This past Sunday 28 January, viewers eagerly tuned in for the Grand Final of the ELEAGUE Boston Major 2018. This was the 12th Valve-sanctioned Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major since 2013. The Majors are the absolute pinnacle of competition and prestige on the competitive CS:GO calendar. The Majors are the ultimate prize for every professional CS:GO player.
Thousands of hours of practice are invested into the game by the very best players in the world in pursuit of the trophy. Many pros with celebrated careers in CS:GO and previous versions of the game have spent their entire careers chasing the Major dream without succeeding. Some of those that have claimed a Major win as part of their legacy is thought of as being within the pantheon of the all-time greats of CS:GO.
A massive Grand Final
Every player wants to win it. Every team wants to take home the most revered title in all of Counter-Strike. Every fan of the game wants to watch it. Which is exactly what they all did, as the ELEAGUE Boston Major 2018 achieved the highest concurrent Twitch viewership on a single channel ever during the Grand Final. The English Twitch stream peaked at 1,131,952 viewers with an overall peak across all streaming channels and languages of 1,847,643. That’s absolutely staggering for a title that is into its sixth year since release and solidifies CS:GO’s place among the most popular esports titles among viewers.
The previous record was also held by ELEAGUE, with their Atlanta Major 2017. ELEAGUE is a joint venture between Turner Broadcasting (TBS, Inside NBA) and WME/ IMG that has been very successful both as a traditional esports tournament host and as a pioneer in the television broadcast space for esports. The team from ELEAGUE have created a compelling product that appeals both to hardcore esports fans and potential newcomers alike. The ELEAGUE Major joins a raft of successfully staged previous events held by Turner for CS:GO (Premier, Clash for Cash, Season One and Two) as well as for other titles such as Street Fighter and Rocket League. All of these events have been broadcast on the TBS television network in the United States. While it’s unclear what sort of viewership numbers were attained on TBS in the Boston Major Final, it’s likely that it would have added significantly to the record-breaking viewership metrics. ELEAGUE have achieved a lot in only two short years of existence.
The king is dead. Long live the king.
CS:GO is a game that many seemed to think was in a downward spiral due to the increased competition from other titles like the wildly popular PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds for the attention of its player base. Player numbers showed some decline. Would that affect CS:GO’s place among the very top echelons of esports in terms of its viewer numbers? Not a bit, it would seem. The fans still supported and watched the major in their droves.
I firmly believe that CS:GO is one of the most accessible esports games to new viewers. It is a relatively simple concept that is easy to grasp from the outset. The good guys versus the bad guys. Counter-Terrorists versus the Terrorists. A game of basic objectives with deceptive depth. Displays of transcendent skill can be identified by new viewers with very little watch time under their belts.
It’s certainly the most popular title amongst South African viewers when it comes to local tournaments.
A compelling storyline. A classic matchup.
As for the Boston Major Grand Final itself, we were treated to some vintage Counter-Strike. The battle between the all-star European lineup of tournament favourites Faze Clan and hometime heroes and perennial underdogs Cloud 9 was a classic. For many, it will go down in history as one of the greatest finals of all time. Every pundit heavily favoured Faze to take the final, probably quite easily. Things turned out very differently, however, with the players from Cloud 9 displaying some of the best Counter-Strike of their careers.
The American crowd rallied behind them. The traditional thunderous “USA! USA! USA!” chants rang out across Boston’s Agganis Arena. It wasn’t over in two maps. The match extended across all three maps of the best of three format. Mirage was a narrow victory for Faze, while Cloud 9 struck back convincingly on Overpass. The decider was Inferno, with the match extending to double overtime before Cloud 9 finally overcame Faze to lift the trophy. None of the Cloud 9 players had ever reached the playoff stages of a Major in their careers. Faze boasted players that had been in multiple Major finals and one in Olof “Olofmeister” Kajbjer who is a double Major winner with fnatic. Cloud 9 struggled to get out of the group stages before they finally made their run to the playoffs and the grand final. Everything pointed to a Faze victory, yet Cloud 9 overcame.
An emotional Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham of Cloud 9 was interviewed on the stage after winning the match. He was awarded the Most Valuable Player award for the Final. Skadoodle had been in terrible form in the previous 12 months. Many pundits had written him off as ever being capable of performing at the top level of CS:GO again. Skadoodle had played in 8 Majors in CS:GO without even qualifying for the finals once. On his 9th attempt, he didn’t just make it to the playoffs. He won the whole tournament with his team. The softly spoken Midwestern CS:GO player wept tears of joy. The storylines were incredible. The home team won. The fans were enthralled. Records were broken.