Despite the pauses and technical issues with the stream and GOTV, the crowd that gathered at Melbourne's Crown Casino to witness a group of blokes shoot each other on screens — officially known as the Crown Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Invitational — had a romping good time.
It was pretty evident watching the stream on Twitch, the FOX Sports website or FOX Sports itself when the broadcast began at 8pm. In fact, watching the best bits of the event back on YouTube — it's just about all you can hear.
Counter-Strike locally hasn't enjoyed the surge in money or production value that, say, League of Legends has seen, even if the amount of tournaments and popularity has undergone a remarkable resurgence.
So walking into the arena for Crown, with the glitzy lights, soft carpet and comfortable seating was a bit of a culture shock, given many who bought tickets were old enough to have remembered seeing one of the many one-day or LAN leagues at netcafes far less classy than Crown.
But perhaps most important of all for those attending was the nearby bar, although the $9 beers left a bitter aftertaste in some mouths. It makes me think that a CS:GO themed take on a Barcraft — events where hundreds of gamers pack out a bar and hook up the TV's to a laptop so everyone can watch a stream of League of Legends, StarCraft 2, Dota 2, or anything else — isn't too far away.
The real party kicked off, however, when Australians actually put up a better than expected fight. The North Americans Cloud9 were expected to romp through Team Immunity, so much so that Crownbet had C9 at an absurdly short $1.11 to win their best-of-three set.
That would have rung true had the Americans turned up to play, but instead they were met with fierce resistance. By the time the third map rolled around, they were sent packing — to the clear delight of the increasingly drunk, and highly partisan, crowd.
More than 800 people filled the venue, a solid effort given tickets were going from $55 a pop. The organisers have told me that general admission for Saturday, the day featuring the European and North Americans, sold out in less than half an hour.
They certainly knew to cheer and holler at the right moments. Considering that the Bathurst 1000 was dominating broadcast coverage over the weekend, it was only appropriate for the FOX Sports re-cast of the finals to have a strong Australian flair — something the commentators were only too happy to provide.
Part of being a good crowd is being good sports though, and the second semi-final between Renegades — Australia's top team — and Virtus.pro came perilously close to the wire. Given that the local team got knocked out, you couldn't fault the locals for being supportive.
Mind you, the cheer wasn't quite as large as the map before when Renegades levelled the scores. One guy in the background of this video sounds like he's completely lost it.
Now that's a wow.
Given the speed at which tickets sold out, and the fact that Crown has already held viewing events for League of Legends and Dota 2, you have to wonder whether they might look at expanding their footprint into the world of eSports. It'll have certainly been good exposure for Crownbet — minus the amount of money they would have lost on the C9/Immunity semi-final.