The Majors and Their Ever-Changing Significance
Majors are the biggest, most important tournaments we have in CS:GO. They function as landmarks and largely determine who commands the era. Majors are also a time in which new or casual fans come to the game. For posterity and for the plebeians of the present, Majors are critically defining events, and nearly everybody coming into the PGL Major knows that. Some people have priorities that do not align with the esports community, and some people have the competitive community’s best interests at heart. Because these are defining events, it is vitally important that Majors be the best that they can be.
CS:GO and CS:GO Majors have been around for a relatively short amount of time; therefore, I will attempt to illustrate the historical significance of Majors via my exploration into Counter-Strike 1.6. I am not an OG esports fan and wasn’t around in 1.6. However, I have an interest in this now ancient game and have even written articles about 1.6.
When looking back at CS 1.6. I do not look at every small tournament. That means I really am not concerned with who the promising talents from North America in 2005 were. When diving into the past, one tends to examine the surface--the biggest, most important, most glaring, things, and when explaining the past, one tends to paint with equally broad strokes. Majors are just the kind of events for an esports enthusiast like myself to look at, and on a long enough time scale, Majors really are the only things that count.
Valve wasn’t very involved in Counter-Strike 1.6. They updated it a few times and left to pursue other projects. However, CS 1.6 had a vibrant scene in years such as 2010. If Valve weren’t involved with CS 1.6 in 2010, then how come there were three Majors that year? The way in which Majors were determined was consensus. Thorin described these criteria in a recent video. Basically, teams in attendance, prestige, and prizepool were factors used to determine whether an event was a Major. All that mattered really was how good of an event the tournament organizer could put on. That was a Major.
Not all of the the biggest tournaments in CS:GO are Majors because the criteria for CS:GO Majors is different. Majors are determined by Valve, the developer, not by those who play game and not by those who broadcast the game. Majors are no longer determined and defined by how good the actual event is but how good the stickers are. Valve, who has repeatedly made changes against the wishes of the community and completely lacks transparency, are now the sole authority in determining Majors. And given Valve’s track record in CS:GO, many would say that this is the worst case scenario. Nevertheless, the developer should theoretically determine which events are Majors. As you can see, this is quite a tricky situation.
Valve has what appears to be a complete lack of understanding of the community. They do not understand that it is impossible to properly watch four tournaments occurring on the same weekend: Dreamhack Summer, Clash for Cash, Adrenaline Cyber League, and the EU Minor. This not only prevents Major aspirants who were promised nothing for winning the Minor from attending a respectable tournament like Dreamhack Summer, but it also is detrimental to the success of the tournament organizers and any sane person’s viewing experience. If there truly is an oversaturation problem, Valve’s ignorance when it comes to scheduling their events is not helping. Valve also harmed the scene when it came to the PGL Major itself. ESL One Cologne, an already historic event which many people were counting on being a Major, occurred an awfully close one week away from the PGL Major. Astralis, perhaps the best team in the world, felt that Cologne would be so detrimental that they passed up their invite and are one step further from winning the Grand Slam.
Valve’s negative actions are not exclusive to the Majors either. It’s understandable that a small group of game developers aren’t able to effectively put on tournaments—that’s a tournament organizer’s job. Valve’s greatest sin is that they are so stubborn, so set in their ways, that after five years of CS:GO they refuse to get a community manager or listen to the advice of the community. They say that they are listening, but there is little indication of it when they decide to change the map veto process five days before the Major or reduce the number of Majors. Those aren’t the only qualms that the community has with Valve, but for the sake of keeping this article short and on the topic of the Majors, I will not include them here. Nevertheless, it would be possible to move on from these issues if Valve were to accept their mistakes and adapt to what it means to be a developer of a major esports title.
That is not to say that Valve has only fucked up because they certainly have done some great things for the community. Cosmetics in the game put CS:GO on the map, and it is a miracle that CS:GO has been able to maintain its numbers after an end to skins gambling. Outside of just good gameplay and stickers, there might be something that makes PGL especially impressive that justifies some of these problems created by Valve.
When it comes down to it, a developer really has to be the one determining Majors in this day and age of esports. That is to say someone who understands the community and esports that works for the company that makes the game, not the actual game designers themselves. Unfortunately, people expect souvenir drops and stickers, and without them it wouldn’t be a Major. But Valve’s Major status has propelled the game and done more for it than that which could have been done without them. In short, Valve have made Majors into what they should be. They are the biggest events. They are a spectacle akin to esports’ World’s Fair.
Two times, a year, the whole esports community gathers to watch the tournament for an entire week. These are the events that people will remember, and if stickers help bring in a bunch of soon-to-be hardcore fans, then so be it. But that isn’t the problem. Majors could be twice as frequent as they are currently. Additionally, Valve has used the Majors, inadvertently or not, to control the competitive community in fields such as coaching, effectively ruining teams like Na’Vi. Majors haven’t just grown to be an even more incredible set of events that will be remembered for years. Majors have grown to be a political tool that have compromised competitive integrity for the sake of Valve’s interests, which remain shrouded to this day.
Image credit: GosuGamers