Following the thrilling penalty shootout in which Argentina defeated France in the 2022 FIFA World Cup final, the official CS: GO Twitter account sent light-hearted tweets regarding a possible overtime situation in a CS: GO World Cup. Over 25,000 people liked the tweet, and one of the most popular answers called for Valve to host a CS: GO World Cup every two years. The light-hearted tone of tweets also revealed the existence but lack of seriousness of national tournaments in the CS: GO esports ecosystem.
The World Cyber Games (WCG) are the most comparable event to a World Cup for esports. The event is also referred to as the Esports Olympics, and teams who compete well are awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals. The competition, which took place annually throughout the world, was suspended in 2015 and then resumed in 2019.
Crossfire, Warcraft III: Reforged, Honor of Kings, and FIFA competitions were part of the most recent WCG, however, none of the other top esports games was present. The WCG has been branded as “the start of a new global tournament” for 2022–2023, and perhaps one of the positive signs for attracting larger audiences is the addition of Valorant esports to the lineup. However, it would be difficult to find many people in the larger global esports audience who would have known about this rebranded version of the tournament in the first place.
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Another worldwide competition with national qualifiers that was formerly a part of the CS: GO Majors circuit was the Electronic Sports World Convention (ESWC), which came to an abrupt end in 2019.
The International Esports Federation is the only remaining significant organisation sponsoring international esports competitions (IESF). One of the federations pushing for esports to be accepted as a legitimate sport is this one. They are the only one of the three named here that has even a passing resemblance of a presence, having held 14 World Esports Championships. CS: GO was a part of the previous tournament, but they’re barely making ends meet. The appearance of these national esports competitions is not good. The teams who participate in these events are of a lower calibre, which is a major problem. It is difficult to publicise these tournaments and draw an audience without the finest players.
Obviously, things weren’t always like this. Before 2010, there was a lot of interest in national esports events, but the entry of Riot Games rocked the whole esports sector. They cleared the way for other developers to manage their own esports events without federations acting as an intermediary. We are still a long way from anything like World Cups in other well-known sports, but steps like these have helped esports emerge as the expanding enterprise it is today.
The absence of a well-produced worldwide event isn’t necessarily a bad thing; for example, the football World Cup is only remembered by the general public for a few months each time it is played, while club and franchise leagues support the sport in various ways. The fervour seen during FIFA World Cup competitions every four years is unmatched by most big sporting events. The FIFA World Cup has surpassed the Olympics as the most-watched sporting event in the world, according to the majority of sports writers and fans.
Basketball is one of the major sports that has struggled to imitate something similar. For a variety of reasons, relatively few sports can legitimately make the claim to be truly international. From that perspective, the esports industry has a distinct advantage because video games are played all over the world and there is reason to believe that they will only become more commonplace over the course of the next ten to twenty years. This raises the possibility of a model akin to the World Cup.
Even though the tweet from the CS: GO handle and the comments were meant in jest, there is no disputing the esports community’s yearning for something akin to a FIFA World Cup. But who in the esports community is genuinely capable of taking a meaningful first move in that direction?
The quality of participation is the key challenge when planning and regularly marketing international events, as was already established. Step 0 is simply having a sizable player base. Given that each game is an ecosystem unto itself, and an extremely valuable one at that, maintaining top talent and funding such a scene demands a level of control that federations will never really be able to achieve.
The second problem is fragmentation. If the football industry were divided into more than ten separate formats, each with its own set of rules, rulesets, fans, and superstars, FIFA would be faced with the same difficulties that esports federations are. It is therefore becoming increasingly obvious that developers themselves are the only potential movers in this market. There is literally no one else in the world who could manage it other than Valve themselves if we were to conceive the beginning of a CS: GO World Cup.
As any other sizable developer would, Valve is better prepared than the several dormant esports federations stated before in terms of funds, talent pool, and audience link. Valve is also aware of the ins and outs of the CS: GO ecosystem. CS: GO fans and event organisers got a first-hand glimpse at what it looks like to hold CS: GO events outside of Europe and North America this year when an IEM Major was held in South America for the first time. The response to the event was unlike anything ever witnessed in CS: GO. Theoretically, a CS: GO World Cup may have a greater impact, and based on the response to their tweets, people appear to be interested in it.