South African eSports has been chugging along for some time, but in the last couple of years we’ve seen some pretty massive growth.

This is in line with a global increased interest in eSports and streaming, but while sponsors have been buying in and prize pools have been growing, SA in particular still seems to have an issue with visibility. Case in point – did you know there’s a million rand CS:GO tournament starting today? Until just yesterday, I didn’t.

Therein lies the problem. Now it would be generous to say I’m a hardcore follower of the local eSports scene, but I am definitely someone who watches a whole lot of eSports content, with CS:GO being at the top of my list.

What I’m getting at here is that these kinds of things aren’t getting the attention they should be. Unless you’re actively following the local scene, you’re unlikely to hear about this kind of event, in spite of its whopping prize pool. That, I believe, is for a few reasons.

For a long time, local eSports has been kind of difficult to access. A lot of the events weren’t streamed, and when they were they were done so poorly. I covered eSports at rAge 2014 and 2015, and while the atmosphere in the competition room could be intense, it had an “invite only” access system that wasn’t geared towards public audiences. There was a certain charm to watching the games over the players’ shoulders, but it did little to generate wider public interest.

That, however, is changing. rAge 2016 was a watershed year for local eSports, with giant screens, proper player booths and ample seating. It created the eSports LAN experience I’ve been dying to see locally for years, and I found myself getting emotionally invested in the likes of a Call of Duty PS4 tournament – definitely not my usual speed.

That’s what I’m talking about.

To put things in perspective, the million rand tournament that’s officially starting today kicked things off with a “grudge match” on March 1st  to get the hype train started. This was an exhibition match between the two biggest teams in SA, Bravado and Energy, with a R50,000 cash prize on the line.

The live Twitch stream peaked at 500 concurrent viewers. Considering hundreds of thousands of South Africans tune in to Twitch.tv for eSports streams every month, that number is really quite poor. I definitely would have watched, had I known it was happening.

I’ll be changing that moving forward, and hopefully the seven people reading this will as well. So – let’s talk about that tournament.

It’s being hosted by Mettlestate, with the prize pool funded by corporate sponsors Samsung Mobile and Asus, with Samsung being the main sponsor. It’s called the Galaxy CS:GO tournament (of course), and it includes 24 teams. Twelve of these were invites sent out to the top local teams, with the other twelve being a “first come first serve” public offering. That second half is a pretty strange system, as it could result in some wildly unfair and unexciting games, with teams participating who have no business being in a high-level tournament.

But hey, maybe we’ll get a Cinderella story out of it (or an entertaining humiliation). The action kicks off tonight at 7pm with Ventus vs WRG|Aspire and Aperture vs Singularity, followed by two matches at 8pm – Energy vs Ventus Red and Flipside Tactics vs Armor Legion. You can watch the stream here.

For more info you can check out the Mettlestate website here. This is a big production, big money local tournament, and we want as much of this as we can get. Throw some eyeballs their way, it’s the best way to support the local scene and ensure continued growth.

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