How many teams are practicing Counter-Strike 2?
Only four top 30 teams were comfortable telling us they had started practicing the new iteration.
Counter-Strike 2 is imminent, with Valve teasing a possible release as early as this Wednesday. For the competitive scene, this presents an issue: Do you switch to the new game early, or do you prioritize the upcoming tournaments that are expected to be played in Global Offensive?
Most teams are playing it safe and have not switched yet — that's what they have told us, at least. fnatic, Complexity and Liquid all mentioned ESL Pro League as an immediate priority, and Apeks are also still on CS:GO out of an expectation that IEM Sydney will come too soon for CS2.
This data is not as bulletproof as we might like, given that it relies on teams being honest with us in a situation where secrecy might be seen as an advantage. Some teams tried to deny playing CS2 when others reported that they had already started, and others chose not to comment or respond when asked which game they were prioritizing.
Not playing as a team does not mean individual players are not getting used to the new game, too. Robin "ropz" Kool has been streaming CS2 for hours on end, often with teammates, but FaZe told us that they have not officially begun practicing the new game as a team.
This is true of most teams, with players free to practice the new game in their off-time. Some players avoid it to keep their GO form, but it is often a decision left to individuals rather than one that comes from above out of the teams we asked.
What about the teams that have switched, then?
Ninjas in Pyjamas coach Daniel "djL" Narancic created a practice group for CS2 on the 18th of September, a few weeks after their elimination from ESL Pro League. GamerLegion and Monte practice both games, but have put more of an emphasis on CS2 than most top 30 teams. Vitality were tight-lipped, but eventually confirmed they "played two games" of CS2 in practice on the 22nd of September.
The reality for these top 30 teams is that, even if they wanted to gamble on CS2's release, it is worth keeping more than an eye on CS:GO. EPL and IEM Sydney are hugely significant, with Intel Grand Slam points on offer in addition to huge prize pools and ever-important ranking points.
This is true at tournaments smaller than the $850,000 ESL Pro League, too; rankings are even more important now the Valve ranking is used for RMR invites (and, in the near future, for regular tournaments). A slip in form in Global Offensive could be costly no matter the advantage a team may hope to gain from switching early.
Still, it is a more palatable gamble for teams outside of the top 30. Early adoption can still fuel hopes of sticker money, and it should be no surprise that Major-cycle specialists Bad News Eagles have begun practice in CS2.
There are also teams like Betera, who switched completely when Premier came out on the 4th of September. It is these smaller sides that hope to pack a serious punch at the start of the new game, but the size (and duration) of their advantage remains to be seen.
Even if they find a quirk, it will not be long until tier-one teams use their significant resources to scrape strategies and optimal practices from the tier below. Teams can hide what they have found, but that leaves the risk of a Valve patch or other teams figuring out the same thing. Early adoption does not guarantee an early peak.
This is the logic behind so few teams switching early. Global Offensive is here for a while yet, and events should finish in our current game even if CS2 releases.
Our figure of four top 30 teams is doubtless impacted by teams wanting to hide what they are up to, but there is only so much you can do without other teams hearing about it. Good practice requires good practice groups; scrimming your academy in CS2 might be good for keeping things secret, but how much can you really learn about the new game?
As attractive as an early switch might seem from the outside, the reality is that CS:GO's best teams should be able to catch up quickly. It is true that Ninjas in Pyjamas's 87-0 streak in 2012-13 was helped by their early adoption of CS:GO, but many in the 1.6 and Source communities did not believe they would ever switch to the new game.
This time around, there will be no split community. There is
also not as big a difference between GO and CS2 as there was between previous games. The big teams in GO should maintain most of their edge in CS2.
There will be surprises, as there always are with a change of games. But the current top 30, if they have been honest about not switching yet, are confident of catching up in time for PGL Major Copenhagen.