With the sun set on IEM Sydney and the CS community left now with the memories of another event filled with the spectacle and pageantry of the most beloved outings of the competitive year, we take a look back on where our event has come from, where our scene has come from, and celebrate the legacy of IEM Sydney.
Team Liquid leaves Australia as Champions, SPUNJ retains ‘The Caches’ and the rest of the nation now anticipates the return of IEM. The Intel Extreme Masters is one of the most prestigious circuits in esports and one of the most sought after titles for teams and players.
For many years, Aussies were put in a position where, in order to be a passionate fan and to follow tournaments live, you would sacrifice a nights sleep. Typically, some of the largest championship finals would be in the early hours of Monday morning for us. Thus, Sydney represents more than just another stop on the IEM road and rather a celebration of Australian Counter-Strike and esports.
Pre-Sydney, international competition never really found its way ‘down under’, with the exception of a handful of small events such as the Crown Invitational in 2015. While Cloud 9 and Virtus Pro were two enormous teams, the event was more for show than for competition. For many years this was the case and our only influence on the broader Counter-Strike scene was through teams like Vox Eminor/Renegades and Immunity who made appearances at various majors over the years. Outside of this, Australia was left to its own devices, and we looked to further our scene through other means.
In the first quarter of 2017, we were told the Intel Extreme Masters was making a stop in Sydney. The IEM brand is known for holding tournaments from time-to-time outside of its regular stops, such as Taipei in 2016 and Shanghai in 2018, in order to focus on that region and its teams. As this was the first premier event to find its way on Australian shores, fans from across the country came together to experience and celebrate Counter-Strike, the same game they sacrificed all those nights for. All the ingredients were there for an epic event and the start of something bigger.
Not many other events in the world produce a weekend quite as Sydney can. The Qudos Bank Arena is ‘Australia’s CS Cathedral’, where each May magic is bound to happen. Despite it being a premier event, being able to rub shoulders with players and local legends around the venue gives the weekend an indescribable sense of authenticity.
“The first year IEM came here we didn’t know what to expect, but the turnout was great. The atmosphere was legendary. I am not lying when I say this one of the most unique events in the world. To reproduce this environment would be difficult, it just hasn’t been captured anywhere else. The atmosphere is so positive, and the crowd is such an active participant of the show. It happens nowhere else quite like it does in Sydney.”
Michal ‘Carmac’ Blicharz
And it was the culmination of the iconic crowd, amazing Counter-Strike, and the collective effort of the Aussie esports scene that has brought the Intel Extreme Masters back each year since. The feedback and comments from players, talent and production on how much they enjoy the event and being in Australia all contribute towards the legacy of IEM Sydney.
With this comes recognition of our players and teams and more eyes on the developing AUNZ region, which is on track for continued growth with more meaningful leagues and events being held and more opportunity for Oceanic teams at international events. Sydney is not the same calibre of event when compared to the Majors, nor does it yet have the history of a Cologne or New York. But it is what we have access to as a region and therefore our opportunity to prove ourselves.
Aussie teams have always shown to be formidable at home, whether it’s taking an international team to their limit or simply catching them off guard. The Chiefs shocked North in 2017 with an upset win. Grayhound knocked out SK Gaming in 2018. The Renegades made a playoffs appearance as well. Every IEM Sydney, the Aussie teams bring the heat to world class opposition, with many close games. In a competitive sense, this shows why it is important for a region like ours to have tournaments as it develops our talent and provides us with more resources to continue our growth.
Of course, this isn’t the only thing that shows why we should celebrate IEM’s return. As part of our growing legacy, recurring parts of the event and crowd favourites have influenced the overall development of IEM Sydney each year and encourages future events in Australia. The always-iconic crowd with their very particular chants alongside characters such as the Shoey King and Dickstacy are all products of the event.
“The caches underline the unique atmosphere of the event and I think creates that legend of IEM Sydney, even for all those who can’t make it to Sydney. So it works for both the physical audience here and those online as a precursor for the final and it's one of the reasons the finals are so remembered.”
Michal ‘Carmac’ Blicharz
The Caches is also one of the most meaningful and engaging show matches for audiences to watch thanks to its excellent theming and reliability to Aussie audiences. All of these unique individual nuances of the event amplify the overall spectacle and give us all the lasting memories and map out the all-important legacy of IEM Sydney.
“Looking from the outside, it looks like a community that’s been on the sidelines for decades in esports history. If you really love esports here, you’re watching most finals live at 4 am on a Monday. It takes quite a level of dedication to follow esports like that. It must have meant a lot to the audience and they give back with their hearts and passion when we bring them a Premier CS tournament in their timezone”
Michal ‘Carmac’ Blicharz
Going Home, Again
IEM Sydney is more than a CS tournament to Australian esports fans. It represents our strong connection to an industry that is for the most part outside our time zone. Given our chance, as one we showed the world our passion and excitement. While we can get a bit rowdy and carried away at times, there is no doubt surrounding the value of IEM Sydney. The players, the talent, and fans alike put everything into the first weekend of May in order to create something special.
With the support of IEM, bringing the world’s best to our shores and stacking them up against our best allows the AUNZ scene a chance to show its quality. The event is a celebration of AU CS, and events like The Caches lets us celebrate our community. The weekend is a legacy of mates being mates. Both on the server, in the audience at Qudos Bank Arena and around the world.
Photo credit: ESL | Sarah Cooper, Dylan Esguerra & Helena Kristiansson