Most prestigious competition of the year on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, with unprecedented popular success, the Rio de Janeiro Major resumed this Saturday, with the start of the main round. On stage, the thousands of overheated Brazilian supporters are unlikely to hear French spoken: no team with a majority of French players has managed to qualify for the tournament. A sad first for a country that has long been a stronghold of CSwhich is inevitably worrying, while the next Major will be held in Parisin just six months.
During the very first Major in the history of the game, in Jönköping in November 2013, 12 French people bought their ticket to Sweden. Over the 17 editions that followed, this total surely but slowly declined, until reaching the famished total of Rio, where only two Tricolores (out of 120 players in total) are not in the game: Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut and Dan “apEX” Madesclaire. Both wear the colors of Vitalitya structure founded and based in France, but which made the choice this summer of now evolve with three foreign players. sign that the CS Francophone is currently going through a bad patch.
A revival that is long overdue
“I think that there is a renewal of the French scene which must be done, analyzes Nathan “NBK” Schmitt, two-time Major winner (in 2014 and 2015), who recently failed to qualify for Rio with Falcons. Many of the teams that performed well were playing with the same players and their replacements did not happen naturally. » For several years, France has in fact obtained its best results thanks to its alumni having started on Counter-Strike: Source (the predecessor of Global Offensive) and remained in a comfortable environment. The hour of glory of these veterans passed, the new talents supposed to replace them did not emerge.
“We have a lot of players who are on the decline, who no longer have the shoulders to win the Majors, confirms Sébastien “KRL” Perez, former pro turned content creator. But their experience should be used at the level below. Unfortunately, we don’t have a team ready to offer them other contracts, with the ambition of training young players. » Without elders to guide them, a whole generation of neo-pros has found itself abandoned in recent months, in self-management far from the top level. “Inevitably, some knowledge is lost. A telling example is that two of our last great leaders, Vincent “Happy” Cervoni and Kevin “Ex6tenz” Droolans, are not even on the stage anymore. » Ironically, the two interested parties embarked on Valorant…another shooting game, direct competitor of CS.
At 28, NBK took on this role of mentor late at Falcons, which he joined in August and where he “tries to transmit as much as possible, at all levels”. “The problem is that there is still a disconnect between the big French teams and the level just below, which is trying to go up, he raises. On CS: Source, there were a lot of LANs (physical tournaments). You could put yourself behind the best teams, watch how they communicate, how the leaders speak, discuss with them… It was a very natural axis of progression, which we lost. »
A lack of interest from clubs and the public
Compared to other regions, France also suffers from a smaller number of players. Unlike League of Legends, CS is indeed not very popular with influencers and streamers, who struggle to gather spectators outside of competitions. Quite the opposite of Brazil, Denmark or the countries of Eastern Europe, where the game still enjoys immense popularity. Unsurprisingly, these are the regions that are most represented in Rio.
The new French wave is not helped either by the disinterest of the biggest French clubs for the license: for a long time, the teams counter strike had the reputation of being too expensive, hard to sell to advertisers, and without assurance of immediate results. “It’s simple, of the major organizations involved in Counter Strike in France, there are only two: vitality (world no. 2)which has turned internationally, which should become more and more frequent, and LDLC (#104)which must have 5% of its budget, notes KRL, which is working on its side to highlight nuggets with its academic team, GenOne. It’s as if in French football, we only had one training center. Can we really win the World Cup with this? »
Still a hope for Paris?
To play in international tournaments, the best French players are forced to take refuge with foreign organizations, such as HEET (n°31) or Falcons (n°45), respectively based in Belgium and Saudi Arabia. Passed by qualifying in Rio, these two formations, composed of 100% French players, remain however the best chance to see a tricolor team reach the Major of Paris. Although the road will be long. “The problem with these teams is that they lack soul, laments KRL. Will the idea of playing in France increase their desire tenfold? I hope. Will it do it? I do not know. »
“For 2023, I think the dice are a bit cast at the moment, recognizes NBK. But everyone will give of themselves to be there, that’s for sure, even if the European level is very high. And if there is a renewal, it will happen in a year or two, with profiles that are not yet mature enough to be at the top or that we don’t necessarily know yet. » A new generation that will have grown up with the exploits of ZywOo, as usual sparkling for a week in Brazil. And who needs company at the top of the world hierarchy.