On the 4th September 2020, the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) opened up an enquiry after becoming aware of an issue that people viewing a stream of a CS:GO match in spectator mode, could potentially use what they see to gain an advantage within the game.
This became known as the “Spectator Bug” and after in that first announcement, ESIC also announced that on the 2nd September, they had issued sanctions against three coaches that had used the bug to achieve an advantage for their team.
However, the use of the bug was so widespread, that they felt a much deeper investigation was required. They, therefore, enlisted the help of Michal Slowinski and Steve Dudenhoeffer, who discovered the Spectator Bug, to assist them in a detailed enquiry into games dating as far back as 2016.
A total of 25,000 demos of CS:GO games played between 2016 and 2020 were to be reviewed both by AI and by manual inspection, with any perpetrators set to face sanctions from ESIC.
The company also announced that it would release details of any sanctions on a monthly basis and the first of those details have now come to light and it does not paint the CS:GO professional scene in a great light.
37 Coaches Sanctioned
Over the past month or so, over 15.2 terabytes of demo footage has been viewed and a total of 37 coaches have been sanctioned by ESIC. Those who, in the opinion of ESIC, only used the exploit rarely, have been given a lesser Tier 2 sanction, while those that used the Spectator Bug more freely and in higher profile games have been given more serious Tier 1 and Tier 1 Aggravated Sanctions.
Bans range from 36 months for the most serious contenders, down to 3.75 months for those who have been judged of lesser sanctions.
Coaches from many of the top teams in CS:GO esports have been sanctions including coaches and former coaches of teams such as FaZe Clan, MiBR, HellRaisers, Heroic, Natus Vincere, and Team Digitas, although most of these coaches were hit with a Tier 2 ban.
The longest ban was handed down to coach MechanoGuru of Hard Legion, who was judged to have used the exploit 16 times across multiple top tournaments, including ESL One events and the Home Sweet Home Cup over a single month (May 2020). He was banned for 36 months as a result.
A number of coaches had their ban reduced by up to 85% by confessing to using the exploit and assisting ESIC with their enquiries, which was part of the ‘olive branch’ offered to offending coaches when ESIC began their full investigation at the start of September.
However, while this does seem like a huge number of cases, ESIC have taken pains to confirm that the problem was not as widespread as they first feared as in their report released on September 28th, they stated:
“Importantly, only 0.1% of the total demos available for review (99,650) have, as at the date of this statement, returned a positive indication of Spectator Bug abuse.”
ESIC announces sanctions against 37 individuals in relation to the exploitation of the Spectator Bug.
Only 20% of available data (99,650 demos) has been examined.
ESIC to issue one final report at the end of October to close the investigation. pic.twitter.com/tyduJkVvxo
— ESIC (@ESIC_Official) September 28, 2020
One of a series of investigations
The Spectator Bug investigation is just one of a total of 15 ongoing investigations that ESIC are currently conducting into the CS:GO professional industry, focused on match-fixing on the ESEA Mountain Dew League (MDL), which have been ongoing for around 18 months.
A full report on the outcome of their investigation into this matter is due shortly.
In early September, ESIC issued a statement on these other investigations stating:
“ESIC is now in the concluding stages of its investigation and will issue a formal statement relating to the investigation within four weeks of the date of this update (subject to complications that may arise in the finalisation of our investigation).”
It remains to be seen what the conclusions of this report reveal, but unless they find no evidence of any wrongdoing, which judging by the hullaballoo on social media over the past month over this issue seems extremely unlikely, it is not going to be a positive outcome for esports, and those involved in the alleged match-fixing.
Final ESIC Report Due in October
The final word on the CS:GO Spectator Bug and how it has been abused by those within the CS:GO professional esports scene will come later this year when ESIC will issue one final report at the end of October 2020.
The details of that report could yet have further significant ramifications for the future of top-level CS:GO esports and particularly for the coaches involved.
In their final statement in the September report ESIC sounded a more positive and optimistic note to those reading on with interest:
“We understand that these revelations have been tough for many people within the CS:GO community, but we believe it is in the long term best interests of the game and all of esports for integrity breaches to be dealt with head on. We know that most coaches, players, tournament organisers, publishers and developers, fans, sponsors and broadcasters want CS:GO and esports to be clean and a fair competition,” ESIC stated.
“We see our job as being to ensure that that happens and that corrupt and bad actors are rehabilitates or removed.”