The Halo Championship Series is back and the Kickoff Major, the first big Halo Infinite tournament, was held in Raleigh this weekend. Over 200 teams competed for a share of a prize pool of $350,000 and the chance to lift the trophy.
The open bracket started on Friday and 16 teams made it out to join another 16 prequalified teams from North America, Europe and Australia made in the double-elimination championship bracket. Big-name teams such as Cloud9, FaZe Clan, Sentinels, OpTic and Natus Vincere made it fairly far in the tournament, but few were expecting eUnited to make it as far as they did.
OpTic Gaming, Cloud9, Kansas City Pioneers and eUnited all made it to the upper bracket semifinals, with a few more notable teams making their way through the lower bracket as well. One of those notable teams was Sentinels, who had to fight through the open bracket after being disqualified from the upper bracket. They picked up OpTic great Matthew “FormaL” Piper and ended up beating OpTic in a thrilling five-map match in the lower bracket.
Cloud9 and eUnited made it into the upper bracket final where Cloud9 came out on top, and eUnited were sent to the lower bracket to fight FaZe Clan for the spot in the final.
The eUnited and FaZe Clan match went all the way to five maps. Slayer is always the deciding match, and it was certainly a nail-biter. In the end, eUnited won the last map 50-43 over FaZe Clan and moved on to a rematch Cloud9 in the grand final.
The grand final match was a best-of-seven, but Cloud9 didn’t need more than five maps in order to take the win over eUnited. They were crowned the HCS Kickoff Major Raleigh champions, and took home a $140,000 prize and scored themselves 25,000 HCS points.
eUnited made a splash at HCS Raleigh
Photo credit: Halo Championship Series
The discussion around teams at majors always tends to fall back to bigger team names, especially ones who are well-developed and have the funds to entice the best players to their teams. Names like Sentinels, Cloud9 and FaZe Clan come up in the conversation, but there were a few surprise teams that made it farther than many expected.
For example, most thought that FaZe Clan would beat eUnited in the lower bracket final. Led by Eric "Snip3down" Wrona, one of the most successful Halo players of all time, many expected FaZe Clan to end up in the final with Cloud9. FaZe Clan had to get through some really tough teams such as Na’Vi, G2 Esports and Sentinels to reach the upper bracket final.
While many would argue that eUnited had the easier bracket, they still beat some pretty notable teams including Spacestation Gaming and KC Pioneers before facing FaZe Clan. Sunday was a long day for all teams involved, so it’s possible that FaZe Clan just ran out of steam, while eUnited were running on pure momentum, but eUnited put on a great showing against FaZe and got their grand final rematch against Cloud9.
NA still reigns supreme in HCS
Going into the HCS, many knew that it would be North American-heavy, since the esports scene for Halo really started in the region. Other regions did qualify for the double-elimination bracket, but none of them made it to the semifinals.
Na’Vi, an EU team based in Ukraine, made it the farthest, with two other EU teams, Quadrant and Acend, right behind them. The most notable EU win over an NA team was Acend sending G2 Esports to the lower bracket. Na’Vi almost made it to the semifinals, but were ousted by NA team FaZe Clan.
All hope isn’t lost for the EU region, though. Since it is the first LAN major, teams will go back home and figure out what they did wrong, and we could see a big improvement from EU teams going forward, but for now, the NA vs. EU rivalry just isn’t there.
HCS Raleigh had record-breaking viewership despite many technical issues
The first major LAN of the new series was plagued with technical difficulties, but that didn’t stop fans around the world from watching the competition. The main Twitch channel for the tournament was steadily holding at around 60,000 viewers on the first day of competition, and the tournament peaked at over 267,000 viewers across all platforms, according to Esports Charts.
The opening set was the first indication that technical issues were afoot. In a match between Spacestation Gaming and XSET, disaster struck when Alec “Tylenul” Mumper crashed, the first of many issues that players would have to deal with during the course of the first day.
XSET couldn’t seem to get away from the issues, since the most problematic match of the day was between them and Acend. The match went to Map 5, but multiple crashes during the course of the map caused such a significant disruption that any exciting buildup to the action had dissipated by the time they got the match working again.
Even switching to playing on Xbox consoles proved an issue, since even HCS is having trouble supplying enough Xbox consoles in order to run the competition smoothly. Microsoft came in clutch though, and supplied some developer consoles to help with the supply shortage.
Between the viewership numbers on stream and the buzz on social media, it is clear that HCS is alive and well, and it’s likely that the scene will see growth in both players and viewers throughout the season.
Lead photo credit: Halo Championship Series