team to win back-to-back Majors (ESL One Katowice 2015 and ESL One Cologne 2015).
With their victory at the second and last Major this year, SK earned their place among the Swedish giants as the second team to have won two Majors back-to-back.
SK joined fnatic's 2015 lineup in the back-to-back Major winners club
Valve hammer down on skin betting (July 20th)
With a cease and desist letter sent out to some of the biggest skin betting sites, including CSGOLounge, Valve aimed to put an end to the popular gambling with their digital items.
Most of the listed companies ceased operations completely or at least stopped the usage of Valve's Steam platform for their purposes, as commercial use of the services was against the Steam Subscriber Agreement, Valve's legal counsel explained in the letter.
The first official off-season begins (August 1st)
In the first half of 2016, the top teams agreed to create CS:GO's first official off-season, a two-week break from all events, including online competitions.
Most of the teams used the timeout for holidays, but more importantly, some decided to make changes to their rosters. At the end of July and throughout August, eight of the most prominent teams announced their new lineups, including Dignitas, Natus Vincere, fnatic, GODSENT, FaZe, Cloud9, MOUZ and OpTic.
Until the end of the year, four of the aforementioned eight teams (plus NIP, who had Mikail "Maikelele" Bill standing in for an extended period of time) came out victorious at some of the biggest events of the year, with their new players proving to be pivotal in their success: Natus Vincere and s1mple, Dignitas and Emil "Magisk" Reif, Cloud9 and Timothy "autimatic" Ta, and OpTic and Tarik "tarik" Celik.
Valve limit coach communication, bring timeout changes (August 17th)
Right after the off-season came to an end on August 15th, Valve introduced a new ruling concerning coaches, especially in-game leading coaches, to the Valve-affiliated events.
As the developers felt the coaches had too much of an impact on the game and thus considered them a sixth player rather than supportive staff, they decided to limit coach communication to only the warmup, the short breaks between halves, and four new 30-second tactical timeouts which the teams could use whenever they wanted.
Various organizers joined in and copied the rule into their ruleset, including ESL whose ESL One New York showcased those changes for the first time.
Teams with in-game leading coaches were affected the most
PEA formed, another big league enters the fray (September 8th)
In September, a second association called the Professional Esports Association (PEA) was revealed, operated by seven North American organizations, TSM, Cloud9, Liquid, CLG, Immortals, NRG and compLexity.
Alongside the association itself, PEA unveiled their $1 million league starting in 2017 in which the organizations would share the profits and decision-making with their players.
NiP miss out on a Major for the first time (December 18th)
In their attempt to make the tenth Major through the Main Qualifier, NIP fell short to HellRaisers in overtime and lost to OpTic. With a 1-2 record, two wins in a row away from qualifying for ELEAGUE's Major, NIP faced huge underdogs Vega Squadron and found themselves without a spot at a Major for the first time in three years in a shocking manner, a 16-2 thrashing on Cache.
Players protest against PEA exclusivity (December 22nd)
To end the year on a rather dramatic note, 25 players (all members of Cloud9, CLG, Liquid, Immortals and TSM) joined forces with Scott "SirScoots" Smith to protest against PEA and their organizations' owners, who were preventing their teams from playing in the ESL Pro League.
The back-and-forth between the involved parties as well as WESA, who were approached by PEA with demands to discontinue ESL Pro League in North America, led to PEA giving the affected teams a choice between their league and the ESL Pro League.
You can follow HLTV.org's Milan "Striker" Švejda on Twitter