IEM To Return To Brazil In 2023: What Worked At Rio Major?

IEM had its first Major in South America this year, and it seems like the organizers are impressed with what they’ve seen. Ahead of the grand final, the ESL Counter-Strike Twitter handle hinted that there would be an IEM tournament in Brazil in 2023. While it’s too soon to have any more information than that, it is understood that the IEM Spring 2023 event could be the one heading to Brazil. What exactly did ESL find encouraging about the Rio Major?

Unlike Any Other CS:GO Major

Heading into the tournament, there was an expectation that fans from around the world, the players, and the organizers were going to be surprised by what was going to hit them in Rio de Janeiro, but it is still quite indescribable when all of that plays itself out. The banging of the drums, the blowing of the vuvuzelas, and the chants provided a pulse that made this CS:GO esports event quite unique in the short competitive history of the esport.

There was a real carnival atmosphere to the event, not unlike those witnessed in Brazilian soccer matches, and this was most evident in the matches involving FURIA, the Brazilian team ranked 8th in the world. Brazil has become a hotbed for esports talent for almost 20 years now, and the enthusiasm for esports is well-known among the community, which sometimes made us beg the question: why didn’t IEM host this event a bit earlier in Brazil?

Tickets were generally  sold out within an hour, and 18,000 noisy fans made their way to the Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro. This sort of passion, which is the hallmark of some of the major sports in the world, hadn’t been witnessed before in this way in major esports events.

Opens New Doors For How Esports Is Perceived And Consumed

Part of the reason why this sort of reception isn’t common in esports events is that, in some ways, it has always felt like a consequence of the way the sport is played. Playing video games in a competitive manner feels like a cerebral activity in the same way that a sport like Chess does. Perhaps, the idea that it could elicit this sort of passion wasn’t considered before, but there’s a new reality now.

All sports require cerebral activity, but that does not mean that they can’t coexist with such physical bursts of passion. As long as there are a few highs and lows, fans will feel that and make it known – and esports events certainly have a lot of highs and lows.

Recreating this sort of atmosphere isn’t going to be easy in other parts of the world; building this sort of atmosphere is unique to Brazil, and the ‘torcida organizada’ deserve a lot of credit for bringing that Brazil energy to the tournament.

It Wasn’t All Hunky Dory

There are times when all that enthusiasm can go over the top, and there was one regrettable incident where certain fans were seen spitting at a CS:GO player from NAVI when the team faced crowd favorites FURIA. Trying to create a hostile atmosphere is certainly part and parcel of any sport, but fans should know their bounds.

FalleN, arguably the most popular individual to be associated with CS:GO in Brazil, was quick to condemn such activity, and urged the crowd that this can dampen what was otherwise a great celebration of esports and Brazil as a nation.

If such unruly activities can be avoided, there’s no reason why the tournament shouldn’t return to Brazil more often. If anything, this is exactly the sort of potential that esports has needed to tap for a few years. This is only the start, and there’s room for it to grow much further – although a lot of that will depend on whether there will be a similar reception to non-local teams. There is a good case to make about the fact that if FURIA were to be removed from the equation, a lot of the things we saw at this Major may cease to exist; that will be among the biggest challenges for the organizers if they want a repeat of a largely pathbreaking spectacle we’ve witnessed in November.