February 9, 2022
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Which every day, the online era in esports gets closer to an end. However, COVID-19 still is causing uncertainty for tournament organizers and esports players and fans alike, and nothing is confirmed until the very last minute. Fortunately, it seems more than likely that esports will soon be seeing the return of a live audience to the big stage as Katowice hosts ESL’s IEM Katowice tournament.

That’s right – one of the most prestigious yearly events in Counter-Strike and StarCraft 2 returns this year in a big way. IEM Katowice 2022 will be the first IEM Katowice event to feature a live audience since its 2019’s edition. As many remember, the live portion of the 2020’s event was cancelled, and 2021 saw a fully online event.

So, why exactly is IEM Katowice 2022 such a big thing? And what can we expect from the event?

LIVE CROWDS ARE BACK IN THE WEST

Back in 2020, we still saw tournaments with live crowds until March. However, we still had one more event with on-stage viewers after COVID-19 hit the world. Thanks to a gargantuan effort by Riot Games, the climax of League of Legends’ Worlds 2020 was played in front of a massive crowd.

Then in 2021, PGL was the organization pioneering the return of live audience in esports with its CSGO Major. The PGL Major Stockholm was held during October and its playoffs were played in front of a crowd. By then, we had already seen the return of LANs in CSGO and other esports’ titles such as VALORANT, but as many fans noticed, the experience brought by crowds took events to an entirely different level.

Shortly after the PGL Major, we saw another event featuring live audience, again in Counter-Strike. This time, it was organized by BLAST, and it was played in Copenhagen, Denmark. The BLAST Premier: Fall Finals ran in late February, and was played entirely in front of a crowd at the Royal Arena.

During that time period, ESL and other organizers also had planned events with live crowds, but these were mostly changed later on. The most important ones became LAN events without fan attendance, while smaller events returned to an online environment.

FAR FROM IDEAL CONDITIONS

The reason for most of these changes is that not only COVID-19 was still a thing, but we are also seeing the appearance of multiple variants. Due to this, tournament organizers didn’t feel comfortable enough to close 2021 by hosting events in arenas with live audiences. So, while the outlook going for 2022 was better than the one from the past year, uncertainty was still around.

This makes easy to understand why IEM Katowice 2022 is so important. Hosting a hopefully successful event with live crowd attendance will definitely boost organizers’ confidence going forward. And of course, we can’t forget about the prestige attached to the Katowice events held by ESL in partnership with Intel.

WHAT IEM KATOWICE 2022 MEANS FOR COUNTER-STRIKE

CSGO's first event of 2022 to feature a live audience is here

ESL’s Katowice event will be CSGO’s first LAN in 2022. It’s also one of the few events in the year to pack a $1.000.000 prize pool in CS. The CSGO portion of the event starts this February 15th with its Play-In stage, while the main event itself kicks off on the 17th. It’ll be a long event, though! The event will take a week break after its group stage. The playoffs will return on the 25, and the grand-finals will be played along with Starcraft’s.

The event will also feature the best Counter-Strike teams around the entire globe, so the excitement for the event is out of the park. Of course, this also means that the event will be packed with interesting storylines to follow. From a possible clash between the best Counter-Strike player in the world, Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, and the hottest prospect around, Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov, to the state of North American Counter-Strike, there’s plenty of developments happening next week.

WHAT ABOUT STARCRAFT 2?

IEM Katowice 2022 will also see StarCraft 2 being played in front of an on-stage audience.

While IEM Katowice is one of the biggest events in Counter-Strike, it’s even more important for the StarCraft 2 scene. Katowice ’22 marks the end of ESL’s Master Championship circuit, and it starts on February 23rd.

The SC2 portion of IEM Kato starts with a round-of-36 stage featuring 16 players. The top four players from this stage will advance forward to the event’s group stage. There, they will be placed along with the other contenders qualified from the overall circuit. The 24 teams will be separated in four groups of six teams each.

The event’s playoffs will be played during the last weekend of February, and the champion will be taking home $170.000 from the overall $500.000 prize pool. The event will also be played online much like it’s Counter-Strike counterpart, and at its portion to feature a live audience will be played at the Spodek’s, too.

A PROMISING YEAR AHEAD

Again, there is some uncertainty around. Yet, the overall outlook as esports heads into 2022 is far better than last year’s. IEM Katowice 2022 is just the first of many events in esports with plans to host a live audience. From Halo to Rocket League, we’ll be seeing all major esports titles on the big stage.

Now, going back to Katowice. If you’re looking to take part in the event, you can still snag a ticket from ESL’s official partners. It won’t be easy, though! Most of tickets are sold-out, but you can still find some of the most expensive ones available.

Now, if you’re looking to keep up-to-date with everything esports, then make sure you follow us here!

@mjunior