The implications of the ESL Pro Tour

Just over a week ago, ESL announced its new big tournament circuit: the “ESL Pro Tour”. According to ESL, the pro tour is designed to link the premier events in the CS:GO calendar into a larger complete tournament circuit, toting a hefty prize pool of $5 million.

A new international tournament circuit

The ESL Pro Tour appears to be ESL’s attempt at providing CS:GO with a cohesive tournament circuit to bind their individual events together. The Pro Tour will feature over 20 different tournaments and will include a mixture of ESL and DreamHack events. ESL announced a $5 million aggregate prize pool across the circuit claiming it would be “The world’s largest and most lucrative Counter-Strike’s 20-year history”. The tour will begin in 2020 with the first event being DreamHack Open Leipzig in late January.

The pro tour is divided into two primary categories: ‘Masters’ and ‘Challengers’. Challenger status tournaments will include the Mountain Dew League, DreamHack Open tournaments and ESL’s National Championships. According to ESL the challengers tournaments serve as “a platform for teams to elevate themselves to Masters level tournaments”.

The Masters tournaments are categorized as arena-based events with a prize-pool larger than $250,000. These include ESL One, DreamHack Masters and Intel Extreme Masters tournaments. Throughout the events, teams will earn points in their ESL Pro Tour ranking.

The teams with the most ranking points then qualify to attend the two “Masters Championship’s” that will occur each year. These tournaments have been confirmed to be IEM Katowice and ESL One Cologne.

Cross business co-operation

Despite being separate businesses, ESL and DreamHack do have the same parent company the Modern Times Group. The announcement of the ESL Pro Tour shows the largest level of public co-operation between the brands in recent history.

“The partnership between ESL and DreamHack will give youths a clearer and more complete path to becoming somebody that is more welcoming and digestible for new esports fans.”

-ESL CEO, Ralf Reichert

In the official press release for the pro tour, DreamHack co-CEO Marcus Lindmark also commented on the collaboration stating, “This collaboration will provide a deeper meaning and purpose to all our properties… it also represents a much larger and more attractive opportunity for sponsors to engage with the esports audience.”

Potential consequences of the tour

Following ESL’s official announcement veteran journalist Jarek “DeKay” Lewis claimed that the ESL Pro League (Which is confirmed to be a Masters level tournament in the Pro Tour) will be announcing “strict exclusivity rules”. The dexerto report shows an exert from the ESL Pro League term sheet. There are several critical new rules that the term sheet imposes, these are:

  • Member teams of the ESL Pro league can not compete in any other ‘Counter-Strike Leagues’ where the start date and finals date are more than 14 days apart. This excludes Valve sponsored tournaments.
  • Teams are to only participate in tournaments for 60 days of the year. This excludes Valve sanctioned tournaments, qualifiers and Pro League competition days. Days spent traveling to events, press days ad events and break days in tournaments do not add to this 60-day limit. Exceptions to this rule can be reviewed by the ESL.
  • While the Pro League is in progress, teams participating can not participate in any other tournaments or leagues apart from Valve competitions or Online Qualifiers for tournaments with a prize pool of $200,000 or more.

At the moment, the majority of top CS:GO teams participate in the ESL Pro League and thus would be subject to these rules.

The report claims that under the new restrictions, teams would be unable to participate in both ECS Season 8 and the ESL Pro League.

If true, this could be detrimental for the ECS brand as its LAN tournaments are currently dependent on participation in the online league. Consequently, it could also negatively impact the Blast Pro Series as it is also working on a tournament circuit.

These rules represent another drive for exclusivity in the CS:GO ecosystem. Other tournament organizers, most recently RFRSH Entertainment, have attempted to create an exclusive franchised league for counter-strike. These attempts stirred widespread community push-back.

As of now, ESL have yet to comment on these exclusivity rules. More information regarding the ESL Pro Tour will be released at ESL One New York later this month.

Credit: Benjamin Hodge Mckenna

Originally published at on September 12, 2019.

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