To the naysayers who believed Counter-Strike 2 was destined to fail, you need only see the reception for IEM Katowice this past weekend to know how wrong you truly were.
This year’s edition of the iconic Polish tournament went above and beyond 2023’s iteration for viewership and popularity, with an average of 287,177 concurrent viewers, according to gaming stats site Esports Charts—20 percent higher than IEM Katowice 2023. The grand final, which saw Team Spirit upset FaZe Clan with a best-of-five sweep, did fall just shy of the million mark with 972,119 viewers tuning in to watch, but in the end, over 150,000 more eager fans tuned in for this year’s final when compared to G2’s win over Heroic last year.
Viewership for the Katowice group stage was also up: in a Wednesday, Feb. 7 report, Esports Charts noted a 29 percent increase in average concurrents through the groups and an 11 percent increase in watch time. The watch time boost is of extreme importance given the drop to MR12, meaning matches are, on average, shorter than they were in CS:GO with MR15, but still, fans remained engaged throughout the glamourous event.
Even more impressive, the viewers came despite some of the most popular CS2 players and teams being absent from the finals. Between ZywOo and Vitality’s shock early exit, the rise of hometown heroes ENCE, and G2’s elimination at the hands of FaZe in the quarterfinals, fans were treated to the new era of pro CS2 led by Spirit’s donk, who equaled the record for an individual player rating at any big event. You can be sure Spirit will be top billing going forward if only to witness the 17-year-old wunderkind continue to impress on the global stage.
Spirit’s win in the Spodek Arena kicks off what is expected to be a bumper two months of competitive CS2, with the second edition of IEM in Chengdu pencilled in for April. Even before that though, there’s the big one: CS2’s first Major in Copenhagen in mid-March. The RMR qualifiers for the PGL Copenhagen Major start on Wednesday.
With the RMR qualifiers alone already shattering pre-Major viewership records, and a flurry of major updates coming recently as Valve works on improving the title, it’s safe to say Counter-Strike is in a strong spot as the 2024 season truly gets underway.