KANSAS CITY – A cheer rose like a swelling wave in the Kansas City Convention Center amidst the almost subsonic hum of hundreds of conversations and “you’re dogshit” screamed at varying levels from the open bracket.
It’s Friday – not time for anything substantial to be decided. Teams have yet to make it through pool play, and there’s no room for any overexcitement, no need to spend too much energy this early in the tournament. The reason for the seemingly out-of-place cheer for a pool play match was that the Pioneers are playing, and they’re the home team this weekend.
Every time the Pioneers notch another map on Knights, the crowd, in larger numbers than for any other match at the time, cheers again. The match ends in a 3-0 sweep in Pioneers’ favor, arguably one of the most anticlimactic matches on paper on the first day of the Major. The crowd cheers regardless.
Pioneers' full name is “Kansas City Pioneers” – even without the name, the roots are noticeable. According to Eddie “Purpatrate” Dee, Pioneers’ Director of Esports, the Kansas City Major is the perfect venue to show the wider Halo community what they’re all about.
“We felt like it was an opportunity for us to really show the HCS what we can bring to the table and show the fans a good experience,” Dee said.
Before the event began, Pioneers partnered with the local MLB franchise, the Kansas City Royals, to put on a LAN bootcamp for attending teams. The teams all went to Kauffman Stadium to practice against each other, live on Twitch – a completely unique precursor to a Major. Additionally, the Royals provided jerseys for the teams – a neat souvenir from their time in Kansas City.
According to Dee, the conversation to hold to bootcamp came out of a preexisting relationship with the Royals – the baseball franchise wanted to do something “big, something that has never been done in gaming before.”
There’s a bit of an added pressure, and an added asterisk to all the altruistic hospitality the Pioneers are rendering. HCS Partnership applications are coming up, and the cynics can be somewhat forgiven for thinking that Pioneers are just flexing their muscle because they’re looking to get a skin in the game, and start generating easy revenue.
It would be an easy narrative to run with – if Pioneers hadn’t been around since Halo 5. They picked up their team in the doldrums of the HCS, when there were no events of note going on. This accounts for the year-long pause in the development of Halo Infinite – Pioneers have had their team for two and a half years. The team has remained loyal to them, and they’ve remained loyal to the team. “We feel like [the Major] was more like the cherry on top,” Dee said.
“Loyalty means everything, you know,” Dee continued. “Our players have stuck by us through thick and thin. They've watched us grow from a thousand followers to now 24k. And in all honesty, [loyalty] is something that we do carry with a lot of importance.”
The Pioneers roster are no slouches, they’re known quantities to Halo diehards. Currently, they’re 2-0 in matches, a stellar 6-1 in maps played at the Major. As far as chances to win a Major title, this might be one of the best chances they have. They’ll have the crowd, and they appear to be putting together the performance.
No matter how Pioneers, the roster performs, Pioneers, the organization, have already won the event. “We really want to show the HCS that we bring a lot more to the table than just having a team representing us,” Dee said. “We can actually help support the scene in a lot of ways and I really do think that, you know, hopefully, it can help the perception about us and how our intentions are to stay in HCS for the long run.”
Next up for Pioneers is Sentinels, the kings of Halo 5, on the main stage. In a way, everywhere Pioneers go this weekend will end up being the main stage, in some way, shape, or form.