This year was likely the most tumultuous one for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. 2021 CSGO rewind shows that Valve’s shooter has survived the toughest year in its esports history. 

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There are no qualms that CSGO rules the FPS throne with its impeccable mechanics and cut-throat esports. Recent years, however, have been harsh. 2020 was nothing to write home about, and fans’ didn’t have high expectations from 2021. Various roster swaps, drama, controversy, and a major event later, CSGO still stands strong as the new year approaches. 

Here are all the major events that went down in 2021. 

ZywOo opens 2021 as the best player in the world 

Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut, Photo Credits: ESL

2021 began with unexpected roster shuffles, a bitter breakup of ENCE’s major-winning roster, and ENVY putting the CSGO division on hold indefinitely.

January was all about spicy CSGO drama that ended on a cliffhanger in 2020. However, nothing was worth speaking of after HLTV announced that Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut has again refused s1mple the number one spot by the narrowest margins.

Team Vitality’s sniper emerged as the better player for the second consecutive year. S1mple lost the race to the top after one of the closest runs in the history of the top 20 rankings, triggering a whole new debate between the French and Ukrainian fans. 

Envy, North, players leave CSGO

Once the excitement died down, players were greeted with the news of ENVY and North leaving CSGO.

The major qualifying roster of ENCE had already broken up while the news of an international rebuild lingered. With Valorant looming over CSGO as a tough competitor, the departures weren’t a good look either.

As February approached, things only took a turn for the worse. Multiple CSGO professionals bid farewell to the scene to start anew in Riot’s tac-shooter. Timothy “autimatic” Ta, Ethan “Ethan” Arnold, Elias “Jamppi” Olkkonen, Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt, Ricky “floppy” Kemery, Erick “Xeppaa” Bach are a few to name who left CSGO in the first half of 2020.

Health concerns worldwide had already shelved CSGO’s pro tournaments, and players migrating to Valorant didn’t help CSGO’s case. 

Hope in PGL major announcement

An otherwise disappointing start to 2021 came with a silver lining for the CSGO fans from PGL. The Swedish tournament organizer announced CSGO’s first major in two years in Avicii Arena. This news breathed a new life into glum fans who haven’t attended a LAN event since the COVID-19.

However, the major hit the wall after the Swedish Sports Federation voted against accepting esports as an “elite sporting event.” Fans were still optimistic that the Major would return to the Swedish capital. 

With the efforts of Ninjas in Pyjamas’ CEO Hicham Chahine, who played a crucial role in moving the authorities to reevaluate the restrictions, PGL was confirmed as a LAN event at Avicii arena. This news was enough to reignite the passion in CSGO fans. 

Birth of new Brazillian rosters

South American roster OPLANO

Teams in the big leagues faltered when the online era arrived, leading to a year packed with upsets. Many roster shuffles later, the CSGO fans were blessed with multiple new teams that included star players. 

MiBR’s internal issues rocked the Brazilian CSGO scene, resulting in a new look GODSENT and Fun Plus Phoenix. The three organizations swapped rosters, pressing the refresh button on the stale Brazilian scene. O’Plano was another team that was a product of the Brazilian clash, later signed by 00Nation.

Anonymo, Extremum, and DBL Poney starring the likes of Aaron “AZR” Ward, Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt, Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro were also notable new teams that took birth in 2021. 

Cloud9 colossus crumbles 

The North American counter-strike was bleeding profusely since the online era kicked off, but March was the final nail in its coffin. NA’s last hope Cloud9 “temporarily” pulled out of CSGO, sending fans into a frenzy.

The players were scattered as free agents, with no organization to warrant their healthy future in CSGO. Top tier NA scene officially died with Cloud9 taking its leave. Smaller teams like Bad News Bears took the reigns, but again, no organization was willing to sign up in a “dead CSGO region.” 

ESIC involves FBI in match-fixing investigation 

As previously covered, 2021 was all about spicy drama, but nothing beats FBI entry into the CSGO realm. The NA counter-strike scene may not have contributed much to esports in 2021, but it sure stirred tons of controversy. 

NA’s fragile esports scene took a major hit after the FBI came knocking. The ESIC had been investigating match-fixing in NA since 2020. This included an ongoing investigation into 34 individuals who allegedly breached the anti-corruption code while participating in ESEA Premier NA. With the help of the FBI, ESIC rendered five-year bans to Sebastian “retchy” and Kevin “4pack” Przypasniak over match-fixing. 

What was Akuma drama all about? 

In mid-2021, the Akuma betting drama was all any CSGO player talked about. The ESIC claimed that the CEO of Project X (the team from which later Akuma was formed), Oleksandr Shyshko, had made accurate pre-match bets on the outcome of the Virtus.Pro vs. Akuma match.

After the months-long controversy, the team was disbanded following a disappointing run at IEM Fall CIS. 

Hunden versus Heroic 

Coaching bug abuse was one of the defining events in 2020, and just when it was all water under the bridge, Heroic brought Hunden back on board. His return wasn’t well-received, but the community was mum about it until a new Pandora box opened. 

The whole fiasco began when Heroic alleged that Nicolai “HUNDEN” Petersen had leaked the team’s strat-book with a “key individual at a major competitor” before IEM Cologne. The investigation uncovered evidence that got Hunden a two-year suspension from any events organized by ESIC members.

However, this wasn’t all. The Danish coach backpedaled on his previous statement that team players weren’t complicit in coaching bug abuse. The former Heroic coach came forward with implicating evidence, which resulted in ESIC applying minor sanctions to Nikolaj “niko” Kristensen. 

New map Ancient and other edits in CSGO

One of the significant developments in CSGO happened in 2021. Valve finally reevaluated the map pool and added a new jungle-themed map to replace the Train.

The muddy location received a mixed reaction, but it quickly found its footing in the pro scene. Among many other mechanical tweaks, Valve made the grenades droppable. This was a significant change as it transformed team roles and generally how CS is played.

The 2021 tweaks combined conveyed a much-needed facelift for Valve’s shooter. 

NaVi predictably wins CSGO’s most significant major

Before the PGL Stockholm 2021 major event started, everyone had placed their money on NaVi. This was expected to be s1mple’s trophy, and the “GOAT” didn’t disappoint.

The team beat G2 Esports in a clean 2-0 sweep, becoming the first team in CS:GO history to win a Major championship without dropping a single map throughout the tournament. 

s1mple breaks MVP award record at BLAST World Final

PGL Stockholm major 2021 proved that we’re certainly living in the NaVi era. The unbeatable CIS team has thrashed whoever came in their way of winning, and they did the same at year’s last tournament Blast Premier World Final. The Boombl4 led roster looked comfortable against Gambit, beating them 2-1 at the final stage of 2021.

This would also be the stage where s1mple would make and break another record in CSGO. The Ukrainian AWP specialist bagged his eighth MVP medal of 2021, beating former record-holder dev1ce with seven MVPs. This puts s1mple right next to dev1ce with 19 total MVP medals.

The Ukrainian squad has officially become a force to be reckoned with, giving all teams a challenge for 2022.

The revival of CSGO

The cut-throat games at the prestigious PGL stage played a crucial role in bringing CSGO back to life. The viewership numbers at the final broke all previous records in CSGO.

The final of the PGL Major Stockholm between G2 Esports and NaVi garnered a peak viewership of 2.7M, according to echarts

The player base that declined dramatically in the middle of 2020 started to crank up slowly. The gain isn’t massive, but it happened for the first time after a consecutive 5-month long drop. At the end of 2021, CSGO is quite close to retaining its one million player base.

North American player floppy also returned home to CSGO. Reports of NA’s top CS pro Nitr0 returning are also ripe in 2021. With player base numbers increasing and record-breaking viewership, things are looking up for CSGO at the end of 2021. 

CSGO died and came back to life in 2021 as it does once every three years, according to bitter fans. But, this time, a few had expected it to claw its way back up to the top. Next year would likely bring glad tidings for CSGO pro players and fans as Valve’s shooter has survived the biggest hit in history in the year 2021.

If CSGO can survive this, it can survive anything 2022 has in store. 

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