As we count down the days to 2020, it has become a yearly tradition to look back, recollect what happened in the previous year and remind ourselves of everything we have achieved. While everyone had their own experiences in 2019, be it good or bad, here we will look back at 10 most memorable moments that took place in the esports world.
From incredible achievements, fall of great esports personalities, shocking announcements and chaotic events that shaped the esports world forever, it is safe to say it was a turbulent year, yet a very memorable and successful one for the industry.
10 The rise and fall of Echo Fox
If we talk about the most memorable events in 2019, the fall of Echo Fox is surely one everyone will remember, not only because we lost one of the most well-known esports teams, but also one of the most loveable esports personalities that is Rick Fox.
The story of Echo Fox started in December 2015, when Rick Fox and his two business partners Amit Razaida and Khalid Jones bought the NA LCS slot from Gravity Gaming, which was later rebranded to Echo Fox. The new team would go on to compete mostly in League of Legends, as well as CS:GO and various fighting games.
While not one of the best esports teams out there, the main draw of the team was Rick Fox, the three-time NBA Champion, who has become one of the biggest esports personalities and one of the first sports personalities who dipped his toes in the esports world.
That being said, early 2019, saw everything change for Echo Fox, who slowly started to crumble. An email sent from Amit Razaida emerged showing the team's shareholder using racist slurs towards Jace Hall, the former CEO of Echo Fox, which did not go down well with Riot Games and esports community.
As a result of that and presumably the ongoing threats to his family, Rick Fox opted to leave the team and in November 2019, the organization folded, leaving behind plenty of good, but unfortunately also a handful of bad memories towards the end of its existence.
9 Kyle "Bugha" Giersdorf wins $3 million at the Fortnite World Cup
It's been talked about for months and we can be sure Bugha's success will be mentioned a couple more times in years to come, and while it may seem repetitive to talk about him again, there is no denying his title-winning run at the 2019 Fortnite World Cup will go down in history as one of the biggest individual achievements of an esports player.
At only 16-years-of age, Bugha defeated thousands of players and won the kind of money some of us can only dream of, and with that revolutionized esports as a whole, as he proved esports are not only kids playing video games but significantly more than that.
While Bugha was not the only esports player who became a millionaire in 2019, neither was he one of the best-paid esports professionals, the 16-year-old American has, however, become one of the most recognisable names in the esports world and we can be sure he will not be easily forgotten as such.
8 G2 Esports win Mid-Season Invitational
The 2019 League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational was a memorable event for many reasons, seeing how we got to witness several historic moments which took place in at the Heping Basketball Gymnasium in Taipei.
The fifth iteration of MSI concluded on May 19, 2019, with G2 Esports lifting the MSI trophy for the first time in their history, which made them the first non-Asian team to achieve that feat. But it was not only the fact that they won which made 2019 MSI a memorable event but the way they did it.
G2 Esports completely demolished Team Liquid in the grand finals, where they set a new world record for the fastest international Bo5 match, having bested their North American adversaries in 25 minutes on map one, 28 minutes on map two and only 18 minutes on map three, crushing the previous record held by EDward Gaming, who defeated Team Detonation in 2018 Worlds Play-in Knockout stage in 80:39.
Adding to the incredible display from G2, the 2019 MSI also marked the first time in history we got to see an all-Western MSI final. Furthermore, we also got to witness one of the biggest League of Legends upset wins in history, when Team Liquid demolished the reigning world champions Invictus Gaming in the semi-finals.
All in all, it was one of the most memorable Leagues of Legends events of the year and while some teams will have sour memories of the said event, even the grand finals losers - Team Liquid, have their own reasons to look back with a smile on their face.
7 Team Liquid win the Intel Grand Slam
While their League of Legends counterparts wrote history in Vietnam, the Team Liquid CS:GO roster made history in their own scene, when they won the Season 2 Intel Grand Slam at ESL One: Cologne 2019 and pocketed $1,000,000 in prize pool, ultimately ending the "Astralis era".
It marked by far the fastest IGS title run in history, with Team Liquid winning five events in a row to secure their paycheck in just under four months’ time. To put it into a perspective, Season 1 of Intel Grand Slam lasted from July 4, 2017, to December 9, 2018, which is significantly more as compared to Season 2.
The monumental achievement of Team Liquid forced the IGS organizers to completely restructure the competition, making it so a team needs to win four S-Tier events organised by ESL or DreamHack Masters during a window of 10 events or win six events in a window of 10 consecutive events.
The fact that the rules were completely changed due to Team Liquid's success only goes to show how important and historic TL’s run really was.
6 G2 esports derail SKT T1 in the international semi-finals twice
G2 might not have reached any monumental achievements by defeating SKT T1, but their win against SKT T1 (twice) proved once and for all that the West can be comparable to the Asian teams on the Rift.
Both SKT T1 and G2 were heading into 2019 with so-called "dream teams" in order to leave a mark in the scene and claim the prestigious title of world champions. While neither managed to achieve that feat, the two battles between the South Korean and European juggernauts were two of the most exciting and the most-watched LoL fixtures of the year.
The first G2's win over SKT T1 came at MSI semi-finals where they took down the South Koreans (3-2) and ended up going the distance to claim the MSI title. Despite their dominant display in Vietnam, many South Korean fans firmly believed SKT T1 would get their revenge in the 2019 Worlds semi-finals, but were ultimately left disappointed as G2 repeated their success and bested SKT T1 3-1 in front of 3,985,787 viewers, making the most viewed match of the World Championship.
The G2 vs SKT T1 was a ultimately seen as the battle between the East and the West and while G2 came out on top this year, we can only guess how the two titans will match up in 2020 and years to come.
5 100 Thieves opt-out of participating in the Call of Duty League
When Matthew "Nadeshot" Haag announced his esports organization will not participate in the inaugural 2020 Call of Duty League, many esports fans were left in shock, considering how closely 100T brand and Nadeshot himself is associated with Call of Duty pro scene.
That being said, Nadeshot explained to the esports community why he decided 100T won’t be participating in the CDL, by stating the $25 million franchise buy-in is simply too much for 100T and the main reason why the organization won't dip their toes in the new Call of Duty league.
While it's great to see 100T are smart with their money, the fact that CDL won't have one of the most iconic CoD organizations participating in it was without one of the most shocking announcements of the year
4 OG win their second consecutive International title
OG wrote history in August 2019 when they lifted the Aegis of Champions for the second time in a row, which was something never before seen in the Dota 2 esports scene.
The only team that ever came close to this feat were Natus Vincere, who won the inaugural International tournament in 2011 but had to settle with a silver medal when they lost to Invictus Gaming the next year. Other than NaVi, no other team ever managed to even appear in the grand finals more than twice in a row, which only goes to show how dominant OG currently are in the Dota 2 scene.
With two International titles under their belt, OG pocketed an astonishing $26.854 million over the course of the last two years, with $15.6 million alone with their TI9 title, which not only made OG the best-paid esports teams of 2019 but also made all five of their members one of the best-paid esports players of the year.
3 Blizzard learns esports and politics don't mix
Perhaps one of the most controversial events of the year saw Blizzard made everyone realise politics and esports don't mix with their drama involving Ng "blitzchung" Wai Chung and his expression of political view regarding the Hong Kong protests against the Chinese government.
The incident is well documented with esports as well as the mainstream media coverage, which, while it gave esports some publicity it was anything but a positive for the industry. The Blizzard's punishment of blitzchung were in fact so severe, it led to boycotts and weeks of community outrage, which escalated to the point where even US Members of Congress got involved and sent a letter to Activision Blizzard urging them to reverse the punishment.
The widespread backlash both within and outside of the Hearthstone community, however, saw Blizzard scale back much of blitzchung's punishment, reinstalling him back into Grandmasters for its first season in 2020, meaning his punishment only prevents him from participating in official Masters Tour tournaments for six months.
2 Griffin in ruins
As we talk about chaos and drama in the esports world throughout 2019, it's hard not to remember the turmoil that occurred in the Griffin League of Legends' team, which left many in shock as more and more details surfaced about the treatment of the players.
While Echo Fox were fighting their own battles in North America, Griffin were the centre of negative attention in the LCK due to ongoing internal struggles, which reportedly started months earlier. What is even more shocking, however, is the fact it was not only one incident which led to the eventual fall of Griffin.
From unfair contracts with Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok and the remaining members of the team, shady business made by the team's former manager Cho Gyu-nam and even supposed abuse by team's former coach Kim "cvMax" Dae-ho, Griffin simply had too many issues to fix, leaving the organization with no other chance to give their members a free pass to leave if they wish.
Ultimately many Griffin players opted to leave, meaning one of the most promising LCK teams will have to start fresh with a mostly new roster for their 2020 LCK venture.
1 FunPlus Phoenix win 2019 League of Legends World Championship
It might not be the best-paid event in the esports world, but League of Legends is without a doubt the biggest esports event of the year in terms of viewership and appeal, featuring only the elite few LoL teams competing for a shot at lifting the Summoner's Cup.
Many teams try year after year and fail, but unlike most of the teams, FunPlus Phoenix made their debut at the tournament and took home gold. It was a simply spectacular performance from the Chinese roster, who despite winning the LPL were not seen as one of the main favourites ahead of 2019 Worlds and were ever regarded as underdogs after making it into playoffs. However, they proved everyone wrong by not only making a deep run, but going all the way to the summit.
A lot of people had their money on one of the most hyped-up teams in the 2019 - G2, but even the European powerhouse were no match for the Phoenix who made the grand finals seem like a Sunday’s afternoon pub match with their impressive 3-0 win.
FunPlus Phoenix's triumph at 2019 Worlds also marked the second year in a row when we saw an LPL team won the title, with IG claiming the title last year. What is perhaps the most surprising, or better yet interesting, is that the theme song of this year's worlds was named "Phoenix", which fits in perfectly with the Chinese roster's success.
All in all, the year 2019 truly was a spectacular year for esports, featuring many impactful moments which shaped the scene and will leave its footprints in the years to come. While there were good moments, we also got to see a fair share of bad ones, however, if we draw a line 2019 was overall a good year for esports industry and esports fans in general.