Cast your minds back to around a year and a half ago to September 2019. Things were looking pretty different compared to now, right? September 2019 was the last time the passionate world of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was able to enjoy one of its annual Major Championships, with Danish org being crowned champions for a fourth time at the StarLadder Berlin Major.
Few in the world could have predicted the events that would unfold around six months later, with the outbreak of the coronavirus triggering various lockdown measures around the world, and the subsequent abandonment of sporting and entertainment events for nearly a whole calendar year now.
The outbreak forced the Esports events around the world that would normally be presented on big stages in front of thousands of spectators to be split into localised, online regional events and whilst some orgs like Team Liquid, Evil Geniuses and FURIA moved to Europe to bootcamp and try to recreate the feeling of an offline experience, there’s no denying the scene has been starved of a true experience for far too long now.
But, could a return to the huge spectacles in packed out arenas be on the horizon following the announcement of the PGL 2021 Stockholm Major?
How Did We Get Here?
Ever since 2015, Valve Corporation have funded two Major Championships every year around the world, bringing together all of the world’s best teams. Though CS:GO has one of the most lucrative and busy competitive calendars in the Esports world, the Majors are what the most legendary of sides have built their legacies off.
Rio de Janiero was chosen as the city to host the first major of 2020, with the tournament being scheduled for April for what would have been the first Major to take place outside of either Europe or North America. Brazil houses one of the most passionate scenes in the entire game, leading to a level of hype never before seen prior to a tournament.
IEM Katowice had already seen its format restructured in March with fans no longer being able to attend, and it would turn out to be the final LAN event any CS pros, pundits or fans have been able to taste to date. As the pandemic continued to grind everything to a halt, the ESL One Rio Major was postponed a month and a bit before its planned start date, with an online regional system of qualifiers being established to determine who would be attending when lockdowns and restrictions were lifted.
The Rio Major was then postponed to the later date in the winter in November, with the planned prize pool being doubled to $2 million, which is essentially two Majors rolled into one. Despite everyone in the community thinking ESL were being conservative with that date, that too was cancelled in the autumn and the online qualifiers have continued to roll on.
With most of the world’s best sides still currently in Europe, and the emergence of a new strain of COVID-19 in Brazil, it was announced in January that the next Major Championship would be housed in Stockholm during the winter of 2021 with PGL as the tournament organisers.
Will It Be The First Offline LAN Event?
Hopefully not. It’s currently the only tournament booked in the calendar to be an offline LAN event, but it’s assumed that, providing the global situation improves, there will be a host of warm up offline tournaments established before November.
Will Brazil Still Get Its Major?
Short answer: Yes. Eventually.
Long answer: Brazil has a lot of hurdles to overcome before hundreds of teams, organizations and such can begin to book passage and set up residence for the better part of a month. The issues of timezones and a viable hosting company remain obstacles as well as the obvious health concerns that are currently rife in the region.
Who Should You Be Backing?
The competitive scene in CS:GO is one of the hardest ones to predict, with roster reshuffles, map rotations and drops in form coming at a much faster pace than what real world sports fans might be familiar with, so predicting an event all the way in the winter is nearly impossible.
Astralis are the game’s most legendary organisation with four Major wins under their belt, including the previous three in a row, and their legendary legacy will undoubtedly make them favourites in most CS:GO odds pre-tournament. Team Vitality and Natus Vincere are currently the two teams vying for supremacy alongside the Danes, but don’t count out the likes of G2, BIG and Heroic who all rounded off a good 2020 in the top 10.
There are also plenty of upcoming teams such as Complexity, Team Liquid, Fnatic and Cloud9 who could all improve on their disappointing 2020 and be nestled amongst the big boys in the game by the time the Major rolls around too.