Valve’s decision to limit player signature stickers to only those who reach the PGL Major playoffs has been met with almost universal criticism. Dexerto spoke with seven Major debutants to get their take.
On October 21, after weeks of waiting, Valve finally released the highly-anticipated stickers for the upcoming PGL CS:GO Stockholm Major, the first event of this stature in two years because of the global health crisis.
The announcement confirmed rumors and fan fears that only players who reach the playoff stage would be rewarded with in-game signatures – a departure from previous Majors, where every player who qualified had their own autograph item available for purchase.
The change has been criticized by players, on-air talent, and fans alike in recent days, with analyst Janko ‘YNk’ Paunović, who is part of the Major’s on-air team, calling it a “depressing” situation.
Every aspiring player dreams of being immortalized in the game, and for some of the 61 Major rookies in Stockholm, this was their only chance to add their name to the list of Counter-Strike legends with autographs.
This whole sticker situation only for players who make top8 is just so depressing really, we haven't had a Major for 2 years, so many young, excited players attending for the first time and you deny them a chance to be immortalized in a sense #PGLMajor
— Janko Paunovic (@YNk) October 22, 2021
These in-game items, introduced in 2015 ahead of the ESL One Cologne Major, were created to “provide some of the experience a fan would have had if they attended the event and asked you [a player] to sign a mousepad”.
But it’s also important to mention the financial windfall of a player getting their own autograph in the game as they earn a portion of the proceeds from the sale of these items. After the StarLadder Major, Valve announced that participating teams and players had earned “over $11 million” through the sale of tournament items.
This is life-changing money for some players, especially those with lower salaries or from regions that are grappling with the financial impact of the global health crisis. With this change, the chasm between the elite and the rest is expected to widen even further as the players reaching the latter stages are very likely to be among the most popular and highest-paid in the game.
Valve has not responded to requests for comment from Dexerto.
Frustration over poor communication
But player criticism isn’t targeted at the absence of player signatures as much as it is at the lack of communication from Valve and PGL over this matter.
Rumors about a change in policy regarding autographs began to swirl early in October. As players from different regions were being asked to submit their autograph items at different stages, many feared that there would not be enough time to have everything ready before the Major, especially since Valve and PGL were busy running Dota 2’s The International 10 in Bucharest.
Have a feeling players won't get signature stickers this major – they would have requested the signatures a long while ago, before the RMR even started for example.
— Graham Pitt (@messioso) October 10, 2021
As the countdown to the Major hit full throttle, some players were aware that there would not be autographs for everyone, while others remained in the dark. Hours before Valve revealed the team stickers and announced the Pick ’Em Challenge, a team contacted by Dexerto admitted that they still didn’t know whether there would be player signatures for the event.
Players express disappointment
“If we had known beforehand, it wouldn’t have been so bad,” said Renegades’ Joshua ‘INS’ Potter, one of the seven Major debutants who agreed to speak to Dexerto. This is the general feeling among the players, who wish they had been looped in on the process.
Hampus ‘hampus’ Poser and Joonas ‘doto’ Forss both supported the idea of making the autographs more exclusive, but the Finnish player also lamented that the community was kept uninformed until the end. “The fact that they suddenly changed it to this is unfair for everyone,” doto said.
One other player, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that it was unfair that organizations are getting preferential treatment. “With all due respect, the ones on the server playing are the players, and we are the ones who should have priority in having their name immortalized,” he argued.
In January 2021, Valve released the 2020 RMR Sticker Capsules, featuring the teams that would have been invited to attend the Fall Major based on the results of the regional qualifiers. For those stickers, 50% of the proceeds went to the organizations as a way to financially support them after a rough year without LAN events.
Even without autographs, it is important to mention that PGL Major players will still make money from the sale of team sticker capsules, team patches (a new addition), and the viewer pass. The percentage that players are entitled to is stipulated in their contracts and varies from organization to organization.
Below you can find the comments from the seven players that Dexerto spoke to about this matter:
Fredrik ‘roeJ’ Jørgensen (CPH Flames): “After we qualified, I was so happy, especially because I thought that we were getting a sticker. But then slowly we started to realize that it might not happen. They only asked for the team sticker, not the player sticker, and since the Major was in two weeks we could put two and two together, and it just really sucked because we didn’t get any real information about what was going to happen with the sticker. We kept asking our PGL contact but couldn’t get anything clarified. All we had were rumors and sources on Twitter saying that some teams in North America had submitted their autographs, but they still hadn’t asked any of the European teams. Overall, it’s a really sad experience, slowly realizing that one of your biggest dreams, of being immortalized in the game, was not secured yet. If I had known about it beforehand and if it had been communicated before the RMR I could respect the decision, even though I would be sad anyway. The problem is that I have this feeling where I don’t know if this change happened because they were short on time or simply because someone made a mistake and didn’t collect the signatures in time or something like that. If this is the case I just can’t respect the decision, but if this is going to be a permanent change and if this had been communicated beforehand then of course I could respect it. There were no reasons for this change, and I just see a lot of rumors going around that this is because of the short amount of time between TI and the Major as PGL is running both events. If we hadn’t pushed so much to get an answer we would have learned about it two days before traveling to Stockholm and it would have been even more devastating to know that you’re not getting the sticker that you thought you would. And it’s kind of sad to learn about it through Twitter and a CS update like everyone else. So it’s just a very, very sad and disappointing experience in general.”
Lucas ‘Lucaozy’ Neves (Sharks): “I was very sad when I learned that we wouldn’t get stickers. I think that everyone dreams about having their name in the game, and it would have been good for monetary reasons as well, because there are teams coming from underprivileged regions when it comes to money, and the sticker money helps every player. There are many players debuting at the Major and they all wanted to have a signature sticker.”
Anonymous player: “In my opinion, Valve’s decision was a mistake. I really don’t see a way in which players benefit from this decision. It has been two years since the last Major, and as a player, you qualify for the biggest tournament in the game that you so love, and the player signatures are a symbol of that feat and something that immortalizes it. This is something that has happened at every Major, so it makes no sense for them to make this decision. The worst part was that during the RMRs there was no information that this was going to happen, this was something that was decided overnight without the players knowing. If we had been told beforehand, it would have been easier to take the news, but no, we qualified and, less than a week before the tournament starts we get told… It’s almost hilarious. With all due respect for the organizations, who are not at fault here, the ones on the server playing are the players, and we are the ones who should have priority in having their name immortalized.”
Alejandro ‘mopoz’ Fernández-Quejo Cano (Movistar Riders): “This is totally shameful on Valve’s part and painful to see. It is the first Major for many players, and they changed the rules after two years without a specific reason, this way shattering the dreams of players who have been dreaming about this since they started playing the game.”
Joshua ‘INS’ Potter (Renegades): “It was very disappointing, especially considering how long I’ve been trying to qualify for the Major and get an individual sticker, and because of the poor communication on Valve’s behalf. If we had known beforehand, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but yeah, extremely disappointed but still privileged and happy to be playing at one of the biggest events in CS:GO history. Hopefully, this is a one-off and next Major they will be back.”
Hampus ‘hampus’ Poser (NIP): “To be honest, I didn’t get that disappointed. I think it’s good that stickers are hard to get, so when you get them it means that you’ve really earned them. Now that there are 24 teams, I think that this is good. Perhaps the players who reach the Legends Stage could get better stickers, but I’m fine with this.”
Joonas ‘doto’ Forss (ENCE): “I don’t necessarily mind that it’s only for the top-eight teams, but it should have been informed a lot earlier. The fact that they suddenly changed it to this is unfair for everyone. The fans also love the player stickers. They could have just made stickers for everyone and added some extra flair to the top eight’s stickers when the teams are set. Of course, it’s a huge bummer for us because I can guarantee that all 61 players were looking forward to getting the stickers since they have always been a huge deal for all the players. Getting your name in the game that everyone loves is, I guess, an amazing feeling that we’ve been deprived of.”