Carmac: "No CS:GO as main title"
Following last week's announcement from Electronic Sports League about dropping Counter-Strike 1.6 as a main title in the Intel Extreme Masters, we talked with Michal "Carmac" Blicharz, Director of Pro Gaming at the German-based company.
After six seasons as one of the main titles in ESL's premiere event series, the Intel Extreme Masters, it was last week announced Counter-Strike 1.6 will not be included as a main title in the seventh season.
Michal "Carmac" Blicharz agreed to feature in an interview here on HLTV.org, touching on why the the game was dropped, how the process of selecting games is done and much more regarding IEM and CS.
The speculations of IEM featuring CS 1.6 for new seasons, is by no means new. For how many seasons have you been reviewing whether it should be in or not and has there at any time been an alternative?
We review all games at the end of the season, not just Counter-Strike 1.6, so technically we reviewed every season. As far as alternatives go, we always look at games separately. If we remove a certain game, it does not mean that we will be looking to replace it at all.
Last season we removed QUAKE LIVE and it was completely unrelated to adding League of Legends. QL had its own set of reasons why we stopped it and LoL had its own set of reasons why we should pick it up.
The same way the decision not to host CS 1.6 at every event this season has its own set of reasons and was not prompted by any external context. If we find good reasons to run a CS 1.6 tournament at one of the future Intel Extreme Masters stops, we will do it.
We just couldn't commit to CS 1.6 for a tournament series where 50% of the season takes place outside of Europe. We're working on a purely European league for CS 1.6, but it is difficult to finance anything for CS 1.6 these days. So no promises.
CS 1.6's old graphics are often cited as a reason for the game's decline in the eyes of tournament organizers. Do the graphics actually play any part in your game selection process and do you get pressured by sponsors to pick games with better graphics or is it all about viewership and the size of the community?
I have NEVER heard a single word from any of our sponsors about graphics. In fact, for our event in Shanghai two seasons ago it was Intel that asked us to run a local Chinese DotA tournament. We all know DotA is a game made on a 2002 engine.
Carmac on stage at the IEM 6 World Championship
In the announcement about removing CS 1.6 as a main title in the coming IEM season it is mentioned that the game has declined in other parts of the world. Is this a result of the Asian and North American teams being unable to fund travel to the IEM 6 WC or did the viewership suffer in those regions as well due to time zones being odd for the European fans?
The main reason was that CS does not have professional teams outside of Europe. CS is doing well on an amateur level in North America but it is not really supported as a professional game
If you want to host a great global event somewhere in China or North America, you need to bring at least six European teams because the local teams just aren't at a level good enough to compete. Which leads us to a conclusion that it's much better to focus on Europe and European events instead.
Viewership for our non-European events was not mindblowing due to a mixture of time zones and the teams playing in those events. Six, seven years ago everyone would have been dying to see the 4 best North American teams compete against the best European, Asian and South American teams.
If you remember the great North American teams and the rivalries they had across the Atlantic Ocean with European teams... Those were THE years of CS. Today the biggest rivalries are across 1200km. CS is a European game these days. In Europe there aren't that many teams with good sponsorships either, but at least the level of play is very high and the cost of attending an event within Europe is relatively low.
In 2008 the Intel Extreme Masters champions were German and the runners up were Korean. Imagine seeing that today.
Based on your quote "This means that if CS 1.6 will be featured at an event, it will only be for certain events where it is a perfect fit for the Intel Extreme Masters locally", how likely is it that CS 1.6 will be featured at say a European Global Challenge in season seven?
We will look at each event individually and see what the best approach is. It will depend on the floor space we have available and on the service / streaming coverage we can guarantee for CS 1.6 there. And on how many teams will pledge their support to CS 1.6 as well.
70,000 viewers is what many will remember from the season six finals. What do you make of the viewership numbers the game produced during CeBIT?
In case it wasn't clear: CS 1.6 is still a fantastic esports game in Europe. It has got a lot of high skilled players and still many teams competing for #1 and a lot of viewership. The 70,000 number is not a number to complain about, but it happened once last season.
If the Intel Extreme Masters were a tour of events in Stockholm, Warsaw, Berlin, Kiev, Paris and Moscow, there would be no question which game fits best.
Carmac handing pasha the MVP award at IEM 6 World Championship
Has Valve announcing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive had any impact on the decision to remove CS 1.6 as a main title?
None. As I said, we look at games independently. Other than pure budget reasons, I see nothing that would theoretically stop us from running both games at the same time if we determine that they fit the bill for our project.
Based on your involvement with Valve so far and the release date of CS:GO, can we expect the game to be a part of the main games for the upcoming season?
A game can be a main title in the Intel Extreme Masters if it's a healthy esport: it has an active player base, spectators and fans. No game will have that from Day 1 after the release. That needs to grow with time and with a community behind the game.
So the answer is: no, we will not have CS:GO as a main title in the Intel Extreme Masters in the upcoming season. The game will be released in the same month as the first event of the new season.
If CS:GO (or any other game) is featured in the Intel Extreme Masters at any point in time, it will not be to replace one or any other game in it. It will be so because it has a community of its own which can prove that the game deserves it.
We are not fixed on a specific number of games in our leagues. If I had completely unlimited budgets, we'd probably be running 9 different games in Intel Extreme Masters.
No CS 1.6 and no CS:GO, does that mean there will be no FPS title as a main title for season seven?
That's the way it looks right now, though we will still run tournaments for games which fit locally.
If CS:GO becomes successful in its own right, I can see it featured in Intel Extreme Masters events. I can also imagine an event with both games in it. Until there is a clear signal that the 75% CS 1.6 community has transitioned into CS:GO, we have to treat these two games as two completely different titles.
As a whole, what do you think of FPS games' future in general?
I think that we are starving for new, good games that will "get it right". The potential out there is huge because people still play FPS games. The key issue is: how do we convince all the casual players that it's better to play an FPS game on a PC than on a console? To us it is an extremely obvious choice because nothing beats mouse control. But to them it isn't.
We need new people to come into the esports FPS scene and those people to be turned from casual players to die-hard players, and those to competitive and pro players. The new game that will save esports as an FPS needs to be done well as a social experience and as a competitive platform.
I just think it's a shame there's no good hardcore 1on1 FPS out there (yet). That would be great to have!
Season five features the best IEM CS memory for Carmac
With CS 1.6 removed as a main title in IEM, if you had to name one memory that sticks out from the years you’ve been involved, what would it be?
I will never forget the FX vs. SK Gaming semi final. I have always been a good friend to the Polish CS team and I saw them struggle for a very long time. I saw how badly they wanted to be in the final the event before in Kiev and how devastated they were after mTw beat them.
They came to CeBIT and lost to the same mTw team in group play and had to rebuild themselves as a group and as a team all the way to the final. I think at that event SK Gaming was the much better team but they lost to FX because of their insanely strong heads, their composure and the little extra that has made them legends.
That game cost them so much that they broke down crying after the victory. I felt privileged that I was there in that moment and I will never forget it.
The community is obviously not pleased with the move and as an end to this interview, is there anything you’d like to say to the community?
I think that they have every right to be displeased. I would be if I were them. I would only like to thank those that have supported us over the years and it was a pleasure delivering Intel Extreme Masters events for them.
As Blicharz disclosed, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will not be a main title for the upcoming season seven of the Intel Extreme Masters, just like Counter-Strike 1.6 won't. This means that the only chance to see either of the games in the coming season, will be if a side tournament is hosted.