Overview: The ELEAGUE CS:GO Major 2017

The first ELEAGUE CS:GO Major took place in Atlanta, Georgia from the 22nd – 29th January. In case you missed it, here is an overview of each semi final match, leading to the grand final. Hopefully there are more Majors held by the Turner Broadcasting Company in the future.

Semi Final Match 1 – Astralis vs Fnatic

Semi Final Match 2 – SK Gaming vs Virtus.pro

Grand Final

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Semi Finals – Astralis vs Fnatic

Astralis (Denmark)

  • Nicolai “Dev1ce” Reedtz
  • Lukas “Gla1ve” Rossander
  • Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjaerbye
  • Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen
  • Andreas “Xyp9x” Hojsleth

Fnatic (Sweden)

  • Joakim “Disco Doplan” Gidetun
  • Olof “Olofmeister” Kajbjer
  • Dennis “dennis” Edman
  • Simon “twist” Eliasson
  • Freddy “Krimz” Johansson

Game 1 – Cache

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Astralis playing at the ELEAGUE studio (Courtesy of WWG.com)

In the first semi final game Fnatic exploded from the terrorist side of Cache. Disco doplan and dennis gained a double kill each. However Astralis instantly neutralized the Swedes with a beautiful headshot from Kjaerbye. At 3-1 down Fnatic recovered during the first gun round of the game. They’d gained mid control and performed a successful B split. Despite the previous execution, Astralis pressed their lead with Dupreeh at the helm. The Danes were ahead 6-2, with an 11-4 stat on the entry fragger.

Although Astralis were in a comfortable lead, a costly mistake from Kjaerbye led to another round on the board for Fnatic. The youngster threw a smoke grenade which gave disco doplan enough cover in a 2v1 clutch. Regardless of the blunder Kjaerbye was determined to make up for his mistake, with their backs against the wall Dupreeh and Kjaerbye’s solid entry frags gave the Danes a great ending to the half. The half ended 9-6 to Astralis with Dupreeh at a fantastic 110 average damage per round.

Half time

Gla1ve and Dupreeh carried Astralis through the pistol round. Unfortunately for Fnatic disco doplan failed to do any damage at crucial points of the round. Later, Fnatic opted for a force buy twist on the scout paid off for them. It was a great decision that gained momentum for the team. At round 21 the score was 11-9 to Astralis. The Danes checked every crevice with molotovs in the middle of Cache. After using the strategy to gain mid control Dev1ce shut down four members of Fnatic and secured the round from the A site. Round 24 was an imperative one for the Swedes, however they failed to close the round. The Danes were in full swing, led by the star man Dev1ce who began to dictate the game with the AWP. Despite taking the back seat for most of the second half Kjaerbye popped up to get a rifle double kill and put Astralis on map point at 15-10.

Under pressure disco doplan performed a flash of brilliance with a pistol double kill in the storage room to keep Fnatic in the game. Regardless of the map point Astralis were struggling to close the game. Fnatic had 12 rounds to their name now and the Danes’ economy was broken. 12 quickly became 13 as Astralis couldn’t overcome the disadvantage they’d snowballed from such a poor economy. Fnatic veteran Krimz secured yet another round and again had broken their economy. The Major semi-final opener went down to the wire.

The score was now 15-14 in favor of Astralis. In a tense clutch versus Gla1ve, Olofmeister had to defuse the bomb to bring the game to overtime. The Fnatic legend performed a nail-biting defuse whilst shrouded in smoke. Meanwhile in overtime Xyp9x consistently dealt with Krimz in two 1v1 clutch situations. Astralis recovered from the second half disaster with incredibly solid overtime performance winning the first three rounds. With Astralis on map point, twist’s brilliant AWP peek from the B site in a 1v1 clutch denied the Danes going up 1-0 in the series. Dupreeh’s great early push put Astralis in a good position during the fifth round of overtime. Luckily, Fnatic could recover the round but they’d forgotten about Kjaerbye were punished. Astralis took the first map to go up 1-0 in the semi-final series.

Game 2 – Nuke

Astralis came out firing in the pistol round with an impressive four kills from Dev1ce. The Astralis star became increasingly comfortable and carried the team to go 3-0 up. Although Fnatic were losing 4-0 they went for a double AWP setup on their CT side, rarely seen on Nuke. Regardless of the unconventional tactics, it had paid off for the Swedish team. Dupreeh narrowly missed out in his 1v1 clutch against dennis who successfully defused the bomb and wasn’t bluffing. At round 12 Astralis were in full control of the game. Fnatic didn’t look very comfortable as a team on the map. Dev1ce had impressive stats at 15 kills, he was becoming a problem for the Swedes. The Danish players played well across the board and were ahead 10-3.

Half time

The half started on a 1v1 clutch, disco doplan vs Xyp9x, the Swede was eventually denied the defuse. Astralis executed proficiently on their map pick, it was clear how experienced they were. At 14-3 to the Danish side, Fnatic had to make a move or they were leaving the Major. Krimz was the guy making the moves and the most consistent on the Fnatic team throughout the series. Round 21 saw Astralis on map and series point. Dev1ce was playing world class CounterStrike. The Danes closed the series and had an answer to Olofmeister and the team. It was Astralis’ first time at a Major final.

Semi Finals – SK Gaming vs Virtus.pro

SK Gaming (Brazil)

  • Gabriel “Fallen” Toledo
  • Marcelo “coldzera” David
  • Epitacio “Taco” Melo
  • Ricardo “Fox” Pacheco (Portugal)
  • Fernando “FER” Alvarenga

Virtus.pro (Poland)

  • Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas
  • Filip “NEO” Kubski
  • Jaroslaw “pasha” Jarzabkowski
  • Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski
  • Pawel “byali” Bielinski

Game 1 – Train

After a patiently planned engagement SK Gaming take the opening pistol round. The terrorist side stormed the A site whilst Snax and byali were caught napping. Equally important was the flow of momentum to put SK up 3-0. On the first buy round Taz defended the B site calmly with beautiful headshots. Virtus.pro got their first round on the board. TaZ’s patient play put VP ahead on round seven. The Polish veteran shut down everything coming into the B site on Train. At 6-3 to Virtus.pro, the Brazilian side were forced to take a timeout before the game got out of hand. The Poles were in firm command on their counter-terrorist side of train. Round 13 saw SK Gaming on an eco buy that resulted in a loss. At half time SK Gaming were desperate to get away from the T-side and luckily the captain Fallen managed to scrape a round for the team before leaving it. The half ended 10-5 to Virtus.pro.

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Fallen, coldzera and Taco – SK Gaming (Courtesy of ELEAGUE)

Half time

Similar to SK Gaming, VP took the second half pistol round just as patiently. However their plans failed as NEO got unlucky in a 2v1 clutch and Fox got the defuse. SK Gaming gathered momentum on their CT-side in round 18, Fallen got his AWP. Although he’d purchased the AWP nothing came of it as he was unable to hit his first shot. Round 20 was imperative to Virtus.pro. The Poles decided on a risky force buy with pasha on the AWP. With hopes pinned on pasha the experienced sniper found two kills during the round. He robbed the Brazilians from what should have been an easy round. SK were beginning to creep up on VP. The score sat at 12-10 in favour of the Poles. Despite this the VP’s economy was poor resulting in an streak of rounds for SK.

Regardless VP waited on their inevitable buy round, SK Gaming struggled against VP with their chosen arsenal. The game was very back and forth, and had eventually tied at 13-13. Round 28 was a gun round that’d put one team in the driver’s seat. Everything connected for Virtus.pro, the Poles made decisive moves on the B site and planted the bomb. Again, VP used the same strategy and stormed into B with assertiveness, SK were once again forced to save. Fortunately for SK, Taco was able to take the game to overtime. In overtime both teams opted for a double AWP setup. NEO came up big for Virtus.pro, the veteran secured the round from A site in a 2v1 clutch. Taco immediately answered back with a 3k on B protecting the site from a plant. At 18-17, Virtus.pro were on map point in overtime. On the gun round Snax and NEO managed to close out the game on the A site of Train. Virtus.pro took the first map 19-17.

Game 2 – Cobblestone

Taco and FER teamed up to stare down NEO and take the opening pistol round as counter-terrorists. With SK 3-0 up, it came to the opening gun round. The Brazilians with a Portuguese stand-in took the important gun round without losing a player. With their backs against the wall the Polish side began to apply pressure on their gun rounds. They’d brought the score to 3-5. However they had Fallen’s AWP to contend with, the in-game leader carried the team with a 3k. The next gun round was during round 13. With the score tied 6-6, SK decided on a double AWP setup. The tactic worked for the Brazilians although Fallen was taken down coldzera recovered his AWP. In the last round of the first half SK Gaming held their two round lead, led by star player coldzera’s 3k.

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Snax and TaZ – Virtus.pro (Courtesy of ELEAGUE)

Half time

The back and forth continued, it was an incredibly close battle, the teams had nine rounds each. Pasha performed highly with a fantastic 3k in the 20th round of the game.
In 23rd round SK Gaming applied pressure on VP despite being on an eco buy. The round ended in a 1v1 clutch between TaZ and FER, TaZ’s gorgeous headshot to the Brazilian prevailed empowered by the chanting crowd. After VP’s brief timeout  it was the 26th round. The score was 14-11 to the Polish side. Coldzera, Fox and Taco secured this round for the Brazilian team. TaZ put Virtus.pro on map point with a great double kills spray to the enemies in the underpass. However VP could not close the series just yet. SK’s excellent boost at the A site caught Polish side unaware. They were exposed to Fox’s rifle and were shut down. On the last round of the map, VP had to pull something out the bag. NEO stepped up big in the last round getting a double kill as well as kills all round for the rest of the team. Virtus.pro progressed to the grand final after a 16-14 win versus SK Gaming.

Grand Final – Astralis vs Virtus.pro

Game 1 – Nuke

Dev1ce engaged upon VP flanking their backlines as a counter-terrorist. Astralis played calmly in the pistol round making sure they could secure it. Not content on sitting back, the Poles took a huge gamble and opted for Tec-9s that paid off for them despite their arsenal disadvantage. Regardless of the fantastic opening round for Astralis, VP gained momentum from the Tec-9 decision. The Danes lost five consecutive rounds and had no answers to Virtus.pro on gun rounds. It wasn’t until the 8th round that Astralis got into the game. Dev1ce AWP play took the score to 5-3 in favor of Virtus.pro. Snax’s incredible 3v1 clutch and overall 4k kept the Poles ahead in a tied 6-6 on the 13th round. The first half ended 9-6 to VP, byali was the standout player of the half with 16 kills.

Half time

Despite under-performing in the first half, Xyp9x came out firing in the second half and took the pistol round for his team. The first buy round of the half was important for VP, now tied with Astralis at 9-9. Virtus.pro took advantage of the unforced errors produced from the Danes. VP took the 21st round as Kjaerbye failed to 2v1 clutch. TaZ’s experience shone bright to outplay the youngster and get the defuse. However Kjaerbye quickly redeemed himself in round 23 in a 1v1 against NEO. It was an amazing headshot while the veteran was hidden in smoke. Gla1ve stepped up for Astralis, again taking the veteran down and bringing the score to 12-12. Round 25 saw Virtus.pro came up huge with an eco round with vs Astralis on a full buy. Fantastic play from the Poles put them on map point and Astralis on tactical timeout. On their first map point of the game VP took full advantage of the opportunity NEO took down Xyp9x in 1v1. The long standing Polish team went 1-0 in the grand finals.

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Virtus.pro at the ELEAGUE Major (Courtesy of ELEAGUE)

Game 2 – Overpass

In a split-second defuse byali secured the pistol round for VP, assisted by TaZ who provided protection. Dupreeh didn’t take the next round lightly and handled a 2v1 clutch in spite of the lesser economy. Although VP won the pistol round they didn’t start to come back until the first gun round. However the come back was short lived as Gla1ve and Dev1ce produced two double kills each. Astralis won yet another round after VP’s strategy was snuffed out. The Poles let put most players on B site to defend, Astralis read this and rushed A to secure the round. Later, Snax dominated Astralis shutting down their bomb plant with a 2v1 clutch the score was now 3-6 in favor of Astralis. Inspired by Snax’s play, VP snowballed and got a few more rounds on the board. The first half ended with a team ace by Virtus.pro, however Astralis were still in the lead with the score at 9-6.

Half time

Astralis took the second half pistol round on their CT side. VP were baited massively whilst on the A site. Angered by the previous round, NEO connected his headshots with the scout on a force buy to apply immediate pressure to the Danes. Xyp9x did an incredible 3v1 clutch despite being taken to 1hp, Astralis clinged onto their lead at 11-9. On round 21 byali’s flash blunder was capitalised on by Dev1ce and Kjaerbye. Astralis hit their stride and extended the score in their first Major final. After winning a couple more round VP decided to take a timeout after byali and pasha’s great entry frags. Astralis led 13-11. Eager to overcome byali’s blunder, Virtus.pro took four rounds in a row. Astralis began to sweat as the Poles closed in. VP got into the heads of the Danes and were only two rounds from hoisting the ELEAGUE Major trophy. In a nail-biting 1v1 Kjaerbye kept his team in the Major. Defeating Snax on the B site, the youngster wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. It was now 14-14 on Overpass. Determined to get to Train, Kjaerbye kept his team in the Major, his rifle connecting with NEO on B. Kjaerbye and Xyp9x refused to crack under pressure and closed the game for the Danish side. Astralis took the map 16-14.

Game 3 – Train

Virtus.pro rushed the B site on the pistol round, giving Astralis no choice but to cower into the corner on CT side. The Polish side were off to a flying start, winning the first gun round where both teams committed to a full buy. The Danes were losing 5-0 and had to call a timeout to regroup and discuss their strategy going forward. The timeout amounted to nothing for Astralis, they couldn’t stop VP’s late push to the A site. After losing seven rounds in a row Astralis finally secured a round preventing Snax from a 2v1 clutch. Despite the losing situation Astralis were in, it was the Kjaerbye show as he took the star role. The young Dane got numerous kills which resulted in secured rounds for the team. Dev1ce looked to have capitulated mentally, the score was 8-5 to Virtus.pro. VP finished the first half 9-6, Snax immediately shut down Kjaerbye before he had an opportunity to make an impact on the game. NEO dominated the pistol round with an instant 2k from the CT-side. VP continued to dominate Astralis until the Danes’ full buy into the round. However the winning rounds didn’t last long for Astralis. VP soon regained control over the game the score was 13-7. Meanwhile, Xyp9x’s consistency became a problem for the Poles as Astralis won four rounds in a row. The Dane’s rifle accuracy was met with no re-frags and he went three consecutive rounds without dying. After a sneak from NEO to gather information it was clear Astralis planned on a B bomb site plant. Snax took full advantage of the information and got an important 3k. With Astralis gaining so many rounds the game was tied 14-14. At this point VP took a tactical timeout to reflect on the situation.

Half time

The Danish side decided on an aggressive rush onto the A site that worked out for them. Astralis dominated the second half. On map point Kjaerbye and Dupreeh secured the round with a fast rush to B. This time they met VP who were in a desperate panic to take the game to overtime. Despite the pressure the Major final brought, it was embraced by Kjaerbye who took the spotlight.

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Player of the Match: Markus Kjaerbye

The young Dane played insanely well to secure the ELEAGUE player of the match. Astralis won the ELEAGUE Major 16-14 versus Virtus.pro.

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Astralis winning the ELEAGUE Major (Courtesy of ELEAGUE) 
Left to right – Xyp9x, Kjaerbye, Dupreeh, Dev1ce & Gla1ve.

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EA’s Secret Weapon: Medal of Honor Esports?

Could Medal of Honor be EA’s secret weapon? Why tailoring the next game towards esports would be the best move for the franchise. 

Medal of Honor has came a long way since its initial release in October of 1999. The first-person shooter gave us a lot of memories during the PlayStation One era incorporating a lot of new features that were never before seen in a military FPS. Such as disguising as an officer in order to manipulate the enemies and showing your passport. But now things are different, the FPS has since been forgotten and has fallen from grace. Let’s take a look at the franchise’s history, why it should make a comeback and how it could benefit EA?

Classic Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault medal_of_honor_-_allied_assault_coverart

In 2002, Allied Assault became the first game in the franchise to come to the PC platform. Equally the success of the previous titles continued, although this time it not only had an excellent single-player campaign but good multiplayer game play. Medal of Honor: AA’s multiplayer excelled the game to higher heights. Often considered to be one of the best PC online shooters of all time, Allied Assault brought refined arcade-like shooting that implemented realistic weapons from the second World War. In addition to this the sounds in the game were amazing for it’s time, every sound effect from each player was prominent when in the vicinity. MoH was a huge hit, especially after it became the Medal of Honor Allied Assault: War Chest. The War Chest version included two additional expansion packs called Allied Assault Spearhead and Breakthrough, jam-packed with more content and giving gamers more value. However a downfall was the fact it depended upon GameSpy ( matchmaking middle-ware) in order for players to gain access to their online servers. Although GameSpy shutdown the game’s servers in early 2014, the game is played online to this present day by other means.

Medal of Honor: Vanguard and Medal of Honor: Airborne

Medal of Honor: Vanguard was the tenth game to join the franchise. Despite being limited to the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii platforms the title was heavily criticized. The World War 2 shooter received bad review scores all round, with bad enemy AI, an outdated graphics engine and no online play. Early 2007 was a point in time DICE (known then as EA Los Angeles) would rather forget. moh_airborne_cover_pc_dvdLater that year, Medal of Honor: Airborne released with sigh of relief after the shocker that was Medal of Honor: Vanguard.

Airborne was a much more polished game featuring a modified Unreal 3 engine and an enemy AI built from the ground up. The first-person shooter performed better than its predecessor in all aspects, including dedicated servers on PC, smoother gun mechanics and a fresh new engine. Regardless of the vast improvements, it was never going to be difficult to beat it’s fellow 2007 companion in MoH: Vanguard as it catered to its lowest common denominator in the Nintendo Wii. Although Airborne had its fair share of glitches, it is considered as the “last good Medal of Honor title”.

Medal of Honor 2010 – Present

2010 was a tough year for the Medal of Honor franchise. At this point first-person shooters were the most dominant genre in online multiplayer in the western world. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 began to make waves in console multiplayer. Console gamers realized the potential Battlefield had as a franchise.
But that was only if they could stray away from the enjoyment that the Call of Duty franchise was bringing. Medal of Honor 2010 had both Modern Warfare titles to compete with as well as Call of Duty: Black Ops on the way.

medal_of_honor_2010_box_artTogether with Medal of Honor: Airborne, the 2010 title received similar reviews.
Regardless of the relatively equal review scores to Airborne, it was not up to standard in comparison to other offerings. Although Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was not first title to center around modern warfare, it was still new and exciting to a lot of gamers.
They’d introduced new features, perks and customization. It was refreshing to use a modern arsenal rather than the stale WW2 weapon set gamers were accustomed to for more than a decade. Despite Medal of Honor 2010’s up-to-date graphics the base game remained the same arcade style. Additionally it failed to have a clear identity in the FPS space. Although the game play was solid, it lacked innovation and therefore was another generic shooter on the market. 2010 became the year that was imperative to Medal of Honor’s future success and should have solidified its place in the FPS world, but it failed to do so.

Medal of Honor: Warfighter

In 2012 EA released Medal of Honor: Warfighter, the latest (and likely last) addition to the franchise. Although the visuals were on par if not prettier than it’s competitors. Medal of Honor once again could not make up for its lack of innovation and this time glitches and other technical issues. The game was a huge failure, maps were poorly designed, the enemy AI was broken and story lacked any meaningful plot. Warfighter received the worst reviews scores in Medal of Honor history in addition to abysmal sales.

Where can EA go from here?

EA spoke out about Warfighter’s failure saying as a whole they should have done more for it. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3 shooting to fame didn’t help Medal of Honor either. In the end EA decided to focus on Battlefield as it had its own established identity, clearly different from other FPS games on the market. It’s a formula that is currently working for them from a casual gamers’ perspective, the Battlefield franchise sells well.

“What we think right now is that, for the next couple years, we can just have one great thing in that space. So we’re choosing for it to be Battlefield.”
– Rich Hilleman (EA Chief Creative Director speaking in 2013)

Despite the internal issues during the development of Medal of Honor: Warfighter. The franchise is still an intellectual property owned by EA, that they can bring out of the woodwork at any time. In a world where esports is growing, especially in the shooter genre, the next couple of years would be a good time to rejuvenate the franchise.

A new and free-to-play threat to CounterStrike: Global Offensive anyone?

Starting a fresh would be best and they have various options. Such as aiming to compete with Rainbow Six Siege, only on a bigger scale. Or threatening CounterStrike: Global Offensive with a free-to-play model, better visuals, but on a more bare bones scale in comparison to what the developers at DICE are capable of.

There are a lot more routes they can take with the franchise. More gamers play competitive shooters now more than ever. While Battlefield 4 put up mildly okay esports viewership numbers, a close quarters Medal of Honor esports orientated title could be a huge hit. Scaling the game down from a AAA title and placing emphasis on core gun mechanics, map design and competitive modes could be greatly beneficial. For EA this would be a small investment into a recognised franchise. An extra card they can pull and a secret weapon, if used and executed correctly.

IEM Oakland – The CS:GO Grand Final Overview

The Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) grand finals took place on the 20th November. The Oracle Arena, Oakland, hosted two of the biggest teams in CS:GO, SK Gaming and Ninjas in Pyjamas. We have a look at the teams competing in the grand finals and who became the champions of IEM Oakland 2016.

Grand final – Ninjas in Pyjamas vs SK Gaming

The grand final featured the all Swedish team, Ninjas in Pyjamas and the Brazilian powerhouse SK Gaming. It was a clash of the titans in this three map thriller. The players to watch:  Forest, FalleN and ColdZera. Forest and ColdZera played consistent high-level CounterStrike throughout the tournament. Whilst SK Gaming captain FalleN was on fire with the AWP from the previous series versus Astralis. But how would he fare against the different beast that is NiP?

Game 1 – Train

Recently named the best Train team in the world SK Gaming went into the map with confidence. Despite SK’s recognition on train they lost the opening pistol round. NiP took the round from their CT side, after successfully denying the bomb plant from SK. Although NiP won the first round, Get Right made a huge blunder totally mis-spraying from the B site. As a result SK answered back straight away with FER catching the enemies whilst disadvantaged using only the Tec-9.

Despite this, Forest managed two M4 frags early to give NiP hope, the veteran took the Swedes score to 2-3. SK saw the momentum starting to swing so therefore decided to take an early timeout. The timeout played a huge role, gaining the correct information and using it effectively. The score was now 5-3 to SK Gaming. ColdZera won an easy 1v2 due to his skills and higher hp. Whilst Pyth and Forest were playing well SK remained in full control of the first half. The Brazilians led the half 11-4.

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ColdZera (courtesy of HLTV.org)

Half time

The Ninjas had a mountain to climb, in addition SK Gaming are highly regarded as the best team in the world on their Train counter-terrorist side. Similarly the Brazilians took the pistol round in impressive fashion, ColdZera and FER putting in noticeable performances. However NiP continuously got the bomb plant for the added money bonus. Although the bombs were being planted the Brazilians shut them down every round. The first map was incredibly one-sided. SK Gaming lived up to their reputation on Train. They never dropped a single round on their CT side. Equally they stomped NiP, the map ended 16-4.

 

Game 2 – Cache

The opening round was extremely interesting. Forest and FER grabbed back-to-back USP headshots to their enemies until it eventually came down to a 1v1 duel. FER came out the victor of the duel to put SK ahead. With the game at 2-2, NiP went into the next round with all AK47s across the board. The Swedes managed to lose the round, regardless of having the better arsenal. The map was very back and forth that was until Get Right began warming up by taking more favorable duels.

Round 10 was an imperative one as SK went for a high risk buy with FalleN and ColdZera both on glass cannon (no armor) AWPs. But the high risk buy didn’t pay off, it resulted in a lost round. Nonetheless, SK never learned their lesson from this. The Brazilians then went for an even more dangerous buy-in with two AWPs and an auto sniper. The result of this was the same, a loss. At this point NiP had a huge lead with the map at 10-3. Pyth’s fragging transitioned well from Train to Cache and this time Forest joined him. The first half ended at 10-5 to NiP. SK managed to cling on picking up an extra two rounds.

Half time

A great headshot from Forest gave NiP an instant advantage, from this they grabbed the pistol round. However ColdZera responded immediately with fantastic headshots on two of the NiP players each of them taking only one bullet each in quick succession. The world class Brazilian helped bring the score to 6-12, then continued on to win a 1v1 to close the gap further to 7-12. ColdZera put in a top tier performance winning yet another 1v1 clutch, despite the amazing plays the Swedes led 12-9.

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Xizt (courtesy of HLTV.org)

The Ninjas in Pyjamas had their backs against the wall. The Brazilians were beginning to breathe down their necks. When they needed it most Forest confronted an on-form ColdZera and won out. At round 26 the map started heating up. ColdZera, Forest and Pyth were all playing incredibly well. Likewise Brazilian captain FalleN began hitting his targets. The score was 14-14, the map came down to the wire. NiP snatched the huge 29th round with a clutch double kill from Pyth. Xizt came alive with the auto sniper in the final round of the map with a deadly headshot to FalleN. The map ended 16-14 to Ninjas in Pyjamas.

Game 3 – Cobblestone

NiP came out firing in the pistol round in the third map of the IEM Oakland grand final. Additionally with all the advantages the Swedes continued the momentum and went 3-0 up. However it changed during the first buy round for SK Gaming, FNX shut down the last remaining NiP player. Regardless of this NiP were firmly in control of the game. The map looked promising for the Swedes lead by Xizt who had eight kills and only one death in the opening six rounds.

Taco grabbed three crisp P250 kills to put SK at 2-5. Equally important was ColdZera’s 4k a round after, whilst on an eco round. In spite of the small hiccups the Ninjas kept a handle on their lead, even though the tension for them increased. Round 15 saw SK Gaming at a slight disadvantage in their arsenal with FER only on a CZ. However a great round from FalleN rendered the CZ purchase a non-factor for the team. SK remained behind by five rounds, at 5-10.

Half time

Pyth
Pyth (courtesy of HLTV.org)

The Brazilians barely took the second half pistol round as Pyth put the team under immense pressure. The Swede almost managed a sneaky defuse but was eventually spotted out. SK continued to sweep the Ninjas in Pyjamas, only losing one player in the 18th round. At round 21, SK were on the heels of NiP. Again they lost only one player and were closing the gap at 10-11. The all Swedish side struggled to cope with a red hot ColdZera.

 

Round 23 was tense for the young Brazilian Taco. The rifler clutched out a 1v2 on the terrorist side whilst the CTs had to defuse the bomb. Dropping two rounds behind NiP had to come up with something. Xizt on the auto sniper was that something. He picked up three kills with the Scar 20 to bring the score to 13-12 to SK. Despite being in the lead, Forests form began to intimidate the Brazilians who decided to take a couple of timeouts.

Similar to the previous map the score was at 14-14 in the grand final. Get Right, Forest and Friberg pulled it out of the bag for the Ninjas, everything connected for them when it mattered most. SK went into the final round of the map with Tec-9s in the hopes of taking the map to overtime. For the Brazilians beating NiP with only Tec-9s was too much to ask. After picking up a kill and managing to get crucial information before going down, Get Right sat nervously hoping he’d done and seen enough. Friberg and Forest benefited the most from Get Right’s efforts and they closed the round. The Swedes won 16-14 and were crowned IEM Oakland 2016 champions.

NiP lift IEM Oakland shield
Ninjas in Pyjamas – IEM Oakland Champions 2016 (Courtesy of Yahoo Esports)

IEM Oakland – The CS:GO Semi Finals Overview

The Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) semi finals took place on the 19th November. The Oracle Arena, Oakland, hosted some of the biggest teams in CS:GO including SK Gaming, Natus Vincere and Ninjas in Pyjamas. We have a look at the teams competing in the semis and who progressed to the grand finals.

Semi final teams:

  • SK Gaming vs Astralis
  • Faze vs Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP)

Semi final game 1

Astralis vs SK Gaming

The first game of the semi finals was between the all Danish team, Astralis and Brazilian giants, SK Gaming. SK were coming into this game red hot after hard-countering G2 esports in the quarter finals. Similarly, Glaive was proving to be a great addition to Astralis.

Game 1 – Train

SK Gaming set out, determined to intimidate the Danes by living up to their execellent reputation on train. However Astralis knew they’d be making a huge statement if they were to defeat the Brazilians on their most dominant map. SK stayed true and easily took the opening round. The economic advantage put them comfortably ahead 3-0, with the help of a 4k from ColdZera. After a success execute of flash bangs between the middle of the trains on A site FER got an imperative double spray on Device and Kjaerbye. On round six Astralis could finally afford to go toe-to-toe. SK were shut down when they got introduced to Device and his friend the AWP.

Device
Astralis’ Device (Courtesy of HLTV.org

The Danish star’s opening round AWP frags caused SK a lot of problems. The score was 5-2 to SK, but at the same time Device was becoming quite content especially with the support Glaive provided. A nice double kill by the newcomer got Astralis their second round on the board. Device’s early frags were key to getting Astralis warmed up, the game was tied at 5-5. The Danes were on a hot streak now, winning eight rounds in a row. Despite the streak SK managed to make a healthy recovery, they’d brought the game to 7-8 at half time.

Half time

Astralis won the pistol round on their terrorist side. Two more flawless cleanups by the Danes put them at 11-7. SK clearly were on the back foot. Round 22 was an important one for SK who had become the victors of it after FNX and Taco successfully closed out the 2v2. After round 26, SK began to hit their stride. Astralis’ poor economy forced them into an eco buy. This only aided in clarifying the amazing CT side of the Brazilians. Their high win rate became very apparent, FER’s clutch quad kill put SK in front at 15-14. In final round SK Gaming stole the game from Astralis in an extremely close back and forth battle. Although Astralis had lost they could certainly go back to the drawing board with their heads held high.

Game 2 – Mirage

SK took the opening round from their CT side. The next few rounds were straight forward the Brazilians led 4-0 punishing Astralis’ poor economy. A good pistol round by Xyp9x gave Astralis some hope, 2-4 the score at round six. Going into round nine the game was tied at 4-4 an impressive AWP performance from FalleN kept SK Gaming in the lead. A beautiful flank by FER on round 12 bagged him three kills. SK stretched their lead going four rounds up. The beautiful CounterStrike continued Taco came up big gaining three AWP kills whilst defending A site. Taco’s short hot streak helped the Brazilians finish the half seven rounds ahead, it was all going their way.

Half time
Fallen
SK Gaming’s Fallen (Courtesy of HLTV.org)

Yet again SK took the pistol round, but this time FalleN and ColdZera closed the round in a tight 2v2 battle. With their backs against the wall Astralis answered back. Xyp9x’s impressive triple kill during the teams eco round was very much an inspiration. The Dane continued to win them yet another round after a second triple kill. At the 22nd round the score was 13-8 to SK Gaming.

Momentum carried for Astralis as they were catching up. As a result the Danish side were reading SK’s T side play very well, although the score still sat at 12-13 to SK. Nevertheless the early reads couldn’t contain the firepower from the Brazilians. SK’s back to back wins put a stop to the streak. FalleN and ColdZera’s clutch plays had the Danes rattled. Taco’s amazing 2v1 clutch closed the game and the series for the Brazilians. His great rifling earned them place in the grand finals.

Semi final game 2

Ninjas in Pyjamas vs Faze

Lead by new in-game leader Karrigan (formerly of Astralis), Faze put in a good showing at this tournament. For NiP they were welcoming back Pyth and ready to resume activity after a painless victory versus Immortals in the quarterfinals.

Game 1 – Nuke

Faze took the opening round with a sneaky defuse from Allu. Despite the cheek, Forest got NiP their first round on the board with a smart play to get the bomb plant and the winning pick. However NiP were not winning many round yet were still buying into each one. Faze punished the constant buy-ins from NiP. Karrigan came up huge with a lovely wallbang headshot to Pyth with his low-cost scout. Faze were up 4-2. Unfortunately it slumped from here, Allu was clearly under-performing. The Finnish player only managed one kill in nine rounds. Whilst Forest and Xizt began carrying from the terrorist side. NiP gained a huge economic advantage. The Faze clan struggled to keep Forest at bay.

Round 12 was a bit shaky for NiP who were beginning to get comfortable. Consequently they’d underestimated the skills of the Faze individuals. Rain hit a couple of beautiful scout shots and instantly took two players out of the round. The Ninjas made a narrow escape to take the round, despite the bad early start. The half finished 10-5 to NiP led by veteran Forest, who was on fire winning almost every duel. Faze’s good early start was cut short.

Half time

The Swedes continued to add the heat coming into the second half. Pyth’s incredible USP pistol 4k had the crowd on their feet. However Faze managed to cool NiP down after the pistol round. They played passively choosing their moments to strike. Faze clan took the rounds from 5-10 to 11-11. Aizy stepped up and gave the Swedes problems on their T side. As a result, with the game tied Pyth took down Kioshima in a close 1v1, NiP had their lead back. Cracks started to show in Faze’s T side now. Ninjas in Pyjamas completely shut down Faze without losing a player. Their lead extended to 13-11. Despite the small set back, Faze showed no signs of letting the game go, the back and forth continued. Although NiP were in the lead for most of the map, suddenly Faze were on map point at 15-14.

Faze failed to close out the game, therefore the map continued into overtime. NiP star man Get Right chose the auto sniper but the focus wasn’t on him. Xizt stole the spotlight when his search for information ended up being much more than he bargained for. The Swede picked up two easy frags, a perfect introduction to overtime. In similar fashion it was the Xizt show picking up multiple frags every round during OT. As a result, NiP closed the game flawlessly giving Faze no room to get any overtime.

Game 2 – Train

The five man Faze side put up a solid defense on their CT side in the opening round. Furthermore the financial boost meant Karrigan could assert his dominance with a nice famas spray to kill three NiP players. An amazing grenade thrown by Allu took down two from the terrorist side to secure their 3-0 lead. Faze arrived firing on all cylinders this map. However the first full buy round was upon them. This round was exhilarating as Faze went for a successful panic defuse. It was a close shave for Kioshima who was clouded in smoke whilst Forest’s bullets whizzed past his chest.

Meanwhile Karrigan and Allu began hitting their targets with their AWPs there wasn’t much NiP could do. The mixed European team were dominating train. So far NiP had only a single highlight, Friberg’s impressive sneak bagged him two easy headshots. Despite Friberg’s ninja like moves the score was 6-2 in favour of Faze. Afterwards the hiccups from Faze persisted, Forest began warming up. The impressive frags from the veteran were nostalgic. Despite Faze becoming unbalanced, they reverted to a double AWP setup. With the Faze clan at 7-5 the expensive buy had to pay off for them. It did, the Ninjas were defenseless. The last round of the half was secured by Kioshima’s auto sniper the counter-terrorists were sitting pretty at 10-5.

Half time
Karrigan
Faze’s Karrigan (Courtesy of HLTV.org)

In addition Faze’s commanding presence carried through to the second half with a pistol round win. While failed eco rounds forced NiP into a high-risk full buy in an attempt to go toe-to-toe. However nothing was gained from this, the lost round for NiP was soul destroying. The Swedes were nine rounds down on budget buys. Although Forest was putting in an MVP level performance the 1v2 clutch was too much to ask. Faze led 15-5 and NiP were staring defeat in the face. Nevertheless Forest was unwilling to give up so easily, punishing the terrorists when NiP had scraped the money together for an AWP. But the gap was too big to close resulting in a defeat for Ninjas in Pyjamas. The map ended 16-6 to Faze.

Game 3 – Overpass

Determined to put the last map behind them NiP storm into Overpass immediately taking the pistol round as terrorists. In addition NiP remained in full control of the game with a 3-0 lead including successful bomb plants. Despite the healthy economy of the Swedes, Faze were ready to prove themselves in the Oracle Arena. Kioshima turend up and won a brilliant 1v4 clutch. Wrong footing Forest in a critical 1v1 to take the defuse. Furthermore, inspired by Kioshima’s play, the Europeans progressed to take two more rounds. Although Faze managed to win rounds NiP were having no problems entering the sites. At 6-4 to NiP, they decided to switch up their tactics, consisting of a late rush. To their dismay running down the clock never paid dividends. As a result the Xizt was unable to plant the bomb in time.

Half time
Forest
NiP’s Forest (Courtesy of HLTV.org)

Faze lagged behind, they had a constant string of low budget buys. However thanks to Allu’s well-played round they snatched the last round of half time. The half ended 9-6 in favour of NiP. Forest’s nice USP 2k led the team to a pistol round win. NiP punished Faze on their important first full buy. Xizt and Forest shut down the opposition, the score 13-6. Finally Faze executed a well thought out plan and were closing in. Rain came up with some beautiful AK 47 spray transfers, including a double kills whilst the enemies were in smoke. The Norwegian was attempting to match the level of Forest.

On the 25th round NiP were forced into an eco, however they luckily managed to save an AWP. Ultimately, the saved AWP, saved the Ninjas. Armed with the sniper rifle, Pyth bagged three crucial kills to put the Swedes on map point. Desperate to remain in the tournament Rain beat out Xizt in a heated 1v1. Faze gained rounds on NiP, the teams healthy economy put NiP on the back foot. The European mix of players clinched three extra rounds before succumbing to defeat. Losing only Pyth and Forest in the round, Get Right, Friberg and Xizt banded together to close the game. NiP progressed to the grand finals of IEM Oakland winning 16-13.

Nintendo to Embrace Esports?

Will Nintendo finally embrace esports with the Nintendo Switch?

For many years Nintendo were reluctant to play a part in esports. Back in 2013 the co-founder of EVO (the biggest fighting game championship) was told by Nintendo to shut down the Super Smash Bros. Melee event. So have Nintendo decided against this attitude for the future? It would be very wise to do so.

The struggles and stubbornness

The Wii U has been a far from successful console with abysmal sales figures. The Wii successor failed to capture the attention of the younger generation.

“It is for babies, the Wii U is terrible.”

This was the opinion of most boys aged 9-12 years old*. Nintendo is in big trouble as their target market is turning their back on them. The Japanese video game company failed to embrace modern platforms such as YouTube and Twitch.tv earlier and it has cost them dearly. Nintendo’s stubbornness has also put them further behind expressing on numerous occasions they do not want the Super Smash Bros series to be played competitively. This was despite excessive negative backlash from fans of the game. Other acts of stubbornness included taking heavy cuts from YouTubers’ ad revenue, or excessive copyright striking. Nintendo must take a more modern approach with their new console and come to term with digital marketing strategies. This involves having a more inviting attitude towards streamers and YouTubers to connect with the gaming community.

Embrace esports, the foundations are there

Nintendo’s fantastic first party titles have always been at the company’s core. For Nintendo in esports, Super Smash Bros. Melee has led the charge. The game released for the GameCube in 2001 and has been played competitively ever since.

“Melee ended up becoming a smash hit for hardcore fighting game fans…  I regret that because I intended for the series to be for players who couldn’t handle such highly skilled games” – Masahiro Sakurai (Super Smash Bros. Melee Creator)

Despite Nintendo’s opinions the game is played competitively at a lot of major fighting game tournaments. Smash Melee built up an extraordinary fan base full of passionate players. These players have kept the competitive scene alive for over a decade.

Super Smash Bros. Melee
Super Smash Bros. Melee – Courtesy of Nintendo Europe

Investing in esports will prove highly valuable for Nintendo going forward. There are a lot of opportunities such as adding a competitive mode for the future Mario Kart or Smash Bros game. Creating brand new IP’s with competitive elements such as Splatoon. As well as being able to watch Nintendo esports games on the go via the Switch and making huge adjustments to the social infrastructure.

In 2016 the Japanese video game giant should recognize the potential esports has. During an advert for the Switch a short clip recreates an esports event involving a game of Splatoon. Although it was a clip, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility, ESL (one of the largest tournament organizers) have already held multiple Splatoon tournaments. This could be an indication of what Nintendo want the Switch to become. If they want it to be a hit it, embracing esports would be a good step forward.

*recent survey from GAME retailer shoppers

Epicenter – The CS:GO Grand Finals Overview

Epicenter host the biggest CS:GO event in Eastern Europe held in Moscow, Russia. The event took place from October 17th to 23rd. With a $500,000 prize pool at stake let’s see who became the champion of this Epic Esports Event.

The VTB Ice Hall sports arena was the venue for the semi and grand final of the tournament. This huge arena has a maximum capacity of 12,100 people. These eight teams were wittled down to two for the grand finals. One of which being the unlikely and unexpected Danish side, Team Dignitas. Here is an overview of the grand finals when underdogs Team Dignitas took on the Polish veterans, Virtus.pro.

Team Dignitas vs Virtus.pro (Best of three)

Rosters

Team Dignitas

  • Emil “Magiskb0y” Reif
  • Rene “CajunB” Borg
  • Ruben “Rubino” Villarroel
  • Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke
  • Mathais “MSL” Lauridsen

Virtus.pro

  • Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas
  • Filip “neo” Kubski
  • Pawel “Byali” Bielinski
  • Jaroslaw “Pashabiceps” Jarzabkowski
  • Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski

After a close game against Na’Vi in the semi finals, Team Dignitas made it to the grand finals with the biggest win for their current roster. Magiskb0y’s great performances on every map led the Danes to victory. Virtus.pro had an unconvincing first game versus SK Gaming, but managed to bring clinch the second map, Nuke winning by three rounds. VP then sent SK home with a solid 16-4 victory on Cobblestone.

Map 1 – Nuke

Virtus.pro came out firing in the first map, winning the pistol round and putting Dignitas on the back foot. While the Danes had a poor economy Virtus.pro made sure they capitalized on it. Byali getting two triple kills in the first few rounds to extend their lead to 7-3.

vptaz
Virtus.pro’s TaZ. Courtesy of GosuGamers

Constantly Magisk was left in 1 vs x situations with no hope to clutch the round. Byali and Taz’s good showing put VP in a prime position up 11 rounds to 4 in the first half.

In the second half Team Dignitas took the pistol round followed by the next two. At 11-7 the Danes were beginning to close in, however VP had other ideas on their buy round. A successful defuse by Virtus.pro shut out Dignitas to go to 12 rounds. An incredible hold by Neo in round 20 stretched their lead further and put Dignitas under more pressure. Neo was beginning to show up after the demoralizing quadra kill hold and a double kill afterwards. The Poles were up 14-7 , yet Team Dignitas kept an unshakable mentality. They made sure they would at least go into double digits on their end and took it to 10-14. The Danes struggled to shut down Neo as he consistently put up high numbers with multiple frags each round. Although Dignitas got into double digits it was still a sour game for them. Virtus.pro took the map 16-11.

Map 2 – Cobblestone

Determined to put the last map behind them, Team Dignitas took an early lead with a pistol round win. Rubino’s nice triple put the Danes three rounds up. Virtus.pro started to play more cautiously on their CT side, Snax  provided the team with good holds to close the gap. In round 7, Magiskb0y got an amazing quadra kill but couldn’t put the cherry on the top for the clutch win. With the clock at less than ten seconds the young Dane went to plant the bomb. Completely unaware of how close Neo was, the veteran picked up the easy kill to take the round for VP.

magisk
Team Dignitas’ Magiskb0y. Courtesy of HLTV.org

Despite this Magiskb0y was still performing brilliantly with a 12 kills and 5 deaths only 12 rounds into the map. Virtus.pro were feeling the strain on this map Neo was forced to win a gut-wrenching clutch vs MSL.

The first half ended 11-4 to Team Dignitas. Rubino lead his team to a second half pistol round win with an impressive USP triple kill. Magiskb0y and Rubino really carried the team on their back. Both boys had outstanding stats against the veterans of the game. The pair remained composed and closed out the map with a great 16-5 win.

Map 3 – Mirage

In the final map Dignitas won yet another pistol round in impressive fashion. The eco rush from VP caught out the CT side and leveled the scoring at 1-1. Although the Danes were startled they kept up their impressive form from the last map. At 7-1, Dignitas were performing like a top tier team. Rubino, MSL and Magiskb0y were giving Virtus.pro serious problems. The Polish side needed to pull something out of the bag. With the score at 1-12, Byali stepped up to do so with a fantastic ace. But it was to no avail.

The young Danes completely shut out VP’s T side with an extremely impressive first half finishing 13-2. With such a horrible scoreline for the Poles, the second half pistol round was a must win. Fortunately they took the round. Virtus.pro struggled to carry the momentum forward, every player on Team Dignitas was on fire. PashaBiceps and Snax were non-existent in the map the pair had a disappointing 16 kills combined in 21 rounds. Dignitas closed the map 16-5 and won the best of three 2-1.

“Today everyone was fired up!” – Ruben “Rubino” Villarroel

The underdogs became victors in this truly great series. We have a new team to take the Great Danes title from Astralis. The Danes had never been in a final as their current roster. The first final they reached they became champions. Team Dignitas battled through to claim their $250,000 first place prize.

HLTV’s tournament MVP was Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke.

FIFA: The Dark Horse in Esports

Why EA’s most iconic football game is a dark horse in the industry

Marco Reus
Marco Reus – Courtesy of EA Sports

FIFA Football may not be the first game that comes to mind in the conversation of esports, but it’s certainly an underrated one. Football clubs such as Sporting Club, VfL Wolfsburg and Manchester City have all signed professional FIFA players (other professional clubs involved in esports can be read here). But it seems many major esports organisations cannot see its potential.

This is surprising, as delving into other esports titles can hold much higher financial risk. Games such as League of Legends, Overwatch and Counter Strike: Global Offensive require a team to manage. There are many disadvantages to this such as language barriers, personality clashes and extra financial outgoings. FC Schalke were the first professional club to get stung after investing in League of Legends. The German club lost a huge amount of money after their team got demoted from the European League Championship Series (EU LCS) to the Challenger Series. Despite this the club are determined to soldier on. Whereas FIFA requires investment into only one player and relies on tournaments for ROI. It is an easy way for the football clubs to test the waters before investing into other more popular esports titles.

Viewership

Viewership numbers are always high for FIFA with around three million hours watched on Twitch.tv each month. Popular streamers, “Castro_1041” and “Nick_28t” lead the way for the games viewing numbers via the game streaming service. Youtubers such as “KSI” and “Zerkaa” play FIFA on a regular basis both with respectable subscription counts. Whilst the numbers are good, they are inconsiderate of the football game’s competitive scene. Currently FIFA’s competitive scene has much lower viewing numbers in comparison. (Research competitive viewership numbers for FIFA 16).

Growing competitive scene

FIFA’s competitive scene is still on the rise, which could be reason for major organisations’ disinterest. However, now is the time to take investing in professional FIFA player into serious consideration. Previously no concern was expressed by FIFA about driving their game forward as an esport. But recently the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino spoke publicly about the potential it has going forward.

As the world of gaming expands, FIFA has a tremendous opportunity to mimic production of global events on the pitch with enhanced production of virtual FIFA competitions. To investigate the benefits and feasibility of expanding FIFA’s engagement in esports, FIFA will commission a working group to consider its forward-looking strategy.”

Dark horse potential

FIFA as an esport for the future, holds a lot of potential. This is extremely potent within the younger generation. The game’s simplicity is what puts it ahead of other esports games. Other esports titles like League of Legends and Dota 2 can be very confusing and tedious to a newcomer. Competitive League of Legends is proof as viewing numbers fall. Additions of new champions require continuous study to keep up with. Counter Strike: Global Offensive is also not as easy to understand, with included acts of violence and an age restriction. Whereas FIFA, has none of the above. It is a game the majority of the world understand the concept of. Parents needn’t be concerned with their child playing/watching the game. It will easily capture new viewers that may not have played FIFA beforehand. In addition to this the scene would not be difficult to follow as there are only a single players to focus on. FIFA’s new working group can drive the competitive side of the game. The beautiful game can be an interesting dark horse to emerge into the industry.