There’s a power vacuum in the top tier of the South African Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competitive arena. As is always the case at the end of an established dynasty, it creates the opportunity for new forces to rise in their place. Let’s take a closer look at the implications.
You’ve probably heard all about Bravado Gaming’s move to the United States as part of their Project Destiny initiative. So far the team has been doing very well in ESEA Main North America. They have a very good chance of making the playoffs and gaining promotion to the Mountain Dew League based on their current form.
Bravado have also qualified for the Esports Championship Series (ECS) Challenger Cup which could, in turn, qualify them for the ECS Season Five league. With last weekend’s not insignificant victory against the highly-rated Team Dignitas, the team has taken a big step forward for both themselves and the SA scene at large. With their relocation, they are the first old god gone from the competitive landscape in SA.
Damage Control have always considered themselves to be the litmus test for any aspiring team in South Africa. The final boss that needs to be defeated to gain entry into the top tier of CS:GO in our country. In more recent times, teams like Big 5 Esports and Goliath Gaming had usurped DC’s usual podium place and surpassed them. DC were still a solid team amongst the top five in the country. Going into 2018 they certainly showed no signs of slowing down. DC made it to the final of the WESG Qualifiers in January and showed that they were still a force on the local stage.
Sadly, DC’s Chris “Apocalypse” Lautre was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident on February 2 this year. Chris was a friend and a frequent collaborator of mine. He was one of the best human beings I have ever known. His loss is felt deeply by so many. Within the team he was the glue that held them together. Unconfirmed reports have strongly indicated that the DC family appropriately decided to call time on their illustrious careers after the passing of their brother and friend. Their lack of participation in VS Masters and ESEA since seem to bear this out. We’ll miss you, Chris.
Energy eSports are the reigning African Champions after winning ESL Africa Season Two at rAge late last year. They certainly achieved a lot under the leadership of Robby “Blackpoison” da Loca in 2017 and were on an upward trajectory. Unfortunately for them, the brackets in the WESG Qualifier in January didn’t fall in their favour, with them being knocked out by Bravado in the semi-final. While Energy routinely seemed to have an edge on LAN in the later half of 2017, Bravado often displayed a similar advantage online. Sadly for Energy this was online. This left their fiercest rivals to take the tournament victory comfortably.
For 2018, there have been rumours that Energy will be looking to make a similar move to Bravado in order to compete internationally. That is still officially unconfirmed, but keeps persistently surfacing so one can only assume it’s something the organization are actively pursuing. Even if that weren’t to happen, what is assured is that the team will not be competing in VS Masters until they are able to gain qualification through the ladder system. This could take a large portion of the year. Even if Energy actively compete in other tournaments, we likely won’t see them in Masters until the latter stages. Again, assuming they haven’t made an overseas move before then.
Nothing is sound
The long-term benefits for South Africa’s nascent scene of Project Destiny and overseas relocation, in general, is clear. I’m not disputing that in any way. This is more an examination of what effects the sudden removal of two to three top teams might have on high-level SA competition.
This is potentially the dawn of a new team’s time to be dominant and create a legacy for themselves. Big 5 and Goliath are the two teams most likely to fill the void. Either they will become the top two sides in South Africa, or at the very least, they will be the teams closest to Energy in non-VS competitions should Energy stay in South Africa after all.
There could be access to sponsorship that would have in the past gone to one of the old gods. Now other teams and players could potentially reap the benefits of better sponsors. Prize money will be spread to teams that would not have been in the running for decent payouts previously. There are more opportunities for more inexperienced players than before. For the rest of the teams in the country, they are now slightly closer to the top tier.
There is no longer the unyielding barrier to entry of Bravado or DC slapping them down in qualifiers and group stages of tournaments. This might give teams an extra boost of motivation knowing that their chances of advancing in tournaments are greater than before.
On the flipside, it could also affect a player’s motivation to no longer have the opportunity to learn from and test yourself against the best. That’s down to the individual. Having up to 15 of South Africa’s top 25 players unavailable for a competition would certainly have an impact. Not having these teams competing locally creates a substantial vacuum of both skill and experience. It lowers the overall level of competition and could lead to a decrease in player skill level due to not being able to play against the best.
While there are more opportunities to play, there are fewer chances to learn. Outside of eXdee Gaming’s Jeandre “makmuR” van Vuuren and Goliath Gaming’s Ashton “Golz” Muller, no current players that I am aware of have been part of a team that won a top-tier local LAN in the last two years (credit to Profeci for pointing that out). There are not many recent LAN winners left for players to learn from. DC’s years of experience are unlikely to filter down to other teams and players. The circumstances of their retirement would make it very difficult for any of them to contemplate a return as an experienced player in a lesser team.
They are also unlikely to be seeking out coaching or analytical positions in other teams. Essentially, that experience is just gone. We already have a problem in SA with a lack of good in-game leaders and coaches. Potentially not having Detrony, Elusive, T.c, cent, inciN, Apocalypse or Blackpoison injecting their experience into SA CS is a big blow. Viewership might decrease in a space that is already struggling to draw in significant viewer numbers. For a casual fan that isn’t following the scene closely, not having the old recognizable names at a tournament might mean they will dismiss it out of hand. Lesser names on the bill can devalue the prestige of the overall product. Tournament organizers will have to work harder to make sure fans are able to follow the narrative of the current teams and be invested into supporting them on a broadcast.
Is it a massive disaster? No, I don’t think so. There are serious implications though. Things will be different from now on. Some aspects will be better and some inevitably will be worse. However, SA CS:GO isn’t going to die. It will just have to evolve. I’m still looking forward to an incredible 2018 competitive season.