June 19, 2009

Ten Years of Counter Strike: Part Two

Well, time for number four on my list of Triumphs and Failures. If there’s one good thing about having a horrendously messed up sleep cycle it’s that I have plenty of time to write. Number four on both lists is the same group, the CPL.

Triumph #4
The CPL till 2005

If you think about it, and I mean really think about it, the pre-world tour CPL was quite unequivocally the shit.

This organization started by hosting quake tournaments in Dallas, with large LAN parties attached. Being the astute business men they were or just by sheer circumstance and luck (I’m going with the latter since they’re in the failure list too), they noticed that a lot of people were playing a mod for Half Life called Counter Strike. They held impromptu BYOC tournaments culminating in the first official CS tournaments at the back to back CPL Cologne and Babbage’s CPL events in December of 2000.

In short, they held 16 events in the US and Europe from 2000 to December 2004. A lot of these events and matches were iconic for the growing CS scene. The CPL Europe events were a treasure trove of amazing matches with Europe’s best slugging it out in between the bi-annual Dallas events.

Some of this might be nostalgia, but seeing the world’s best beat each other up in pursuit of minimal financial gain was real and pure. We all wanted to play against and get destroyed by these titans of Counter Strike.

If I could have any CPL, I’d have the one that existed from 2001 to 2003. They had the perfect number of events with spring and fall events in Europe and summer and winter events in Dallas. Enough to keep the fans interested, but not enough to wear out the players, the media, and the fans.

Looking at the CPL only in this time period I would have thought that the CPL Founder Angel Munoz was a god or a genius. Unfortunately for him, we have 2005 to the present to judge him by.

On a side note: Turtle Entertainment (the guys behind ESL), who ran the CPL Europe events, emerged after ending their relationship with the CPL with some serious rep in Europe. They went on to host the Intel Extreme Masters. They are one of the few companies that has been able to see a good thing and not mess it up. I think each season is getting progressively better.

Failure #4
The CPL 2005 to the present

After becoming the biggest name in eSports, the CPL wanted to blow things up. They wanted to throw fuck you money at a global eSports tour and have the finals on MTV. Well they got what they wanted. They made it on MTV.

In the process they turned their back on the CS community and destroyed their brand.


There was the prize money fiasco at CPL Turkey for one. I don’t think BSL ever got the prize money for that one. Instead of cowboying up and paying the prize money from CPL’s coffers they pulled this lame it wasn’t our tournament bullshit and insisted that the local organizer was on the hook for the cash not them. So by weaseling out of a few thousand in prize money, the CPL did a lot of damage to their brand.

Then the summer event was scheduled over the ESWC event. Whether this was intentional or not who knows, but it was a disaster for the CPL. Not only was this event originally just a CS:Source event, but the registration for 1.6 was opened so late that most teams opted to wait for the last minute to try to get an ESWC berth.

So in 2005 they only had one classic CPL, and then in 2006 they lost Intel to WSVG and only recovered in time to host a winter event in 2006. In short, from the launch of the CPL World Tour to the present day the CPL hosted three legitimate events compared to the 16 before that (I’m not counting the tour stops because as they told BSL they were the local organizer’s tournaments not CPL’s).

In short, don’t forget where your bread is buttered. You made it on MTV, congrats. In the process you gave the market to your eager and willing competition. The half assed and poorly executed switch to source and giving away one million dollars to 25 Painkiller players took the CPL from the top esports brand to just another tournament.

I’m not even going to touch the sale of the CPL to a guy in Dubai with petrodollars, or the World in Conflict tour.