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Counter-Strike Calls Timeout on Partnered Leagues

Counter-Strike, the largest competitive first-person shooter in the world, is making drastic changes to the structure of its professional esports tournaments.

Counter-Strike Calls Timeout on Partnered Leagues
Counter-Strike Calls Timeout on Partnered Leagues

Why you should care

It seems that no one is able to dethrone Counter-Strike as the number one first-person shooter video game in the world. Counter-Strike was first released on November 9, 2000, by Valve, a privately owned corporation that, according to Bloomberg, is currently valued at $7.7 billion. Twenty-three years and multiple iterations later, Counter-Strike boasts over 26 million unique players each month and, unsurprisingly, some of the most popular professional esports tournaments in the world. These tournaments, which are generally hosted by third-party tournament organizers, have prize pools ranging from $250,000 to $2,000,000.

What you should know

Today Valve dropped a bomb on the way esports tournaments will be run from 2025 onward. During the pandemic, a model emerged that saw both tournament organizers and esports teams working together to maximize their recurring revenues by entering into agreements with one another. In exchange for an undisclosed sum, teams became partners with such tournament organizers and received a guaranteed invite to all tournaments held by a tournament organizer, without the need to qualify through open qualifiers nor with any regard to a team’s current ranking. Importantly, being a partnered team also came with a share of the tournament organizer’s revenue and voting rights, meaning all partnered teams had to give their consent for a new team to be admitted.

Valve, however, has long been dissatisfied with the effect such agreements have on the level of gameplay and competition and announced on Thursday a massive overhaul of Counter-Strike's tournament formats. The company said "finer details are still in progress", but they announced that:

  • Tournament organizers will no longer have unique business relationships or other conflicts of interest with teams participating in their events.

  • Invitations to all tournaments will use [Valve's] ranking system or otherwise be determined by open qualifiers.

  • Any compensation for participating teams—prize pool or otherwise—will be made public and will be driven by objective criteria that can be inspected by the community.

This has come as a big shock to everyone involved, as it seems to effectively prohibit any and all partnered leagues, which currently dominate Counter-Strike’s tournament landscape. It will also give the public an unprecedented look into the financial side of esports tournaments. These changes will go into effect as of 2025, leaving tournament operators a little over a year to figure out a way forward. Unlike other sports, there isn’t a potential for breakaway tournaments or so-called ‘super leagues.’ As the IP holder, Valve can do as they please. Whether this decision by Valve will encourage other IP holders to follow suit will be fascinating to monitor over the coming months.

Read more on Counter-Strike’s official website:

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