Michal "Carmac" Blicharz has presided over the Intel Extreme Masters for quite a few seasons now and for the first time ever it looks likely that the next season will be without an FPS title in the competitive circuit. In light of the recent announcement that firstly CS 1.6 would be dropped and secondly it wouldn't, as was expected to be the case, be replaced by CS:Global Offensive (at least yet) we decided to chase our man down for a quick word.Ok, first things first - the talking point has been the decision to remove 1.6 from IEM, which I think a lot of people saw coming. Can you explain the rationale behind that decision?
The reasoning is that while Intel Extreme Masters is a global event series that takes place on many continents, Counter-Strike is no longer a global game. By that I don't mean that there aren't fans and players in Australia, Asia or anywhere else, but that there aren't professional teams in many parts of the globe. It's difficult to justify running major tournaments outside of Europe if to make them worthwhile you need to bring 90% of participants from there.People who wanted to say there was more to it than that would point to the number of professional League of Legends teams wouldn't they?
It does not have as much to do with professional or not professional, but competitive or not competitive. League of Legends is at a stage where while not many teams are playing 100% full time, a clash between a a top 5 European team and a top 5 American or Asian team is not a foregone conclusion. It's exciting and it's worth watching.
Several years ago USA, Brazil and Asia were able to deliver teams that could go toe to toe with the best European teams, or even dominate them in some cases. Those days are, unfortunately, gone.
At the end of the day running a major esports competitions is a business, just like running the UEFA Champions League. The business of pro gaming is about generating entertainment for a lot of people. That makes sure you have sponsorships that pay for the show. With things that fade away it's a natural process that you set them aside. Unfortunately games that are released on the "Christmas Sales" business model are bound to stop delivering great players sooner or later and that's happened for CS. Blaming us for removing CS 1.6 from Intel Extreme Masters is like blaming SK Gaming that they have Get RiGhT and not SpawN or HeatoN playing for them.What about those pointing to the sheer number of viewers on the streams? The fabled, and in my opinion almsot certainly exaggerated, 70k viewers didn't save the game from the axe. Can you explain the importance of streaming figures and the role they play in the decision making process?
The 70,000 concurrent viewers is, to the best of my knowledge, real. I am not primarily a numbers person, as in I don't rely on them as much as other people would. Streaming numbers are a very reliable measure of your success as an event organiser, but I also look at how easy the game is to enjoy for outsiders, how easy the game is to run in a pro competition, how much it costs to run a competition for a certain game, how large the community is and what the atmosphere is in the room during the final of your tournament.In another interview I noticed that you said that no sponsors have ever complained to you about game graphics. Now, while I believe that to be the case, surely you'd have to admit that for the casual e-sports fan and for the newer generation of e-sports fan, old games simply don't have the same sort of appeal. We all know the die hards don't watch e-sports for graphics but a younger enthusiast is definitely more likely to lean towards something that looks like CoD than 1.6, right?
The cost of the show and its reach are very objective criteria and as such need to be high on the priority list. The cost of running good esports competitions is rising all the time with expectations. We had three stages (one for each game) at the last CeBIT compared to just one in all previous years. The ESL TV budget for the previous season of Intel Extreme Masters was the highest ever and will be higher next season.
I think new kids will be more attracted to new games in general. It's a problem we haven't solved yet in the esports industry: how do we deliver new players and spectators into the community of an old game? We're going back to the Christmas Sales games model. Once a game's sold off the shelf and hits a certain mass of players, its community only gets smaller from there.
I really like the League of Legends or DotA 2 business model which is much more likely to bring in additional people even if the game's old. For the most part, once a boxed game is released, there are no business reasons why a publisher should keep caring about that particular title 5 years later.
So with every new game which is released with a big bang, sold and forgotten by a publisher, we have to keep our fingers crossed and pray that the "Korea BroodWar effect" happens to it. That the game becomes mainstream and the mainstream delivers new players like it does to football or handball. Otherwise it will end up like most esports games before it.
An esports league is a bit like a football club in the sense that you can only invest into a player for so long before he's past his prime. It's because most games have death built into their business model. Once the third installment of SC2 comes out and a few years passes, who's going to buy an old game like that? Yes, we have to eventually move with the times as things stand today.So enough lingering on 1.6... I had to laugh at the other interview that took one quote, slightly out of context, regarding CS:GO and IEM. Although it was billed that CS:GO wouldn't feature at IEM that was only for this season and you did say you could see CS:GO involved in the future. Can you give us an overview of why it didn't make it in this season and why you can foresee its inclusion in the future?
I think that the games that have a chance to stay and become long term esports titles - without becoming a mainstream phenomenon - are games based on a similar model to LoL. Where publishers are pretty much forcing themselves to keep working on the game and keep promoting it to new players.
The business model behind the game has to guarantee a consistent stream of new players for the game to have a chance to live long as an esport.
It's simply unwise to go all in into a game which is, to a large degree, untested as an esport. CS:GO will be out somewhere in August and it is too late to make the decision to pick it up or not for an entire Intel Extreme Masters season. Just to give you an idea: we looked at League of Legends for 10 months or so before giving it a go "full time". LoL has proven itself insanely successful in amateur cups and the ESL Major Series before we picked it up.But you obviously have plans for it. If you didn't why would you showcase it at an IEM event in the manner you did?
There are good indications that the game's going to be a great one for esports. 1,800 teams or so have signed up for the first ESL cup (many of them just wanting beta keys), so it's a very good sign. But it's too early to say. If the game has a great community with a lot of fans, competitive teams on at least two continents, coverage websites and all that, then it could easily become one of the main games for us.
But if it does, it won't be because we were looking to replace CS 1.6. It will be because it checks all those boxes I've mentioned above. The same criteria apply for any game.
I would say we have hopes for it but not plans. We often try out a game on a smaller scale in Intel Extreme Masters to see what the response is. We did that with League of Legends also at CeBIT in 2011.I also had a good laugh at the conspiracy theories that said you have been paid off by Valve to drop 1.6... Got anything you'd like to say about that?
Only that, euphemistically speaking, the logic of such a statement does not add up.The CSP discussion has also provided me some amusement. A mod that has been years in the making, that is still a long way from complete, that is now being championed by the community that shunned it and held back its development... Now that it's the belle of the ball can you explain the IEM stance on it. My gut feeling is that you'd not be interested in picking it up, nor has that even been mentioned as an alternative.
Any game that we pick up, be it CS:GO, CSP or Worms 7, needs to check all the checkboxes. It needs a community of fans and players that come from all corners of the globe and we need to be able to afford to run events for it also. To be honest I have never considered CSP.
It could be that I have not done sufficient homework on the topic, but it does not seem like the game has enough people playing it right now. And why switch from CS 1.6 to CSP if it really isn't about graphics?
I am very sad since I'm a UT player and I love FPS. I think it has to do with the fact that publishers have been releasing garbage in the last years. Garbage from the esports point of view. Consoles did not help out, putting a lot of potential players on a couch, confining them to a thumb. I think MOBA and RTS thrive on PC because they can't be properly played with a stick.So, while you're here, let's talk IEM in general. What are the plans for the future and what developments can we look forward to, even in the absence of any FPS titles on the ticket for next season?
Easier to grasp is not necessary in esports, I think. Without trying to write a book about it, I think it's about good gameplay and good match making these days.
We're rolling out announcements soon. The new season will be quite similar to the previous one, but obviously much more awesome. We're going to a couple of new, never visited territories and we'll have some very exciting (at least to me) partnerships to announce. I'd be stealing my own thunder if I could divulge more at this stage.Spotlight Image courtesy of SK-Gaming.com
|Richard Lewis // Richard_Lewis|
Posted 11 months ago: Sat, 23 Jun 2012 18:23:38 +0100
|CPH Wolv||20:00||Anexis e|
|CPH Wolv||16||-||3||EYES ON|
|More results ...|