The lack of support for the tier-2 scene is one of the main problems of all Valve esports disciplines. CS:GO tournament operators did not seek to occupy this segment of the market, instead preferring to compete for the attention of tier-1 teams. But the lockdown and ensuing transition of the scene to online has changed everything. So, who exactly is helping the development of tier-2 level of competition?
2020 was a breakthrough year for the tier-2 scene
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has plenty of small tournaments for little-known teams, yet these cannot be quite seen as a part of a single ecosystem. For example, there are ESEA leagues and regional ESL championships, providing an opportunity for competition of local teams only, and thus having little to no overlap with teams of equal strength from other regions. In other words, the scene had a severe lack of championships allowing the teams from Europe and the CIS to compete on the same field.
In 2019, the tournament operator WePlay! held two big tournaments for tier-2 teams: the first and second seasons of the Forge of Masters. Compared to rival events, these stood out by the increased number of participants and a rather large prize pool (as for events of a tier-2 level). However, things did not go beyond two seasons, and the vacuum was filled by two other tournament operators along with their key sponsor.
Almost immediately after the start of the pandemic, tournament operator Relog Media, together with the German esports statistics processing company GRID, announced a series of #HomeSweetHome events. The series consisted of eight tournaments, the first of which started in early April. The teams competed for a prize pool of $40,000, divided between the winner ($30K) and the second finalist ($10K).
As a result, in two months the organizers raffled off $320,000, which is a huge amount of prize money for tier-2 tournaments. The #HomeSweetHome tournaments helped to unite many teams from the CIS and Europe within the bounds of a single competition, with some of the quite famous teams (such as BIG, Virtus.pro, Team Spirit, Gambit and even Complexity Gaming) taking part in the championships.
The tournaments were watched by about 5K average viewers, while the second event with 7.3K average viewers became the most popular in the series. These numbers are still quite good for the tier-2 events, though.
The organizers didn’t stop at just one series of events. The #HomeSweetHome events ran from April to mid-June, and their immediate aftermath marked the start of another major series from the same organizers, one known as Nine to Five.
While #HomeSweetHome featured 16 participating teams, the new series increased their number to 26. The prize fund also grew: each event offered a prize pool of $50,000. As for the lineup of Nine to Five participants, it consisted of pretty much the same tier-2 teams as the #HomeSweetHome.
The Nine to Five championships were about twice as long as their predecessor in terms of airtime, but the average viewers indicator only increased.
Nine to Five events gathered approximately 5.6K average viewers. The second tournament of the series was the most popular one with a total of 7.2K average viewers.
It should be noted that another major series of tier-2 events started almost at the same time as Nine to Five, one known as Eden Arena: Malta Vibes. The Maltese tournament operator has previously hosted some of the niche championships (LOOT.BET Hotshot Series) and even hosted the Champions Cup with a prize pool of $300K (won by G2 Esports). However, it was the Malta Vibes series where the tournament organizer managed to really shine.
Like in case of #HomeSweetHome, the prize pools of the Malta Vibes series tournaments amounted to $40,000, and the winner also received the opportunity to organize a bootcamp for free in a five-star hotel in Malta: quite a rare opportunity for the tier-2 teams.
The Eden Arena: Malta Vibes tournaments ran simultaneously with Nine to Five and were more popular among the viewers. Of the ten events held, six featured more than 6.5K average viewers.
The ninth tournament of the series was the most successful by average viewers (13.2K). This was caused by the most popular Brazilian team MIBR moving to Europe near the end of August. Its matches entered the top-3 based on the event’s performance, while the peak viewers indicator reached more than 110K during the group stage match between MIBR and Gambit.
The championships by Relog Media, Eden Esports and GRID gathered the tier-2 teams on the same field. And most importantly, the series ran continuously and, in fact, became a full-fledged tier-2 CS:GO season in 2020, which was something the scene had a huge demand for.
GRID and Relog Media do not plan on stopping anytime soon. In the new year, a new series called Snow Sweet Snow has already started: not only in CS:GO, but also in Dota 2. The prize pool of each event has increased to $100K, as well as the number of participating teams (44 per event).
Snow Sweet Snow #1 ended on February 10 with the victory going to the new roster of FunPlus Phoenix, bought by Chinese organization from GODSENT. At the same time, the Swedish club signed a Brazilian roster with TACO and felps, and this team became the most popular at the event.
Snow Sweet Snow #1 gathered 11.4K average viewers and 93.3K peak viewers. By the way, the top 5 matches featured only the matches of GODSENT, with the match versus PACT becoming the most popular with 85.8K peak viewers.
The Brazilian caster and streamer Gaules helped popularize the event. He broadcasted the championship, and so the event was mostly watched by the Portuguese-speaking viewers. There were a total of 74.3K peak viewers gathered there, which is 4.4 times more than the peak viewers indicator of the English stream.
The second championship of the series starts very soon (February 15th), to be followed by the third. In other words, the tier-2 scene will not suffer from a shortage of championships, which is quite reassuring.
The tier-2 scene lacked a continuous series of events going one after another (similar to those of tier-1 level), and now GRID with Relog Media and Eden Arena are actively expanding upon this segment of the market. The more Brazilian and American teams move to Europe, the bigger is the chance that such events will keep growing in scale.
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