The Intel Extreme Masters tour is considered one of the best that eSports has to offer. Run by the company many proclaim to be industry leaders, the Modern Times Group-owned Electronic Sports League, the tour started in 2007 and has held tournaments in major cities all across the globe. Despite receiving plaudits over the years, the latest stop in the Polish city of Katowice, ran into many problems, most of which seem to be of ESL’s making, leaving many of the attending fans and competitors alike unsatisfied with their experience.
The major complaints emanated from ESL’s decision to cram four best-of-three series into a single day, a move that saw the tournament play end at 3:30 am local time in a mostly empty stadium. The attending players had to turn up at 10:30 am that day for an opening ceremony, meaning that the players from the teams fnatic and Astralis had to be awake and focused for competitive purposes for approximately seventeen hours.
The fact that even after long matches these two teams had to start playing their semi-final match at midnight drew some criticism from other professional players. Cloud9 veteran Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert tweeted that it is time to limit the daily play hours at tournaments. This drew agreement from the likes of Luminosity’s in-game leader Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, fnatic coach Viktor “vuggo” Jendeby, and Hector Rosario, the managing director of the team Flipside. This tweet has raised speculation that a players union, which has been in the works for a significant period of time, may be closer to formalising.
Interestingly enough, the number of games played flew contrary to the demands for 2016 tournaments made by a CS:GO team owners group back in October 2015. It was clearly stated that anything greater than one best-of-three or best-of-five series daily could result in a collective boycott of a tournament. However, it must be noted, this was always unlikely to ever be followed through upon for tournament organisers like ESL, who have so many events over the course of a year.
It wasn’t just the competitors affected by the long day. The atmosphere at Katowice has long been boasted about by ESL, however the semi-finals were played in a stadium that grew increasingly empty, leaving an embarrassing amount of empty seats in the background during the broadcast. While some speculated this was due to a combination of the lateness of the hour coupled with local heroes Virtus Pro having been crushed by eventual tournament winners fnatic earlier in the day, Reddit posts revealed there was more going on than first thought.
Several fans complained about having left the venue to get food and drink, only to be denied re-entry when they attempted to return for the semi-final matches. One post from a user called gutekzz claimed that the decision was taken to close down the stadium early due to “lack of interest” in the event, despite there being a significant number of people wanting to enter the venue. Far from receiving an apology, the attendee claims they were told that ESL were perfectly within their rights to deny him entry even with a valid ticket. So far ESL haven’t officially addressed these claims.
There can be few excuses from ESL for the crammed schedule. Their previous Katowice event featured less daily matches and still had a late finish. The decision to increase the amount was vaguely explained by the head of the Intel Extreme Masters, Michal “Carmac” Blicharz, but ultimately seems to have been about making more room for the League of Legends tournament that was running concurrently with CS:GO competition.
The criticism aimed at IEM so soon after their Barcelona event also generated multiple complaints from attending competitors will certainly cause some concern at the ESL offices. Breitbart has contacted ESL for comment.