Michal CARMAC Blicharz: «It's always very important for us to visit NA to ensure that we have a touch base with a North American audience and NA gamers»

Олексій Харченко

Players editor-in-chief Alex Kharchenko attended a press conference at IEM Dallas, where VP Product Development ESL Michal CARMAC Bliharz spoke about the company's attitude to the North American region. 

«From European perspective, North American Counter-Strike has always been tremendously important because it was traditionally the driver of what the community were buzzing about. So it was Team 3D, Complexity, which is headquartered now in Dallas actually, they competed with the top European teams and that's what the community would talk about. It was always those “arrogant Americans” against the “dirty Euros” and that type of thing.

So that was always extremely important for the growth and development of Counter-Strike. The first professional tournaments, they were Intel-sponsored, they were not done by us. They took place in Dallas and European teams would fly over and start making things very, very interesting.

Around 2007 it was the first time we were in North America with Intel Extreme Masters and we have visited probably around 20 times since. It's always very important for us to visit North America to ensure that we have a touch base with a North American audience and North American gamers because inherently we see Intel Extreme Masters as a global event series and it's hard to talk about global without America. 

I think it's fair to say that currently North America is not doing well internationally in Counter-Strike. It used to be that, and it wasn't just in Counter-Strike, it was in different games like Quake or Warcraft 3, and, you know, if you rewind the clock enough, there was always...technically Europe or Asia would dominate video games, but there would always be one or two big North American champions.

And North Americans have the ability to win global events. And this is something that probably for Counter-Strike it changed in 2019. So, 2019 Team Liquid, which is a North American team, they won the Intel Grand Slam, which is extremely prestigious, it's one of the most prestigious accolades out there in esports.

And then, I think in probably October 2019 it was ESL One New York, Evil Geniuses won that, and this is the last time that I recall North American teams in Counter-Strike winning something meaningful. And a number of things happened to make that happen. So, the difference is generally the density of high-level players in Europe is much higher than in North America.

We have many, many more top players to compete against in Europe online every day compared to North America, which has always been a difficulty because the gaming market is more split than in Europe between PC and console. In America, consoles are stealing more players from PCs compared to Europe, which is difficulty number one.

And then in 2019-20 what hit was COVID, which was travel restrictions and everything. So, you have a smaller player pool, smaller density of top players, and then the top players are unable to travel. So, they are now completely cut off from being exposed to the style of play of the top teams and top players, which is, I'd say, on a competitive level for a North American catastrophe.

There's many, many more factors in play. But in general, Cloud9, 2018 Cloud9, they won a million-dollar event in Boston, the Boston Major. Twelve months before that victory, they went and they competed at least once every month in a global event.

And they didn't do that well. So, they needed a year's worth of trial and error, losing and competing and getting back up and doing it again to win a world global title. And now that was taken away from North American players for almost two years.

And that's been, that's had a tremendous effect. Where that puts North America, I think, is in a very firm position of an underdog.»

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