Over the last several years, not the least of the Valve's activities was to seek partnerships with the new organizers. By 2018, this approach resulted in the year's main CS:GO tournament being organized by a total newcomer of a company, one that wasn't even involved with such large events before. This called for a turnaround in 2019, allowing us to behold a truly legendary tournament series, Intel Extreme Masters, gaining the rights to hold this major instead.
Nowadays, many gamers are oblivious to the significance of this series for the Counter-Strike franchise as a whole. In the past, the significance of IEM season finals could be compared to that of the Grand Slam tournaments. At the time, World Cyber Games and Electronic Sports World Cup were also on the same level – however, the former no longer exists, whereas the ESWC essentially became a competition for the second-tier teams.
Out of the three, only the Grand Finals of each Intel Extreme Masters season, recently hosted by the Polish city of Katowice, have managed to retain such level of significance. And yet, after the global switch to CS:GO, Valve's championship never really managed to reach IEM. There were certain reasons for this.
At first, the organizers of these finals have refused to feature a number of games, as they were favoring League of Legends and Starcraft 2 at the time. Afterwards, the decision to return the discipline in question to Intel's tournament franchise was delayed for a while. As a result, the CS majors still took place in the same city as Extreme Masters, but under a different name, as well as on a later date as to not coincide.
Since then, the city has managed to become the center of all competitive things CS not once but twice. The first instance was known as ESL Major Series One Katowice and took place in 2014. A year later, the second instance took place, under the name of ESL One: Katowice.
Despite the event still being a small part of the Polish stop of the competition, it didn't receive a series-related name – until now. It seems that this year the CS:GO developers have decided to pay homage to the legendary IEM tag, restoring its title of the year's main championship together with ESL.
While exactly pinpointing those responsible for such turns of events seems impossible, overall it can be observed that Valve has switched to a new format of relations with the tournament operators. Nowadays, when it comes to hosting their competitions, Valve tends to opt for the organizers that cooperate with the local authorities.
If we take this as a partial explanation, the whole situation with choosing ESL as the organizer of the first major of the year becomes somewhat obvious. It is common knowledge that the city authorities of Katowice strongly support the Intel's event. This is because, in case of Poland's "gaming capital", the upper echelon of city officials maintains a strong interest in esports tourism.
At the same time, Chongqing Major for Dota 2 from Starladder.tv also held with the assistance of the local administration. Same statement is true for The International, which was announced by Shanghai government representative – who invited all fans of this game to her city for the ninth World Championship.
Finally, we must remind that, unlike its competitors, ESL (with IEM included) is not afraid of entering new markets – being the only one to try and host a large event in Australia. This audacity was also what led the company to hosting the competition in China.
Arguably, Intel Extreme Masters and Electronic Sports League have displayed an amazing amount of effort, rightfully earning both the developer's and community's trust. Looking on all their achievements in the gaming industry, it's hard to call the Valve's choice anything else but perfect.