Matchmaking in Counter-Strike is often an exercise in tolerance. It's even more intense in third-party matchmaking services, as those are generally only frequented by those truly devoted to the game. Naturally, that devotion often manifests in the form of teammates belittling each other, rage wars over the mic, and a general refusal to behave like decent human beings.
ESEA runs one such service, although they're not responsible for their users getting cranky. But they've just given top players US$20,000 reasons to get even angrier at their teammates.
It's called Rank S, and it's a special division for ESEA's top tier of pick-up matches. It's currently only filled with players invited from North America and select community members, although regular players can get promoted into Rank S if they consistently perform well in lower tiers.
But why would top-tier professionals bother playing in Rank S at all? "Each month, US$20,000 per region will be awarded to the top performing players in Rank S based on a point structure of 3 points per Rank S win, 1 point per Rank S loss and 1 point per Pug win," the site announced.
The system is fairly nuanced. The third-party client, which also doubles as an anti-cheat program, selects a captain and allows players to nominate and veto maps before a match begins. It automatically picks the best server based on the location of all the players involved, and ESEA is pledging to pay out prizes after 30 days.
The US$20,000 is supposedly being rolled out to every region, although the post says it won't be fully operational for European players until the end of April. It's not available for Australians yet at the time of writing either, although given the service markets to local CSGO fans and takes their money, it should be made available within a few months.
It's worth noting that this isn't the only service of its kind. FACEIT also has an in-house league where top players are invited to play pug matches with US$20,000 monthly prize pools, a service that has been running for almost a year.
But the end effect is the same. ESEA and FACEIT both track a more detailed range of statistics than Valve's regular matchmaking service, which feeds into the behaviour of its players. It's a service for gamers who are more passionate — and in a community with a reputation for toxicity, it often leads to heated arguments and in-game vitriol.
Throwing US$20,000 each month at professional players and the promise that regular joes will be able to play with their legends if they're good enough will only exacerbate that problem. It's a great move for the game, but if you were holding out for third-party matchmaking services to be a more cheerful affair than regular matches, it's probably time to move on.