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Is North American CS:GO dead?

Henrieta Hyrlikova

Is North American CS:GO dying? The question that has been resonating with the CS:GO community many times is trending again, as NA CS:GO esports seem to be struggling this season quite a bit.

The catalyst for fierce discussion this time were statements by CS:GO personalities Tarik “tarik” Celik and Michael “shroud” Grzesiek. Both claim that the North American counter-strike scene is heading to its downfall.

“NA just died in CS:GO, hard. In my opinion, that’s a very big L to the community, to lose NA,” said shroud in his recent stream. Former Cloud9 support pointed out the lack of teams in the region as well as general lack of excitement for NA esports.

Tarik, who is an active player for Evil Geniuses, was briefer: “NA CS is officially dead, I went and said it,” he tweeted and added a request for help to spread awareness. The Internet then did what it does best and the topic snowballed, leaving many with the question: Is it really dying?

Covid first to blame

First, let’s take a look at the reasons why NA CS:GO is struggling. It’s important to realize here that there’s not a single element that is harming CS esports in the region, but rather several factors playing together, moving it towards a slow decline.

That being said, we have a culprit to blame: COVID-19. The virus has caused immense damage around the world and esports are not an exception. Because of the travel restrictions and health risks associated with travelling during global pandemic, tournament organizers had no other option than to split their international events into separate regional divisions.

An involuntary decision has led to transition of CS:GO esports to Europe and ultimately to decrease in competitiveness and entertainment value in NA region. With all premier events and the best teams in Europe, the desire to play on The Old Continent increased as well.

Tough decisions

As a result, several prominent American teams had to face a hard decision of what should be their next step in order to stay relevant. Besides staying in NA and missing on major events, teams have pretty much only one option: a semi - permanent relocation to Europe.

And some NA teams already did so. For example Complexity Gaming, who arrived in Europe earlier this year to compete in ESL Pro League 11 and never returned back. The team decided to stay at the Hydra esports boot camp facility in Copenhagen and compete with the world's best teams at EU tournaments.

Expectably, such a development has a huge impact on the lives of players and other team members, so it didn’t take long until they fell short. Their star player Owen "oBo" Schlatter decided to leave the team right before the important IEM New York 2020 and went back to the United States. Given his age (17), it is more than understandable for him to want to be at home with family during these uncertain times.

Cloud9 is another team to remain in Europe, to fight in Flashpoint 2 for the foreseeable future. However, it must be said that despite being North American, both of these organizations have mostly non-NA rosters. To be specific, both teams currently consist of one American and four European players. That certainly makes the whole relocation thing more doable for them.

Lack of teams

So who’s left in the NA region? If we’re talking top tier organizations, not many. There is Evil Geniuses and Team Liquid, who plan to make at least short trips to Europe for most important events.

Until recently there were also 100 Thieves, but the situation pushed them to pull out of CS:GO completely. The organization says that it’s not able to provide proper and needed support to its players overseas, but at the same time doesn’t want to stay in their way to success and will rather find them a “new home”.

And so there is one great team less in CS:GO and we can only hope that others won’t follow the same trend.


Valorant

And we are getting to another big factor that impacts the scene - Valorant, a new team-based, first person tactical shooter by Riot. It is a direct competition for CS:GO esports and it’s already showing, as a lot of CS:GO talent recently jumped over to Valorant.

No wonder why, Valorant is new, shiny and rapidly expanding, while CS:GO is an eight years old game with old features and a bad anti-cheat. Certainly more attractive for sponsors and in the end for orgs as well. Some of those who already left CS:GO like TSM, NRG or 100 Thieves already have Valorant rosters and many others are actively looking for players.

It seems that organizations are putting a lot of faith into the new FPS title to mimic the success of CS:GO and truth be told, Valorant is expected by many to overshadow its rival. Only time will show and until then, let’s just hope the titles can coexist and that Valorant will bring more diversity to the competitive scene.

The future of CS:GO

Apart from all mentioned above, there are other issues making the situation in North America worse. No tournaments mean no income and without tournament cash rewards, some teams might struggle financially.

Last, but not least, the decrease in viewership is also problematic. With most of the popular teams playing overseas, NA is losing audience and that just adds up to the spiral of all the things that are setting the NA CS:GO back.

In summary, it doesn’t look good. North American counter-strike is facing challenging times and even though it would be a long process, it might slowly come to its end. On the other hand, the pandemic won’t be here forever and maybe, just maybe we will see NA rise from the ashes when all this is over. Competitive CS:GO is still huge and it’s not going to disappear overnight, so there is still time and space for tournament organizers to come up with a solution to have international events or at least to promote regional tournaments better.

An opportunity lies also in the next generation of players, who are currently watching the situation and might be contemplating entering professional gaming or choosing the title to master. It is really up to them if any esport stays or goes and so the priority should be showing them the CS:GO scene they will want to join. Let’s hope that FACEIT will raise many great players from new collegiate leagues they recently launched for North America.

To answer the question if North American CS:GO is dead - not yet. It’s not heading the best direction at the moment, but that doesn't have to mean anything. After all, this question has been here several times before and the game is still very much alive.

CS:GO