Finally: the first LAN tournament in a year and a half was held in Cologne, Germany. The already-cult event IEM Cologne was held without viewers in the stands, but still gathered a lot of people on its broadcasts. Esports Charts talks about the triumph of Natus Vincere, praises Valery B1t Vakhovsky and analyzes the championship’s viewer statistics.
Gambit caved in to the pressure, while NAVI soared to the first spots in the world rankings
Perhaps the main intrigue of the past IEM Cologne 2021 was the confrontation between Gambit and NAVI, one that was anticipated by all the CS:GO fans (including those far beyond the CIS). The first half of the year saw some outstanding performance from both teams – in fact, they were the only ones to compete for the first spots in the rankings.
Gambit did not make it to the final, but the debut of the LAN roster was by no means a failure. Source: ESL / Instagram Gambit Esports
The five players of the Russian club became the main discovery of the entire period of online tournaments. Gambit has been the most stable team over the past months, and the analysts quite logically assumed that Abai “Hobbit” Khassenov and his teammates may be out of their element during the LAN, and they were right. The team had a confident start in the group stage, scoring victories over mousesports and Ninjas in Pajamas, but then lost to G2 Esports and FaZe Clan. As a result, it reached only the 5-6th spot by the end of the tournament. But fans from the CIS are still triumphant, given that NAVI became the champions.
NAVI won the last LAN competition before the lockdown and the first after it - and the first after that one! Source: ESL / Twitter G2 AmaNEk
Natus Vincere has shown perfect performance throughout the whole tournament. Fans only had a reason for worrying at the very beginning, when NAVI lost the first map of the event to the Renegades team, but such fears turned out to be irrelevant: NAVI finished IEM Cologne 2021 with a 9:2 score and toppled the Gambit team from the first spots of the ESL and HLTV.org ratings.
There were no surprises regarding the tournament’s MVP award, either: the medal was awarded to Alexander “s1mple” Kostylev. This is the fourth personal award in a year for the Ukrainian cyberathlete, who is leading in this indicator and is a universally recognized best player of the season’s first half.
CIS is the leading CS:GO region, but how long will this dominance last?
History is written right before our eyes: the leading Russian-speaking teams are the main stars of the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competitive scene right now. Three CIS-based teams entered the top 6 at IEM Cologne 2021 at once – and if Team Spirit was a little luckier and more skilled, there could be four!
While for Gambit and NAVI, the entry to the playoffs was expected, many were skeptical regarding the chances of the Virtus.pro team to enter this decisive stage. However, the team of five led by Ali “Jame” Dzhami managed to recover after an unsuccessful start, made their way to the playoffs, and rehabilitated themselves from the failure at the last RMR series tournament.
The symbolic “team of the tournament itself” was populated exclusively by players from the CIS. Source: Twitter HLTV.org
When it comes to the new names for the scene, standing out at IEM Cologne 2021 was the newcomer from NAVI, B1t. He transferred from the academy to the main roster only in last year’s December, but already pushed Yegor “flamie” Vasiliev completely out of the roster as well as won his first LAN competition – which became the fourth trophy won with the team. Based on the results of the IEM Cologne, it can be said that B1t earned the title of “tournament’s ScreaM” – as he was leading by the ratio of headshots achieved (69.6%), especially shining in the final versus G2 Esports, where he lost only to s1mple in terms of individual statistics.
While the CIS can rightfully rejoice, the question of how long the region's dominance will last is still open. Teams from Europe have also shown great performance at IEM Cologne, including multinational squads and two teams from Denmark. In particular, we should mention Astralis and FaZe, both of which made it to the semifinals. The latter has come the longest way, starting from the Play In stage.
The CS:GO scene shall take a short break after IEM Cologne, with the tournaments returning in a month. Right after the break, the world’s leading teams will compete at ESL Pro League Season 14 – where NAVI, VP, and Gambit will once again have to confirm the title of leading competitive CS:GO teams. There’s some bad news as well: recently it became known that the championship will be held online. The future of LAN competitions seems to be uncertain once again.
Tournament’s viewership statistics
The grand final of the IEM Cologne 2021 turned out to be a replica of the decisive match of IEM Katowice 2020 – the last LAN competition before the global quarantine. A year and a half later, Natus Vincere was again defeated in the decisive match by G2 Esports, which was hardly a surprise to ocelote, the head of the Spanish club.
Map-by-map comparison of IEM grand finals
The decisive match of the recent tournament gathered over 843K Peak Viewers, as well as almost 555K Average Viewers. This means that IEM Cologne is behind last year's event in Katowice – but only slightly, by 15-19%. Interestingly, while the Polish tournament’s Peak Viewers indicator was reached on the second map of the grand final, this time it fell on the decisive third map.
IEM Cologne 2021 is in the top 5 most popular non-Major tournaments
It is noteworthy that in terms of the Peak Viewers, IEM Cologne became the second most popular non-Major tournament in CS:GO history. It is also in the top 3 in terms of Average Viewers, and is leading in terms of the total Hours Watched (which is primarily due to the event’s duration itself).
The top 5 most popular matches of the tournament included three matches with the participation of G2 Esports. In addition to the grand final with NAVI, the audience was attracted by the encounters with Gambit Esports (368K viewers) and Astralis in the semifinals (541K viewers). Additionally, more than 500K Peak Viewers watched the Natus Vincere versus FaZe Clan match.
Quite expectedly, NAVI and G2 Esports became the tournament’s most popular teams in terms of Average Viewers: the Ukrainian club being in the lead with 333K Average Viewers, while G2 has 300K Average Viewers. Also entering the top 5 were Astralis, Gambit, and FaZe.
The viewers' language-based statistics are also interesting. As expected, English and Russian broadcasts took the 1st and 2nd spots, but the Portuguese stream by Gaules only slightly bypassed the Vietnamese stream (118K Peak Viewers versus 112K Peak Viewers).
IEM Cologne 2021 has become a real treat for CS:GO community. The return of LAN events is very important for the scene as a whole, and so the championship should serve to remind other tournament operators that it is possible to host tournaments offline. And now we just have to wait for August, when the players will return from vacation.