Dreamhack CSGO to Part Ways With ESL, Restructuring To Take Place

by in CS:GO | Sep, 16th 2021

It’s been a little less than a year since Dreamhack and ESL came together to form ESL Gaming, the controlling entity meant to manage both Dreamhack and ESL brands. Now, it seems as though ESL Gaming will be the flagship brand for esports events and production, as the Dreamhack Open series of CSGO events will now be titled “ESL Challenger” according to a tweet posted by Michal Blicharz, vice president of product development at ESL. The historic Dreamhack series of gaming festivals helped lay the foundation for modern esports competition. So what’s in-store for Dreamhack and CSGO now? 

Goodbye to the CSGO Dreamhack Open – A Return to Roots for Dreamhack

According to tweets from Marc Winther Kristensen, ESL Gaming’s senior product manager, the Dreamhack brand will be returning to roots as ESL will absorb much of the esports ecosystem that was shared between both brands. “In the past years, esports was necessary to DreamHack’s growth, but the merger with ESL allowed us to reflect on the brand’s future from a different perspective,” said Kristensen, “For the first time in a long while, we could invest in DreamHack as a platform for everything gaming again.

Kristensen does not deny that CSGO doesn’t have a place at Dreamhack. He notes that any CSGO event occurring at Dreamhack will be congruent with Dreamhack’s atmosphere according to its status as a global gaming festival: “it’ll be along things like LAN parties, cosplay, speedrunning, indie games, and much more.” Indeed, it sounds as though Dreamhack will tighten its focus to providing attendees of its events the experience they can expect from events such as PAX or other video game trade shows.

The Dreamhack brand’s expansion to North America shows evidence of this focus on community gathering and a ‘return to roots’ experience. A great example of this is Dreamhack Atlanta, which hosted the finals of Dota’s Dreamleague in 2017 but focused more on hosting esports events that catered to Atlanta’s gaming community, such as increased fighting game events and world championship tournaments for Paladins and Smite, games developed by Georgia-based Hi-Rez Studios.

The Atlanta Reign also hosted their meet-up at Dreamhack Atlanta as a means of doing brand outreach in the franchise’s home city. Looking at the page for exhibitors and partners, you’ll see several Georgia businesses and organizations present, such as the University of Kennesaw, Kontrolfreek, Atlanta United FC, and Momocon. 

The inclusion of local exhibitors and partners at Dreamhack events shows how the event has become geared to serving communities and enabling local partners to participate under the Dreamhack banner to better serve the communities where Dreamhack’s global events take place. It’s merely an evolution of Dreamhack’s original purpose of serving as a community event rather than a professional esports organizer. The writing’s been on the wall for a while now, and it makes sense to focus on how to make sure Dreamhack delivers the best value for the average attendee. 

But what does this mean for CSGO? According to Kristensen, “Counter-Strike still holds a special place in the heart of the festivals world wide.” Indeed, it seems that Dreamhack will be the physical location where ESL-branded CSGO tournaments will take place, notably the ESL Challenger events. This news doesn’t account for local CSGO competition that may take place at global Dreamhack events. 

Regardless, the news of Dreamhack’s involvement in CSGO approaching its twilight no doubt will leave some in a somber mood as the retirement of the Dreamhack Masters brand will end the chapter on almost five years of professional CSGO competition. 


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