That it at the matches at ESL One Cologne 2018 for the finals of the competition series for Counter Strike: Global Offensive, visitors should have noticed at the latest when they arrive at the Lanxess Arena in Cologne. Long queues at the entrances, high expectations of the fans and an organizational performance by the organizers that is in no way inferior to a classic sports competition, make it clear what value e-sports events have among passionate gamers these days. Dhe biggest Counter Strike: GO competition in Germany has traction. For the third time in a row, the organizers announced that the halls were sold out. 

ESL One Cologne 2018 - Counter Strike: GO at it's best

The ESL Cologne 2018 was advertised as the “Cathedral of Counter Strike” based on the Cologne Cathedral. The sold out Lanxess Arena provided the perfect backdrop for one of the world's most popular esports competitions. The game Counter Strike is already a real classic: the team shooter from Valve has been thrilling the masses for around 15 years. Anyone who spent their time with first-person shooters on the PC more than a decade ago will probably have started their gaming career with one of three games: Quake, Doom or the aforementioned Counter Strike. 

What took place back then with locally networked computers primarily in the living room at home - or organized at festive LAN events - now takes place in arenas and sports facilities all over the world. And what used to be called a LAN party is now called an e-sports competition. Nevertheless: e-sports have a comparatively long tradition, measured by the existence of fair, competitive games. Even for Pong, the first really popular video game ever, there were competition events at which the supposedly best bar acrobats could compete. In the history of video games, only a few titles have made it into real esports evergreens. Counter Strike is one of them.

In recent years, esports tournaments have noticeably increased in professionalism on all sides. The members of well-known esports teams like Fnatic, BIG or Natus Vincere are something like pop stars in their gaming cosmos - and they are celebrated just as much. Autograph sessions, backstage meetings and deeply emotional fan behavior - some would call it hysteria - have long been part of the good tone in the professional athlete-fan relationship. 15.000 fans cheered on the final day of ESL One Cologne 2018 with the teams of Natus Vincere and BIG. The ProGamers would be close to Berlin International Gaming (BIG) the sensation succeeded. In the end, the Ukrainian gamblers from won Natus Vincere. Rightly so, but not entirely without resistance.

Nowadays, following a competition like the ESL One live is like visiting a “real sports competition”. This is illustrated not least by the prize money of around 250.000 euros. E-sports want to gradually establish themselves as part of serious sporting competitions in Germany, but the road to unprejudiced recognition is still long. Among gamers, e-sports have long been an exciting alternative to traditional competition events, also because TV stations such as ProSieben or Sport1 are not stingy with broadcast minutes of television. 

Among the esports events is the ESL One something of a prime example of professional organization. From the technical presentation to the compilation of the supporting program to the ticket sale, the organizational sub-steps are planned down to the smallest detail. The ESL One feels like a classic indoor championship - only with a lot more blue spotlights.

Sports competition, only with mouse and keyboard

What footballers have in their legs, pro-gamers probably have in their fingers. Nevertheless, competitive shooters in particular demand more from players than mere finger acrobatics. Good reactions and almost perfect hand-eye coordination are among the key skills that an ambitious e-athlete must bring. Anyone who has ever played a first-person shooter can understand how difficult it is to bring all of the game's actions - including aiming - under one roof.

What else counts are ambition, frustration tolerance and unconditional trust in the team members; at least when it comes to real team shooters like Counter Strike in this case.  

E-sports event of superlatives: the ESL One Colgone 2018 attracts fans from all over the world. The world's best players in the competitive shooter Counter Strike: Global Offensive compete in Cologne.
E-sports event of superlatives: the ESL One Colgone 2018 attracts fans from all over the world. The world's best players in the competitive shooter Counter Strike: Global Offensive compete in Cologne.

E-sports are popular and not just a marginal phenomenon in the competitive segment. In Europe alone, it is estimated that there are around 22.000.000 players assigned to e-sports. These are numbers that are likely to make the boards of local table tennis clubs dizzy. Almost 2.000.000 gamers are considered active players in the Electronic sports league (ESL) - And there are more every day.

Pro-gamers are something like the gladiators of modern times. Successful players are real stars. And they deserve the salaries of real stars. As early as 2013, the Spanish e-athlete “ocelote” revealed annual income of 600.000 to 700.000 euros in an interview. Today, five years later, the income of the best e-athletes is likely to easily exceed the million mark. Advertising campaigns, testimonials or income from streaming complement the agreed salaries that e-athletes receive from their clans. With all the huge sums it must be clear, however, that only a small proportion of active e-athletes earn their living through gaming alone. 

ESL One Cologne 2018 picture gallery

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Nevertheless: Competing with players from all over the world in the virtual arenas has an appeal that only very few gamers can escape. The dream of becoming a popular esports gladiator oneself at some point drives many gamers - and everyone wants to earn money. Above all hardware manufacturers who always want to make new electronic gadgets palatable to ambitious e-athletes. As is so often the case in sports, the same applies to esports: the right equipment is essential for future winners. Maybe even more than in traditional sporting competitions. The mouse and keyboard become the extended fingers of the players. The more direct the hardware brings the commands to the screens, the better. For a well-equipped gaming mouse that meets the requirements of passionate gamers, manufacturers sometimes charge more than 100 euros. 

Even in esports, talent alone is not enough to make your way to the top of the world. Like Roman gladiators, the best pro gamers spend many hours every day in the virtual ludus. Sparring partners, coaching staff and the marketing department are part of the solid base of popular gaming clans. The professionalization of esports is advancing inexorably - and that's a good thing. And so the officials have their next stage goal firmly in view: to bring e-sports to the Olympic Games. 

The results of ESL One Cologne 2018

The game was also played at ESL One Cologne 2018. Even if the favorites of the Ukrainian clan are Natus Vincere were able to prevail in the end, the performance of the German esports clan Berlin International Gaming has shown that local teams are definitely competitive. Switched on the first day of Playoff BIG first the French clan G2 esports off (G2 vs. BIG 0: 2). The future final opponent NAVI.GG.BET On the other hand, beat them 2-0 Fnatic through. The spectators got to see thrilling matches in Cologne's Lanxess Arena on Saturday: NAVI.GG.BET lap Astralis 1: 2 from the race for the winner's cup. And also BIG won a 1: 2 win over the in an entertaining match FaZe Clan. The grand finale then won Natus Vincere against BIG with 3: 1. The Ukrainians are “born to win”.

The results of ESL One Cologne 2018

The supporting program should have a positive influence on the popularity of e-sports. Together with the Association of the German Games Industry (game eV) and the e-Sport Bund Deutschland (ESBD), the organizer Turtle Entertainment wanted to bring the topic of e-sport to politicians and media representatives. By the way, ESL One Cologne 2018 was not the last big event of the year for the German e-sports landscape: Europe's largest Dota 26 event will take place in the Barclay Card Arena in Hamburg from October 2018, 2. Fans can find more information about upcoming ESL events on the official Website.