The Intel® Extreme Masters (IEM) Katowice 2024 Grand Finals have concluded, with BASILISK’s Joona “Serral” Sotala named the new StarCraft® II Champion and Team Spirit being crowned the Counter-Strike 2 Champions. While BASILISK’s Joona “Serral” Sotala returns for a second time, Team Spirit joins the legendary Hall of Heroes for the first time in history.
Team Spirit’s dominance in the Counter-Strike 2 Grand Finals saw an epic display of the young team of prodigies as they took down the veterans and one of the favorites to win the competition, FaZe Clan. Ranked #19 in the ESL World Ranking, Team Spirit beat the #1 ranked FaZe Clan in a decisive 3-0 victory. Making his tier 1 competition debut, teen superstar Danil “donk” Kryshkovets took fans’ breath away in what many are calling the best individual performance in history.
The fastest-selling IEM Katowice tournament in history, the event saw a peak viewership of over 972,000* for Counter-Strike 2 and more than 77,000* for StarCraft® II. The sold-out Spodek Arena and MCK Auditorium welcomed over 65,000 fans across four days of live StarCraft® II competition, and three days of Counter-Strike action, complemented by IEM Expo.
The return of the IEM Expo gave esports and gaming enthusiasts from Poland and beyond the opportunity to test the latest Intel® powered gaming hardware, get involved in partner activations, try out the newest games, marvel at cosplay costumes, and much more.
Play-In Stage & Group Stage
The tournament commenced on January 31 with the Play-In Stage, during which 16 teams battled it out for eight of the 16 spots available in the Group Stage. Local heroes ENCE proceeded to the second stage of the tournament, amongst others.
The Group Stage ran from February 3 – 6 and saw teams divided into two groups of eight, where the top two teams from the upper bracket and the top team from the lower bracket advanced to the Playoffs. Group A saw Team Spirit dominate the upper bracket, with FaZe Clan coming in second and Team Falcons emerging victorious in the lower bracket.
In Group B, G2 Esports beat out HEROIC in the lower bracket final to claim their spot in the Playoffs. In the upper bracket, MOUZ and ENCE secured the final two spots, meaning that IEM Katowice 2024 marks the first time in eight years that a majority Polish team has reached the Playoffs.
The final stage of the competition kicked off on Friday, February 9, with a quarterfinal clash between IEM Katowice 2023 Champions, G2 Esports, and IEM Katowice 2022 Champions, FaZe Clan. After many close rounds, the determination and teamwork of FaZe Clan proved to be stronger, leading to a 2-0 win and a spot in the semifinals.
The second quarterfinal was also an emotional rollercoaster for the Polish fans as ENCE faced off against Team Falcons. Despite having the full backing of the arena, it was ultimately Team Falcons who claimed the victory with a narrow win on map 3 and a final score of 2-1.
Saturday, February 10, saw the semifinals take place, with the top two teams from the Group Stage up against the quarterfinal winners. FaZe Clan proved themselves against MOUZ as they secured their spot in the Grand Final with a flawless 2-0 score, and Team Spirit dominated Team Falcons 2-0 to secure the other spot.
Following impressive performances in the Playoffs where neither team dropped a map, FaZe Clan and Team Spirit geared up on Sunday and took the stage for the Grand Final.
The first game of the day saw an even 6-6 score at half-time before Team Spirit managed to pull ahead and secure a 13-9 victory over FaZe Clan, in large part thanks to Danil “donk” Kryshkovets’ incredible performance.
The second game was closer, with FaZe Clan narrowly missing out on a win and the game ending in a 13-11 victory for Team Spirit.
The third and final game, however, saw Team Spirit dominate, winning round after round and concluding the match with a 13-3 score. Team Spirit were an unstoppable force, claiming the title of Champion with an impressive 3-0 final score in the best-of-5 Grand Final.
“I’m very happy. ” said Dmitriy “sh1ro” Sokolov of Team Spirit. “We beat FaZe Clan 3-0. For me, it’s a really, really big achievement.”
With their win, Team Spirit will take home $400,000 of the $1,000,000 total prize pool, while also securing their spot in the IEM Cologne 2024 Group Stage and entering the race to secure the Intel Grand Slam V.
One of the best professional Counter-Strike debuts of all time, Danil “donk” Kryshkovets received a lot of praise from his teammates as well as from the wider esports community. Furthermore, for his achievements, the young Rifler has been awarded the ESL Pro Tour DHL MVP.
The ESL Pro Tour (EPT) for Counter-Strike continues with ESL Challenger League Season 47 commencing online on February 13 and IEM Chengdu 2024 taking place on April 8-14, with the final three days being played out live in Chengdu, China.
For more information and the latest updates about ESL’s Counter-Strike esports ecosystem, head to the official ESL Pro Tour website, and follow ESL CS on X, Instagram, and Facebook.
The Group Stage ran from February 8 – 10 and saw 24 players split into four groups of six to compete in a Round-Robin format live in front of their fans at the MCK Auditorium.
After two and a half days of fierce battles, HeRoMaRinE (Group A), SHIN (Group B), Serral (Group C), and Dark (Group D) topped their respective groups and secured themselves a direct spot in the quarterfinals.
Surprisingly, reigning World Champion Oliveira and Gamers8 Champion Reynor fell short in the Group Stage and it was Solar, GuMiho (both Group A), Cure, Clem (both Group B), ByuN, SKillous (both Group C), Dark and herO (both Group D) who advanced to the Playoffs, following some close battles that kept the community on the edge of their seat.
With the Group Stage concluded, the second- and third-placed teams of each group continued their fight for victory in the Round of 12, with Clem, Dark, ByuN, and Cure coming out on top.
In the quarterfinals, Serral continued his reign without dropping a single map by beating Clem 3-0, while Dark and Maru beat their countrymen SHIN and Byun 3-1 and 3-2 respectively. In the fourth quarterfinal, Cure proved to be dominant over HeRoMaRinE, who, until then, had not yet lost a map in the competition
The first semifinal was a clash between Zergs as Serral and Dark entered the final part of the competition with Serral taking out Dark 3-1. During the second semifinal it was Maru and Cure’s turn to show who was the strongest Terran, with Maru eventually claiming a 3-0 victory.
The long-longed-for Grand Final between Maru and Serral promised some spectacular action, yet already early on Maru’s dedication and diligence showed to be no match for Serral’s unparalleled level of gameplay, leading to a 4-0 win on Serral’s behalf.
“It feels amazing to play in front of the Polish crowd,” said Joona “Serral” Sotala of BASILISK. “I think I gave this one my everything, and I didn’t really leave anything in myself. This was my full performance, I don’t think I can do much better.”
With his victory, Serral takes home $150,000 of the $500,000 total prize pool, on top of an additional $2,500 awarded to him for map wins in the Group Stage. For their top placementsMaru, Dark, and Cure received a direct invite to the Esports World Cup – the 2023/2024 ESL Pro Tour season’s Championship event – later this year, joining Serral and Clem who secured his spot by winning ESL SC2 Masters 2023 Summer and Winter respectively.
Next up in the ESL Pro Tour for StarCraft® II is the ESL SC2 Masters: Spring season concluding with live Finals at DreamHack Dallas in Dallas, Texas, USA, on May 31-June 2.
Riot Games Announces VALORANT Esports EMEA Partnership With Unilumin
With the start of the 2024 competitive VALORANT Esports season now underway, we’re proud to announce our partnership with Unilumin, a world leading LED display solution provider!
Unilumin has been instrumental in helping us level up the fan experience at the all-new Riot Games Arena with their industry-leading LED display technology, of which 250 square meters will now feature across the Riot Games Arena in Berlin. We’re so excited to welcome them on board as an official supplier for VCT EMEA, VALORANT Game Changers EMEA, and VALORANT Ascension EMEA.
Unilumin’s screens will light up the stage at the Berlin arena – and their logo will feature across various VALORANT Esports EMEA broadcasts throughout 2024. They’ve supplied display solutions globally from Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium to the Mercedes-Benz Arena, a mere stone’s throw away from us at the Riot Games Arena in Berlin. They’ve also worked with some of the biggest names in entertainment venues and global sports stadiums to illuminate events across the globe with grandstand, perimeter, and centerhung screens alongside scoreboards in major competition venues.
As we continue to level up the fan experience throughout 2024, we know Unilumin is the perfect partner to help us bring the most immersive experience and exciting atmosphere to the Riot Games Arena in Berlin, for our fans.
“Unilumin Sports is pleased to bring our solutions and technologies to the Riot Games Arena in Berlin and be a partner of VALORANT Esports in EMEA”, said Oscar Feng, the Global Director of Unilumin Sports. “We will use our well-designed products and fast response services to cooperate with Riot Games for their events and show the ultimate audio-visual experience to their fans.”
“After working with Unilumin for the refit of the Riot Games Arena, we’re delighted to welcome them as a supplier for our various VALORANT Esports EMEA events in 2024,” said Daniel Ringland, Head of VALORANT Esports EMEA. “Unilumin has helped us enhance the fan experience for those watching from home and joining us on-site, and we can’t wait to use their display technology throughout the season.”
Tundra Esports Announces Addition of Ludwig ‘Zai’ Wahlberg as Dota 2 General Manager to the Team
The veteran offlaner and captain will serve as the cornerstone for Tundra Esports’ Performance Management Team
Tundra Esports is delighted to announce the addition of Ludwig ‘Zai’ Wahlberg to its Dota 2 Performance Management Team, taking on the role of General Manager.
A household name in the competitive scene to both fans and peers alike, Wahlberg brings over tens years of experience, numerous championships and four top-three finishes at The International to the Tundra Esports tribe. Alongside his impressive tenures on some of the highest profile rosters in Dota’s history, he retains the impressive record of a 66.6% win rate across his 2,000+ game career; the highest of all pro Dota players*. For someone with such an intimate relationship with success in Dota 2, Wahlberg is expected to bring about a new level of excellence to the team’s management style and gameplay.
*With more than 200 pro matches played
Wahlberg’s addition further cements Tundra Esports’ commitment to growing and evolving its performance management team and the move marks a significant milestone for the organisation’s continued journey towards competitive success in the world of Dota 2.
“I’m thrilled to welcome Ludwig ‘Zai’ Wahlberg to Tundra Esports as the Dota 2 General Manager and support his journey into management after his illustrious playing career,” the co-founder and Esports Director for Tundra Esports, Anthony Graham, said. “We are doubling down on our approach to Dota and I don’t think there is a better person to lead our Dota operations going forward than Wahlberg.”
Wahlberg joins the already star-studded 2024 Tundra Esports Dota roster, consisting of:
1 – Ivan ‘Pure-‘ Moskalenko
2 – Topias ‘Topson’ Taavitsainen
3 – Ivan ‘MinD_ContRoL’ Ivanov
4 – Edgar ‘9Class’ Naltakian
5 – Matthew ‘Whitemon’ Filemon
“After an extensive break from the game, I’m very excited to be involved with Dota again but in a different capacity,” Wahlberg said. “I’m looking forward to stepping into a new role as General Manager for Tundra Esports and to use my previous experiences and insights as a player to manage and influence its Dota division.”
Fans will get to witness his impact on the team’s performance first-hand in its upcoming match against The International 12 champions Team Spirit this Sunday at DreamLeague Season 22.
Esports to Beat Football? SOFTSWISS Shares Sports Betting Trends for 2024
Esports is raising its position among top sports by bets in 2023. The product team of the SOFTSWISS Sportsbook, a top sports betting software provider, reflects on the past year.
Esports Unstoppable Rise
Over the past three years, the top three sports by bets remain unchanged, with football, tennis and basketball maintaining their leadership. In contrast, esports has demonstrated a consistent upward trend, progressing from the seventh position in 2021 to the fourth in 2023. Notably, Counter-Strike stands out, claiming the sixth position among the top ten disciplines by the number of bets.
Alexander Kamenetskyi, Head of SOFTSWISS Sportsbook, comments: “Considering the rise of esports, we guide our partners to focus on cyber disciplines, engaging audiences beyond traditional betting demographics. Highlighting the cybersports potential for operators, Newzoo’s report projects 640 million viewers by 2025.”
Mobiles Drive 92% of Operator GGR
Another notable trend in sports betting, which has remained unchanged for several years, is the consistent growth in bets made from mobile devices. According to the SOFTSWISS Sportsbook, 80% of bets in 2023 were placed via mobile versus 70% in 2022 and 68% in 2021. This trend solidifies as players increasingly opt for mobile convenience, especially in live betting scenarios. More importantly, it was mobile devices that contributed 92% to the operators’ GGR.
Kamenetskyi adds: “Mobile betting is one of our main focuses in product development. We put much effort into improving our mobile application and mobile website. It is specifically important for locations facing challenges with internet connectivity and regions like LatAm and Africa where internet coverage is still growing.”
Casino Turnover Drops During Major Sports Events
The SOFTSWISS Sportsbook team has repeatedly emphasised shifts in player behaviour around major sports events. Specifically, there was a 10–20% drop in online casino turnover, coinciding with the World Cup 2022. This highlights a dynamic wherein a significant portion of casino players redirect their focus towards sports betting based on seasonal patterns. Considering audience preferences, reinforcing casinos with sportsbooks is a logical step.
Kamenetskyi adds: “This pattern underscores the strategic imperative for iGaming stakeholders to recognise the synergistic relationship between casino ventures and sportsbooks. Combining these options not only enhances casino appeal but also maintains player engagement, especially during sports events. In this context, it is worth mentioning that the SOFTSWISS Sportsbook is compatible with any casino platform on the market.”
Additionally, the SOFTSWISS Sportsbook team notes the strengthening of other trends like regulation and responsible gambling that have recently been highlighted in the iGaming Trends 2024 report by SOFTSWISS. The SOFTSWISS Sportsbook team will be glad to discuss all learnings during the first SBC Summit Rio at the stand D360.
SOFTSWISS is an international tech company supplying software solutions for managing iGaming projects. The expert team, which counts over 2,000 employees, is based in Malta, Poland and Georgia. SOFTSWISS holds a number of gaming licences and provides one-stop-shop iGaming software solutions. The company has a vast product portfolio, including the Online Casino Platform, the Game Aggregator with thousands of casino games, the Affilka affiliate platform, the Sportsbook Platform and the Jackpot Aggregator. In 2013, SOFTSWISS was the first in the world to introduce a Bitcoin-optimised online casino solution.
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