As NA's big guns migrate to Europe, Chaos and Triumph look towards the future
In the middle of October, it was confirmed that the trio of Evil Geniuses, FURIA, and Liquid would make the trip overseas to compete in several end-of-the year tournaments, marking the first international appearance of these North America-based teams against European competition since IEM Katowice.
For fans, the trip presents the tantalizing prospect of seeing battles between teams from the two regions — something that had been missing since Counter-Strike went online in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. But for the remaining teams in North America, the departure of the region’s best talents leaves them without top-tier practice partners and lowers the overall level of matches that they have at their disposal.
This, for a region already suffering from a reduced talent pool as some players have made the move to VALORANT, might seem like a deathblow to the tier-two scene from those looking in from the outside. For Chaos in-game leader vanity however, it is merely a small setback as Chaos look to hone their individual play while waiting for teams to return.
“Getting good practice in the region will be a little more difficult with the teams leaving, but I don’t think it’ll be the biggest issue,” the Chaos captain told to HLTV.org. “My goals for the team stay the same. As long as we are giving our best and not letting each other down, the results will come eventually.”
Triumph’s Shakezullah had a similar outlook, saying that since the move from the teams is temporary, the scene will rebound upon their return. “It’s going to be tough for a few months,” he admitted , “but I’d imagine everything will reset in a couple of months and we will be back to where we are right now soon. I don't think the majority of players wish to live overseas permanently; however, as long as COVID remains, the scene will remain in its current state, so most likely it will take six months minimum before anything changes.“
The Triumph in-game leader also pointed towards a lack of practice opportunities earlier in the day without some of the higher tier teams around, and mentioned that teams would have to find a workaround for the lack of scrim time by prioritizing demo and server work. Additionally, he felt that the up-and-coming teams in the region, such as New England Whalers, TeamOne, and Yeah, will benefit from the absence of the top teams as they will be able to make deeper runs in tournaments, offering them more acclaim and directing more attention to some of their players.
As for the departure of talent to VALORANT, neither captain expressed concern, both sharing the opinion that new talent will rise to fill the gap, given some time. Shakezullah, speaking from experience as a captain who has played alongside a number of rising North American talents, including Ricky "floppy" Kemery, Josh "oSee" Ohm, and Michael "Grim" Wince, conceded that the current season of ESEA’s MDL was the weakest ever in North America, but named a handful of players — Justin "FaNg" Coakley, Danny "cxzi" Strzelczyk, and David "Sneaky" Polster — who he feels will be able to step up into a better team if needed. He also pointed towards some core issues in the region that he feels are behind the degradation of the scene as a whole.
“I think the biggest issue we suffer from is a lack of roster stability,” Shakezullah stated. “I can’t act like mine has been a beacon of light in the scene either as we have been a revolving door for players recently, but no team tends to stick together. It’s a mixture of ego/inability to be resilient and work out issues, organisation stability, players getting poached, etc. It’s hard to really narrow it down, but a ton of teams you see in Europe who end up making waves have a core that has been together for years. From my experience, most players within the [North American] scene don’t have the ability to talk through and work out issues. I think this leads to roster changes that are mainly sparked from issues that could have been easily solved, but since neither side has the ability to maturely get through it, a change happens. It’s a repetitive and endless cycle.”
The Triumph in-game leader also drew attention to the lack of third-party tournaments in North America, mentioning that “it is extremely difficult to be a full-time pro” in the region if one is not competing in ESL Pro League or Flashpoint. He also mentioned that a number of organisations have pulled out of CS:GO, though he raised doubts about their ability to have a return on investment given the lack of roster stability.
“Recently, tournament organizers such as ESEA, FPL, and Mythic have started to do more cash cups in North America, with prizes typically ranging between $2,000-3,000 for first place,” Shakezullah noted. “It’s a great start, and I think it will help the tier-two scene a lot, but the format needs to change because only the finals are ever on HLTV. There needs to be more teams in these tournaments, a round robin-system [for example], so it is placed on HLTV. Then there can start to be viewers, sponsors, and revenue. The tournaments are being so poorly advertised and formatted right now that I don’t see how these tournaments will last without operating at a loss.”
It remains to be seen how this will affect the North America scene in the short term — after all, six months, as Shakezullah predicted, is a long time in esports. It is entirely possible that with the region's best migrating to Europe, where ESL will build a studio that will be used for all of its major competitions in 2021, North American tournaments will be scaled down to the same level of their Asian and Oceanic counterparts. Still, the Triumph captain is confident that his region will rebound, both from the loss of talent to VALORANT and the temporary departure of top teams to Europe.
“We will go through a bit of a down period, and things will be rough for a while, but ultimately new talent will come in and fill the void,” he commented. “The overall skill level might take a dip for a bit, but over time, everything will even itself out and new people will get opportunities. I don’t think the game is dying, the player base is expanding, esports in North America are only becoming more recognized and mainstream, and tournament organizers are still hosting tournaments with record numbers.”