CSGO: The IEM Katowice 2019 Asia Minor Storylines

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CSGO: The IEM Katowice 2019 Asia Minor Storylines

Perhaps the competition with the lowest profile out of the four, the Katowice Asia minor will nevertheless offer an interesting snapshot of the state of play in a part of the world that Valve clearly covets: even though the Asian sides thoroughly failed to make an impact on the big stage so far, TyLoo’s successful qualification to the New Legends Stage means that now there’s actually a chance for someone other than one of the two usual suspects to qualify in the period between January 22nd and 26th.

All to play for

This is going to be the first minor in this region for a very long time where TyLoo and Renegades won’t be locking down the top two spots for sure – simply because the former has already qualified for the major by virtue of surviving the New Challengers Stage in London by the skin of their teeth. This opens up the door for one of the other sides for the first time since Cologne 2016(!) to make it to the big stage from Asia through these qualifiers. Clearly, this is a massive opportunity for one lucky team (or potentially two, depending on how the third-placed interregional playoffs shake out) as most of them struggle to make an impact otherwise in other tournaments.
In what’s likely at least in part due to a lack of strong international results, the turnover in orgs is pretty incredible in the Asia minor events – beyond the usual duo, of course. Two of the organizations present at the London minor don’t even exist anymore and the other four didn’t make it back to this stage: it will be very interesting to see whether the sticker money and the exposure will bring some extra stability to whoever manages to follow Renegades out of the qualifiers.

That has to be a reasonable conjecture, right? Surely…

New-look outlaws

Speaking of which, this is going to be the first real test of Renegades’ fateful decision to split up their previous lineup and return to Oceanic players. For what it’s worth, they’ve actually lost to Grayhound in the upper bracket finals which indicates a certain fallibility. Nevertheless, the Australians’ failure to qualify would possibly be an even greater upset than mousesports’ shock elimination in the European minor – and it would also mean that immediate questions are ought to be asked about the new roster. Renegades’ previous setup has clearly plateaued: it will be really interesting to see whether they can kick on after such extensive internal restructuring.

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They’re not the only ones who have to contend with serious upheaval: Beyond Esports managed to engineer perhaps the most messed-up roster situation we’ve seen to date in the minors as they got rid of four of their players in December after qualifying for this event. In a hilariously worded official statement, they write that „First of all, We would like to say thank you for our journey of the past 1 year that everyone has helped build a reputation, outstanding work. Anyway, everybody has to walk their own way” before going on to list their standing CS:GO roster at the time like this:

Tosapol “TOR” Saekow

-N/A

-N/A

-N/A

-N/A

Truly a hallmark of professionalism right there. The cherry on top has to be the teasing question about the org’s future: „Who will joins our team ? ,we continue to create a goal and make the best of it.” We can only hope that their guns will function better than their spellchecker.

As it stands, they’ve reached an agreement to get two of their ex-players to feature in the minor so they can keep the spot they’ve earned. If organizations like these can make it to this stage of the Asian qualifiers, it’s clear that the region still has a very long way to go.

Valve pushing the region

The deficiencies and relative weakness of the Asian region in comparison to the rest always felt like a blemish on the major qualification process, simply because a territory with lesser quality and much fewer participants overall keeps receiving essentially the same treatment as the gargantuan behemoth that is European Counter-Strike. It’s the old argument: are the majors meant to be the pinnacle of CS:GO esports in terms of quality or a World Cup of sorts with an emphasis on participation from all over the globe? Valve are clearly leaning towards the latter – as is their prerogative –, and it makes even more sense when you consider the strength of the third-party system. Nevertheless, the specifics led to a significant erosion of the majors’ clout over the last year and a half. Both the aforementioned concerns and a set of format issues dogging these tournaments since the introduction of the Swiss system to the group stages devalued them somewhat as the upset winners and the unexpected playoff participants would not manage to replicate their performances at the more skill-testing third-party events later on. Arguably, FACEIT’s botched handling of the London major from an organizational perspective also didn’t help arrest this decline despite an absolutely worthy winner in the form of Astralis.

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And yet, the recently announced changes to the major format will likely address most if not all of these concerns – and they were certainly long overdue –, but one has to wonder whether the same should be considered in the minor system as well regarding the differentiation between regions. The third-placed play-ins are a good start, especially considering how they mean that winless ex-Legends are no longer rewarded for simply just showing up. Conventional wisdom indicates that Asia’s third-placed side will lag behind the other sides by a considerable margin: it will be interesting to see whether the experiment bears out this hypothesis. A very embarrassing showing could very well prompt yet another reconsideration of the setup: and with the majors’ formats constantly getting slight adjustments, this seems like the next logical element on the list that’s worthy of a shakeup. Trying to support an emerging region with a massive potential playerbase is one thing – however, the whole “sink or swim” thing just doesn’t seem to be working out for Asian Counter-Strike so far on a professional level.


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Image Via: IEM

Luci Kelemen
Luci 'YelloRambo' Kelemen is a veteran writer mostly focusing on the industry side of esports and the design specifics of card games like Hearthstone and Artifact. His work is featured on PC Gamer, Tempo/Storm, Rivalry.gg and many other gaming sites. Twitter @luci_kelemen.