Counter Strike Esports is Shaken Up With Radical Announcement

It looks like the esports industry is changing, with Counter Strike leading the way. A recently-revealed league structure is about to shake gamers to their core, with new additions such as $100,000 fines for ‘underperforming’. However, the creators believe that this is a ‘love letter’ to esports fans. Let’s take a look at exactly what’s happening, and when.

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Flashpoint – or better known as “B Site” – has finally been unveiled and will premiere in March 2020. Its shock key point is that 10 teams have bought into this franchise and have each paid their $2 million… everyone really is in this for the long haul! 

It’s been stressed by the TOs – represented by Kent Wakeford of Gen. G – that this is a long-term investment. Flashpoint is about putting the drama back into esports and letting players and casters show their personality. It’s time for the fans to get what they really want – a show designed to entertain that’s made only by esports stars who know their sh*t.

On that note, Flashpoint is going to be a mature esport league. This word was thrown out there by Semmler, Thorin, MonteCristo and pretty much everyone at the press event on February 5th in London. Monte addressed a point that really resonates with FragHero, which is staying true to your nature. 

What he means by that is that Counter Strike is a red-blooded military shooter and isn’t going to appeal to everyone (that “everyone” includes sponsors and fans alike). Monte said “this is a broadcast intended for adult viewers” and for my favourite quote of the session from Thorin, “it’s not Disney”. It’s exciting, it’s different and it’s something that fans should definitely be talking about – hardcore or not. 

“This is our love letter to you”, MonteCristo

What is the Playoff Format of Flashpoint?

Don’t be put off by the seemingly complex format of the Flashpoint playoffs. All you need to take away from the following is that the big guys pick their opponents first then the little guys have the opportunity to come f*** all that up if they fancy, but here’s a full breakdown:

  • 12 teams enter the league – 10 of whom are locked in founders and 2 who have qualified. 
  • The tournament is split into phase 1 and phase 2 (with the potential for more phases to be added in the future)
  • The top 3 seeded teams (out of the full 12) then get put into each of the 3 groups (A-C).
  • Each team then takes it in turn to pick which other team they want in their group, with the baton then passing onto that chosen team to select the next. 
  • The bottom team from each group has an opportunity to mess up the odds by swapping their position with another team from their group (which reorders themselves within their group to line them up with a different opponent) or they can play around with the positioning of other teams. This way, the 4th picked teams get their chance to change their fixtures but the first seeded teams have the chance to veto the proposals.
  • Playoff points are cumulative with first place earning 75, second gets 50, third gets 30, and last place earns 15. The 8 teams who have the most points will go into double elimination playoffs. The double elims are best of 3.
  • All of the above is then repeated for phase 2
Flashpoint’s CS playoff format is based around double eliminations and group selections.

Thorin said “where you finish in that group is everything”. There’s no round robin structure that other leagues work from, like ESL, and the playoff approach is much more interesting for fans to watch. The appeal of the group selection stage is obvious – imagine the banter that’s going to unfold as 12 team captains stand on stage trash talking each other (because obviously who they pick will ultimately reveal how they feel about playing against certain teams). The selection process could even last up to an hour (I’m thinking of my favourite boxing weigh-ins right now and hoping we get some juicy drama out of these selections). You’ll have seen those interactions yourself in gaming if you’ve ever watched a Starcraft group selection.

The inspiration for Flashpoint’s format comes from games like Starcraft but also broadcasting styles of top sports shows like NFL. Of course, the format of the group selection is tried and tested by Starcraft, the only difference being that the format was even more complex than what Flashpoint is offering.

Credit: Valve

About New Flashpoint CS:GO League

This new Counter Strike pro league is all about constructing narratives and fans essentially falling in love with the talents’ personalities. Talking with James Bardolph really made us understand this focus on storytelling more, because Flashpoint wants their players to develop their personalities and presence outside of the esports industry, getting more air time before the major show to set up what’s happening.

FLASHPOINT was established in 2019 by some of the most influential leaders in esports who hail from world renowned esports organisations, Cloud9, MIBR, Dignitas, GenG, c0ntact Gaming and Mad Lions. Together they created and fully funded FLASHPOINT, a brand new Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO) league and the first esports league to be owned and run by team organisations. There’s a huge amount of esports’ wealth behind this new entertainment product. Kent Wakeford of Gen.G esports and other investors like Ari Segal of Immortals Gaming Club (IGC) being involved is a testament to the future of this league. Counter Strike is an ecosystem under Flashpoint’s new structure – the league is never going to be exclusive and it really cares about the underdog teams. The TOs and all the talent behind Flashpoint are really pushing for sustainability of their product and its model for “collective success”, as Kent puts it. 

MonteCristo announced on February 5th that “this is a broadcast intended for adult viewers”. Flashpoint is going to be a highly competitive and highly entertaining league to watch, letting personalities shine without being censored. The players that helped come up with the structure of the league are totally dedicated to being the best at what they do, and you can see that just in the fact that they came up with the idea of $100,000 fines for underperforming teams. That means that teams in this CS league are being incentivised to perform better by receiving a heavy penalty for dragging the rest of the teams down. Thorin was passionate on this subject, and excited that this new motive will push teams to refresh their roster by buying new players, injecting more sport into this esport industry. 

Credit: Valve

Bardolph professed that Flashpoint isn’t about filling broadcast segments with a strict programme. Gone are the days of knowledgeable talent turning up on the day of an event and being told which sections they can fill with a bit of analysis. Flashpoint is reimagining Counter Strike’s esports scene to how it should have always been: talented and knowledgeable analysts shaping a show filled with awesome skill from the world’s best players. As Bardolph says, “no one understands it better than [they] do”. To put it even better, he went on to use the tastiest metaphor I’ve come across in a while:

“They’re putting on an event with hundreds and thousands but we’re making the whole doughnut.”

The middle man has been cut out completely in Flashpoint, with the teams and talent working together to put on a show – all costs included and paid by them. Monte is confident that the rest of the esports industry will soon catch on that this is the only way forward for a sustainable future of entertainment and profitability, and Bardolph himself even said that “people will be forced to change”. It’s refreshing to see the most talented esports analysts shaping the future of their industry for themselves, for the better enjoyment of the fans and the better profitability of the players.

Monte made the bold statement that “CS is the most accessible esport” game because of its rounds and pacing; Counter Strike is relatively easy to understand for viewers that are totally new to the esports scene. 

Flashpoint is a show that’s designed to be instantly enjoyable, no matter at which point you switch on. Whether you’re a hardcore Counter Strike esports fan or a lover of Overwatch League, you’re apparently bound to be into what you see and keep coming back for more. Thorin talked about NFL a lot and how the commentators “give you as much info as you can handle”, then the fans choose how to interact with that. Thorin wanted to ensure that the analysts are given their own tools and segments to shine in this new Counter Strike series. They want to hear more from the people who know their stuff and give them time to put their stamp on the gameplay for the fans. 

Who is the Talent Behind Flashpoint?

The passionate roster of talent that has created Flashpoint is led by “esports historian” Duncan ‘Thorin’ Shields as Creative Director and on-air talent, Christopher ‘MonteCristo’ Mykles, Auguste “Semmler” Massonnat and James Bardolph. Those names are definitely familiar to esports fans, but the odd name out in that impressive mix is Monte’s. He’s coming over from OWL to make his debut as a CS:GO host. The lineup also includes CS:GO legends Dan ‘DDK’ Kapadia and James Bardolph, as well as FACEIT talent like Freya Spiers. 

Duncan “Thorin” Shields, Creative Director

Known as the “Esports Historian”, Thorin is a bold esports journalist and freelance studio analyst. He’s one of the most knowledgeable analysts in the industry and has worked for tonnes of events, like ESL and ELEAGUE. His involvement with Counter Strike goes all the way back to 2001, so he’s definitely the perfect fit. 

Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles, Broadcast talent and Product Advisor

Stepping from Overwatch and into Counter Strike is Monte, an esports broadcaster with more than a decade of experience. He owned esports team Renegades, coacked CLG and even operated some indie tournaments. Monte has been heavily involved with the creative vision behind Flashpoint and even came up with its name – the name itself is an indication to the type of creativity that Monte wants to introduce into this league. He knows teams and players well – even if he’s not the most knowledgeable on CS – so he will definitely ignite some interesting narratives during the live shows.

Auguste ‘Semmler’ Massonnat, Broadcast talent and Product Advisor

Semmler is obviously a huge name in the Counter Strike and Overwatch scene and a big personality. He moved from CS to OWL and is now coming back over to Counter Strike for this new Flashpoint league, something that he thinks will “benefit the health of the CSGO scene.”

James Bardolph

Bardolph is the VP of FACEIT – the company who’s handling the production side of things. He’ll be joined by Daniel ‘ddk’ Kapadia to give us our usual epic casting duo. Over the years, Bardolph has had fun with creative experimentation, like when he drove over a tank with a car, played about with a flame thrower and when he wore that epic Christmas suit on air. Bardolph is part of iconic moments in Counter Strike’s history, so it makes perfect sense that he’s one of the stars behind Flashpoint.

Why is Flashpoint Better than Other Leagues?

Whether it’s better or not will solely be down to how the fans receive this league, but we’re already behind it, due to the fact that it puts some ownership and profitability back in the hands of the players with its franchise foundations. Semmler started off the PR conference quite seriously discussing other esports league leaders, describing them as wanting monopoly of the industry and to “play the role of devs”. Semmler thinks that their group is “putting out a better product [and] not locking down the scene”. In a recent podcast video, he said “ESL are so focused on locking down the top teams”. Semmler thinks “it’s a positive” to have more leagues and give more choice to the fans, obviously hoping that most will migrate over to being Flashpoint viewers.

I have to admire the transparency that Flashpoint has given us so far. Of course, I’m recalling the the ESL debacle that hurt a lot of fans and players when they cut 24 players out of their league without properly informing them. Although Flashpoint may not have the biggest teams in Counter Strike esports at this starting stage, the event will grow over time. esports fans will now be able to choose from BLAST, ESL and the Majors, to name a few of the big leagues. Flashpoint’s prize pool is relatively small in comparison at this starting stage, so it’ll be interesting to see how the purse expands over the coming year.

How are Players Going to Make Profit under the new Flashpoint League?

A lively podcast featuring Chad, Prof, Striker and Flashpoint spokesman Semmler recently aired on YouTube and touched upon this important topic. Esports fans have been demanding to know how Flashpoint is going to make a profit, or even just break even. Semmler responded to questions on this topic by saying that “the teams buy in […] and own a portion of the league”. Flashpoint is a franchise, which means the teams and the players stand to make money because they co-own the league. Teams who have bought in can’t be relegated, but they can be forced out through lack of development and a wish to no longer waste all their money in fines for underperforming. This league format is a chance for grassroots players to make a bit of money as well as the big teams scoring hard. 

Flashpoint is kicking off in Los Angeles in March 2020 with qualifiers opening on February 6th. There are also talks about starting the league in North America and then hopping over to Europe for more playoffs in the future. 

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