What we learned from The Kiev Major

The 16 best teams in the world fought it out over a week to take home the Mystic Staff from what will be widely considered the best major so far. With The Kiev Major in the books, it’s time to look at what we learned from the event.

The Kiev Major Final Placings

Place $ USD Percent Team
1st $1,000,000  33.33% OG OG
2nd $500,000  16.67% Virtus.pro/Virtus.pro Virtus.pro
3rd-4th $250,000  8.33% Invictus Gaming/Invictus Gaming Invictus Gaming
Evil Geniuses Evil Geniuses
5th-8th $125,000  4.17% Team Liquid Team Liquid
Team Faceless Team Faceless
Vici Gaming/Team VGJ Team VGJ
SG e-sports SG e-sports
9th-16th $62,500  2.08% Mousesports mousesports
Newbee/Newbee Newbee
Digital Chaos Digital Chaos
Invictus Gaming/iG Vitality iG Vitality
TNC Pro Team TNC Pro Team
Team Random Team Random
Thunderbirds Thunderbirds
Team Secret Team Secret

Table courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/dota2/Kiev_Major/2017

OG prove once again they are the best in the world

Heading into Kiev, OG looked shaky. They were stomped by IG at DAC and had not won an event since The Boston Major. They were still a top four team, but many questioned whether they could take the Kiev crown. This fear was confirmed when they dropped their first game of group stages against underdogs SG esports.

Groups were worth forgetting for OG. Yes, they finished with a 3-1 record, but they did not look confident and also suffered again at the hands of IG.

OG The Kiev Major

Image courtesy of https://twitter.com/saadsarwar

Bracket play also started shakily as they eeked out 2-1 victories over Team Randon and Team Faceless. OG did, however, come into their own on the final day. They took a close 2-0 against EG, with both games going over 50 minutes. The grand finals proved to be one of the best series in recent Dota history. OG showed determination to come back from 2-1 down to take the series 3-2.

OG showed once again that you can have the biggest names in the scene, but if you cannot get them to work as a unit they will never win. EG finished top four at another major but couldn’t overcome the teamwork of OG. The star-studded Liquid roster failed again at a major event, raising more questions for the roster. The one consistency in the scene is OG. They have finished in the top four in the last nine events they have competed in. Of those nine, they have finished first in four of them and second in four. The consistency OG has shown has not been seen since Ehome during the Dota 1 era.

However, the only Valve trophy to add to the trophy cabinet is the Aegis of Champions, which OG will be looking to capture at The International 2017.

Let’s talk about Liquid

 

Team Liquid The Kiev Major

Image courtesy of reddit.com

Let’s rewind back to the end of February. Liquid had just won StarLadder and everything looked on the up for the roster. Many people, myself included, had Liquid ranked as one of the top five teams in the world. However, after a joint last place finish at DAC and a top eight finish at The Kiev Major, things look rough for the roster heading into The International.

During group stages, the team seemed to be falling apart. With constant role swaps between Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi and Maroun “GH” Merhej, things look rough for the squad. They could only secure victories against SG esports and Team Faceless, two of the weaker teams in the tournament. The two games that Liquid lost during groups were against Thunderbirds and DC, both teams Liquid should be defeating.

When the heat was on, Liquid evaporated out of the tournament and severely damaged their chances of receiving a direct invite to The International. Liquid need to take the time from Kiev to July to fix the obvious issues on the roster. Liquid is a team known for persevering with a roster, so a change seems unlikely. Fans will have faith that Liquid can sort the issues out and bounce back at the next event.

Brazillian DOTO best doto

SG esports at The Kiev Major

Image courtesy of br.ign.com

Heading into Kiev, I was unsure about what SG was going to provide to the event. I can happily say that I may have underestimated them a bit. They showed during the main event that they can hang with the best of them. In fact, they did hang with the best coming out of groups, Team Secret. Heading into the series, the majority of fans were predicting an easy victory for Team Secret. Instead, SG showed an amazing heart and managed to defeat Secret and take on EG for a spot in the top four.

The series against EG was one of the best, if not the best, series of the whole event. All of the games in the series went over 50 minutes and were back and forth battles. Even in defeat, SG fought to the last moments and was within inches of placing top four at the event.

The next couple of months will be important for SG as they need to build on the momentum gained from Kiev. In the same way that TNC did at TI6 and Ad Finem did at The Boston Major, SG captured the hearts and minds of fans and the community will be hoping that SG shows up to some more events.

Virtus pro put it all together-ish

Virtus Pro VP The Kiev Major

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Different major, same story. Virtus Pro came into Kiev as a favourite for the event, in the same way as they were heading into Boston. Boston didn’t exactly work out, however, on their home turf, something was different. VP stormed through the swiss format winning all three of their games only dropping one game. VP played a high tempo game with the team fight and skill that they are famed for.

Bracket play was very similar to groups as VP amassed a 6-1 record on their way to the finals. Along the way, VP even took down DAC winners and favourites IG in a 2-0 sweep. The finals against OG was one of the best series in major history as they would eventually fall 3-2 to OG. VP came within inches of lifting the trophy and finally winning an elusive major title. VP showed that they are the real deal and the favourite tag they often receive was warranted.

With this strong performance at Kiev, VP will have likely secured an invite to The International where they can compete for The Aegis of Champions.

The Kiev Major Final Thoughts

This event was arguably the best major that has taken place so far. From the panel to the production, everything was top notch. The event had some of the best content of any so far, including this amazing gem.

Team Slacks Kiev Major

This is why Slacks shouldn’t be allowed near the production equipment.

The games were some of the closest in recent history, with 10 of the 15 main event matches going to three or more games. In terms of series to check out, the EG v SG quarter-final was absolutely amazing. All three games were back and forth with some amazing plays including a five-man dream coil. The Kiev Major has set the bar so high and fans should be excited for the next future of Dota 2 esports.


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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Pokésports Pokemon esports logo

Pokésports IV: Pokémon Can Put The Everyone In eSports

The eSport For Everyone

Pokémon 20th anniversary logo

With the wide reach of its 20 year old brand, Pokémon not only attracts young and old alike, it gives them all places to play competitively. Currently, officially sanctioned Tournaments are divided into three groupings based on age. Due to this, all ages can compete against like minded fans for glory. Being able to entertain the entire family unit is very important. Just like kids have their favorite Quarterback or Goalie, kids being able to cling to a Pokémon or Trainer is crucial for future widespread success as an eSport.

Other eSports have also tried to reach out to a wider audience. League of Legends, most notably, is being played competitively in High School and College circuits. This type of forward thinking is fantastic! eSports are much more cost effective to pick up for a school then traditional sports. Building a venue and buying equipment can be very costly endeavors. However, eSports provide the same type of team building and competition, but in a much more feasible package. This can especially become appealing for schools such as charter schools and other private schools.

 

Accessible But Not Accessible

Pokémon finds itself in a unique position to exploit these facets of the new and emerging eSports market. One fatal flaw really stands in its way, accessibility. While the Pokémon franchise is totally accessible from a gameplay standpoint, it has a long way to go from a hardware standpoint.

Diagram showing steps to install a capture card into a 3DS

Image courtesy of 3DSHACKS

Fact is, the main series of Pokémon games can only be played on a 3DS, or one of the DS spinoff consoles. This alone means that anyone who is interested in playing Pokémon competitively must invest in a 3DS, even if they have no interest in any other game on the console. Furthermore, the 3DS prevents Trainers from being able to stream or compile otherwise interesting content related to the games without hacking or modding their console. Such restrictions really put a stranglehold on the competitive community.

Contrast that with the ease and openness of most of the popular eSports out there currently. DOTA and LOL both provide play with a free to play PC client, with modest minimum requirements. Pair that with the ease of streaming gameplay and hosting content such as Let’s Plays. Letting passionate fans share their experiences helps to spread the energy of the competitive community. This usually results in new people chasing a dream of playing in the top tier.

 

It All Comes Back To Money

Pokémon tournament trophies.

Image courtesy of Nintendo Life

Promoting a successful sport comes down to one thing, money. Providing enticing rewards provokes competition. This draws competitors, which can bring in viewership, which can then be marketed. Pokémon fails utterly and completely on this point, compared to DOTA’s million dollar prize pools. Such as the DOTA International 2016 where the winning team took home a prize of over nine million dollars. While Miguel Marti de la Torre, who took place at Pokémon’s European International, won a measly five thousand dollars.

That disparity in winnings just cannot stand if Pokémon is to be taken seriously as an eSport. There is no doubt that Pokémon is a lucrative brand, TPCI should open it up and share it with the fans. Maybe turn the World Champion into a figurehead of the Pokémon brand for a year. Let Trainers share their passion with their friends, and just make loving competitive Pokémon easier all around.

In the age of viral marketing, Pokémon’s place on such a restricted console really hurts it. Couple that with a lack of substantial rewards for the work it takes to compete and it is not hard to see why so many shun competitive Pokémon.

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Pokémon Squirtle giving a thumbs up

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Pokésports pokemon sports crest

Pokésports III: Pokémon Look to Sports, Turn to Teams

Pikachu and The Patriots

Pikachu and other Pokémon huddle during sports.

Everybody has heard of Pokémon. This single fact cannot be understated. Creating a cultural brand is something that requires time, hard work, and a lot of luck. Once a brand becomes a part of a culture though, its impact can be hard to measure. Think Coca-Cola, Google, and the major sports leagues. One thing these brands have in common is they all command tremendous strength in their respective markets.

The NFL, NBA, and other sports leagues are so successful due to the fact that they have managed to become ingrained into society. Kids play sports for their schools team, get scholarships to go to college, and eventually go to the pros. Billions of dollars in TV contracts and merchandising, as well as fans young and old chanting the names of local teams. This is the phenomenon of a cultural brand, and this is the exact thing Pokémon has at its disposal.

 

Money Money Money

Team Rocket's James pets a Persian while sitting surrounded by money.Sports are serious business. Year after year, the NFL Super Bowl brings in over 100,000 viewers, counting only home viewership, and in 2016 charged $5,000,000 per 30 second ad. In addition, the NFL’s 2015 revenue was 11.8 billion dollars, while the NBA’s was 4.7 billion dollars. Compare that to Pokémon’s 2015 revenue of 2.1 billion dollars. Using the sport model, TPCI could supercharge their money making potential and change generations to come.

A majority of sports revenue comes from TV contracts. Just look at the NFL, it is by far the most lucrative sports league in the world. Almost two thirds of its over 10 billion dollar income comes from TV revenue. That is around seven billion dollars from TV alone. Earning the rest from a variety of things, such as merchandising, ticket sales, and sponsorship deals. Pokémon’s TV show, on the other hand, has been falling in popularity. Like all markets, competition eventually comes along, and in the case of Pokémon, Yokai Watch has begun to slowly unravel its brand.

Unlike Pokémon, Yokai Watch has not established itself as a cultural brand. Pokémon can use this advantage. If it can pivot into eSports, TPCI could aim to achieve monetization similar to the NFL. Though unlike the NFL, Pokémon would be able to work on a global scale. Assuming Pokémon could achieve success as an eSport, it is safe to assume TV revenue alone would surpass anything TPCI has ever seen. Just imagine families across the world sitting down throughout the week to watch their favorite Trainers battle it out.

 

Generation Game

Think about it, a child throwing a baseball with their father, and that same family playing Pokémon GO together are practically interchangeable today. This is why Pokémon’s transition into a major eSport is a serious proposition. Just like traditional sports, parents are passing down a passion for Pokémon to their children. Due to the multi-generational connection of the brand, there are plenty of potential fans worldwide. A proverbial fire is ready to be started.

The spark that sets the blaze just needs to be created by TPCI. Between changes to gameplay and tournament structure, along with rethinking broadcasting and viewability, TPCI has some work to do in order to make Pokémon a successful eSport. However, Pokémon could achieve unparalleled competitive market advantage if they are up to the challenge. Memorable Pokémon and awesome Trainers won’t be enough though, one key component is needed to help turn Pokémon into an eSports success: Teams.

Pokémon Team Skull posing together

Pokémon could benefit from teams in a plethora of ways. Teams offer better opportunities for sponsorships, and visibility at professional events. Teams can also practice together and help each other get stronger. When 5 people enter a tournament as a team, if one of them wins, the team wins. This mentality could change the scope of competitive Pokémon. More buy-in could be expected from both players and sponsors. Hobby shops could set up competitive teams and act as local anchors of fandom. Maybe one day even schools and universities could employ their own competitive Pokémon Trainers.

There Can Only Be One

Pokémon Machoke and his Trainer practice together.

At the end of the day, as the eSports market grows, one or two brands will stand above the rest. Pokémon could be that brand. TPCI just needs to refine Pokémon’s model, while at the same time exploiting its place as a cultural brand. Many of the eSports brands, such as League, DOTA, and CS:GO, have a lot brand awareness building to do, but they are growing fast. TPCI does not have forever to act. Should Pokémon not make the move, it may slowly start to cede its market share to competitors such as Yokai Watch.

Pokémon could potentially become not only the most successful eSport, but the most successful sport in the world. Many of the factors needed for such a success are in Pokémon’s favor. The eSports market has many new brands blooming and Pokémon must be poised for battle, or be prepared for mediocrity.

 

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Team Rocket blasting off again.

All images courtesy of Game Freak