Why MSI should transition to a gauntlet tournament

The 2017 Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) is a League of Legends tournament attended by 13 teams from 13 various regions. This year’s MSI consisted of three stages ultimately ending in a grand final between the best two teams. Taking place in Rio de Janeiro, this event took seeding based upon the past two years of Worlds and MSI performances to have a few teams automatically place into group stage (South Korea, China, and Europe) while the rest of the 10 teams battled it out through the play-in stage.

Group stage consists of a double round robin via best of one matches. The top four teams from this double round robin move on to the knockout stage which consists of best of five games with single elimination. It is this knockout stage that does not make the most sense for this international tournament.

The Gauntlet

SKT T1 Huni leaves the stage with team. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

The LCK currently runs a gauntlet-styled tournament that MSI should adopt. The first place team does not play until the final round, receiving a bye for their performance throughout the normal split. The playoffs consist of the third place team playing against the fourth place team, then the winner of that team plays the second place team, ultimately leaving one team to play against the first place team. This style of competition puts much more weight upon the group stages of the tournament, making each and every group stage game bring with it more impactful consequences.

Skating By Groups

Examining the current four teams in groups can lead one to believe that some teams have just “skated by” while other teams have just had a poor performance in the group stage.

After the Flash Wolves controlled performance in play-ins, most fans and even Faker, believed that they were going to be the biggest threat to SKT T1’s empire. The Flash Wolves then managed to beat SKT in a decisive manner during the group stages, further showing their skill and prowess. However, the Flash Wolves later received a few too many losses in groups, ultimately leaving what should be the second best team in the tournament in fourth place during the knockout stages. This being said, expect the most heated competition and the highest skill caliber League of Legends has ever known not in the grand finals, but instead in the first match of the knockout stage.

With the second best team playing against SKT on Friday, May 19th, what should be a game for third and fourth place will be between G2 Esports and Team WE. Potentially, any of the teams that made it into groups has what it takes to make the match that will occur this Saturday, May 20th, a fiercely close competition. That being said, the match between G2 Esports and Team WE will still be one of close competition. However, it is unlikely that either of these two teams will stand a chance against the winner of SKT versus Flash Wolves.

A Better Tournament Style Means Better Games

A gauntlet-style competition not only makes each game of groups much more intense, as each team mus

TSM and Flash Wolves shake hands after their game. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

t compete for standings during the gauntlet-style knockout stages, but it also provides a more accurate way for each team to garner the appropriate rewards from the prize pool. With third and fourth place getting significantly less money than second place, a gauntlet-style competition would more accurately reassign this prize pool based upon how close one can get to taking down SKT T1, a team that has proven to be well and above the rest of the competition. Until then, variables such as TSM taking down Flash Wolves will prevent the most accurate portrayal of skill and will doom each team that enters the knockout stages in fourth place, regardless of their skill, relative to the second and third place teams.


Featured image courtesy of Riot Flickr

Pokesports II competitive Pokemon logo

Pokésports II: Not Quite There, Not Farfetch’d

Segue, I Choose You

Last time we established the impressive growth of eSports along with the power of the Pokémon brand. This time we will cover what competitive Pokémon entails and how that translates into a successful eSports brand. Or does it?

Pokemon "Psyduck" holds heads in hands and shrugs.

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Pikachu, Team Rocket, and Ash’s inability to win anything of significance are common Pokémon themes. These themes however, have little in common with the world of Competitive Pokémon Battling. Trainers in the real world spend hours developing tricks and strategies using the hundreds of available Pokémon. Forming teams of six to compete in varying levels of Tournaments. From local Premier Challenges, to massive International Championships, Trainers battle each other for a chance to compete at the annual World Championship.

A Wild Pokémon Appears

Before a Trainer can even think about battling, they must decide which six Pokémon will be on their team. Teambuilding involves deciding stat spreads, natures, and abilities for each Pokémon along with the four attacks to be used in battle. This process is crucial to success as a Trainer. Once a match begins, the choices made during Teambuilding will effect the Trainers options in battle and can have a major impact on matchups.

Pokemon and Construction Workers gather together and grimace.

Image courtesy of Game Freak

While a critical part of competitive play, Teambuilding can also be long and tedious, involving countless in-game hours breeding Pokémon and practicing with different strategies. The tedious time investment Teambuilding requires is often cited as a major reason aspiring Trainers abandon Competitive Pokémon. Worst yet, Teambuilding provides no actual benefit to spectators since it all happens behind the scenes. In the end, many Trainers come away feeling the many hours spent breeding and leveling Pokémon is a needless time sink that prevents access to high level competitive play.

In all fairness, TPCI has slowly worked to make it easier to train competitive teams; slowly is the key word. Streamlining Teambuilding, or creating an independent system for tournament play is truly needed to help grow the competitive scene.


Double, What’s Doubles!?

Zebstrika smashes head into wall.

Image courtesy of Tumblr

While playing the games or watching the anime, you might think Pokémon battles were one on one matches. You would be wrong. All officially sanctioned Pokémon matches are in the Doubles format. A Trainer brings a team of six Pokémon and picks four at the start of each match. Each Trainer then sends two Pokémon at a time on to the field. For many fans this is a major shock compared to what they know and love from the series.

While this disconnect from the traditional series can be startling, it is not without it’s benefits. Double Battles provide a fast-paced style of gameplay compared to Singles matches. Many new strategies also become viable when there are two Pokémon on the field together. These factors help keep matches fresh and moving swiftly. Working to build awareness of just what Doubles is could help build fan acceptance through further ingraining them into the soul of the brand.

Another interesting change that could take place in competitive Doubles is the introduction of two Trainer teams. As it stands now, one Trainer controls both Pokémon on their side of the field. If, however, TPCI incorporated teams of two Trainers, each controlling their own Pokémon, we could see some new and interesting dynamics appear.


See You at VGC

Play Pokemon banner

Image courtesy of Play Pokemon

TPCI sanctioned Pokémon tournaments are referred to collectively as VGC. Given Pokémon’s place as a global brand, it is a surprise how few people are actually aware VGC exists. During the VGC season, Trainers collect points at Premier Challenges, Midseason Showdowns, Regional Championships, and International Championships. Collect 400 of these points by the end of the season and you will be invited to compete at the World Championship. The tournament structure is rather straightforward, but not without its flaws.

Tournaments can be plagued with poor organization and rule enforcement. Matches involve two Trainers sitting on either side of a table in front of their respective 3DS’s with a judge off to one side. Gameplay is then streamed from one of the Trainers so that spectators can join in on the action. As you can imagine, many of these things do not make for exciting television. Revamping how Pokémon tournaments work and what they have to offer is an absolute must. Especially considering the most successful sport in the world, the NFL, makes the majority of its revenue through TV and TV related contracts.

Team Rocket's James being showered in Gold Coins

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Worst yet is what is at stake for each Trainer. The prize money awarded at the end of each tournament is a sad fraction of what it should be. In an effort to grow the competitive side of the Pokémon franchise, wealth needs to be shared with Professional Trainers. If TPCI showed the willingness to invest into its own competitive scene, sponsors would react in kind. Regardless, $5,000 and $10,000 first place prizes for major international tournaments is really a shame. You can do better TPCI.


What You See is What You Get

Viewership, it all boils down to viewership. Sports and eSports live and die by the viewership numbers they bring in. This is a place where Pokémon has a built in advantage. Its exposure around the world and ability to resonate with all age ranges is a huge boon as an aspiring eSport. Combine that with Pokémon’s ability to merchandise means some serious revenue potential.

While Pokémon is not lacking fans, viewership is one of the weaker aspects of the competitive Pokémon scene. There is only one thing responsible for the lack of competitive viewership, get ready for it. Competitive Pokémon is boring to watch. That’s right, I love you TPCI but this is the major hurdle that stands between the niche that competitive Pokémon maintains, and the runaway success it could be. That is not to say boring matches can’t be fixed.

Changes to the way matches work, such as two Trainer teams and shorter turn timers, could serve to alter match dynamics. Ultimately though, new approaches to broadcasting the matches are needed most. Being a Turn-based Strategy Game at its core, creative methods for animating action between turns and capturing that with exciting camera angles and transitions would serve to keep momentum building throughout matches. Add on exciting commentary to complete the package.

Pokemon battle in an arena between Bisharp and Emboar.

Image courtesy of Bulbagarden

Ultimately TPCI should work to make watching a Pokémon match more like sitting in an arena and watching powerful monsters battle, and less like watching two Trainers take turns picking what to do from one trainers perspective. If a dynamic, and exciting broadcast of exciting Pokémon matches can be achieved, fans will watch. The rest will be history.


Wrap It Up Will You

A massive fanbase and established competitive scene puts Pokémon in a great position as a potential eSport. The ability to attract young new fans, as well as merchandise, invites lucrative sponsorship potential. With these things in mind, TPCI must make some changes.

Making these changes could lead to a formula of success only seen in the traditional sports world though. Capitalize on this, TPCI, and you could redefine sports for generations.

Until next time Trainers.


Missed the first issue? Check it out! Pokesports: Power of a Brand and One Fans Plea


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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Gary Oak driving away.

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Na’Vi, CompLexity, SK Gaming & More Clash in Hearthstone Tournament

Event Taking Place September 5 – 9, to be Broadcast Live on Stream.Me

AUSTIN, TX – AUGUST 31, 2016 – Esports heavyweights Natus Vincere (Na’Vi), compLexity, SK Gaming, Team Virtus.pro and ANOX will vie for dominance in Deck Gauntlet 3, a Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft competition, battling it out for a share of the $5,000 prize pool.

The online tournament kicks off Monday, Sept. 5 and will conclude Friday, Sept. 9. All the action will be broadcast live via Stream.Me, a streaming platform that allows viewers to watch multiple players and casters simultaneously on one channel in up to 4K HD video at 60 frames-per-second. Users can also opt to hear audio from a single source or multiple channels and use a similar multi-chat feature that can combine several channels’ chatrooms into one.

The champion will take home a $2,000 grand prize. Other awards include $1,000 for the runner-up and $500 for both the third- and fourth-place finishers. Each team will also receive $200 for completing the group stage.


Teams and Players

  • Na’Vi – Xixo, Hoej
  • CompLexity – MrYagut, Crane, SuperJJ
  • SK Gaming – Powder, AKAWonder, Spo
  • pro – BunnyHoppor, DrHippi, Carry
  • ANOX – NickChipper, ShtanUdachi, Pawel


Tournament Schedule

  • Group Stage Day 1 – Monday, Sept. 5 at 18:00 CEST
  • Group Stage Day 2 – Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 18:00 CEST
  • Group Stage Day 2 – Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 18:00 CEST
  • Playoffs Day 1 – Thursday, Sept, 8 at 18:00 CEST
  • Playoffs Day 2 – Friday, Sept. 9 at 18:00 CEST

“With Hearthstone usually 1 vs. 1, you don’t get the chance to see who is essentially the best team in the world,” said SK’s Powder. “This time around, there is no shortage of amazing teams and players from around the world and we cannot wait to see how this event is going to be with the new and exciting format.”


About Stream.Me

Currently in beta, Stream.Me is a broadcasting platform based in Austin, TX that empowers viewers and streamers alike with the most advanced broadcasting technology. With up to 4K HD video running at 60 FPS and highly-customizable built-in features, like multi-stream and multi-chat, Stream.Me is bringing a new look to the traditional streaming experience.

For more information on Stream.Me, please visit: https://www.stream.me/


Hope you will join The Game Haus Hearthstone team in viewing this tournament, see you then!


The Game Haus Play Of The Week – 4/11/16

The NCAA Championship is the holy grail of college basketball. Athletes of college teams dream of the opportunity to join their team in the final game of the season. After all, it takes more than just a single person to guide their team there and a teams’ rank before the NCAA Tournament means absolutely nothing before that big game. Hence, the true meaning behind March Madness.
As teams start to advance within the tournament and fight for a spot in the final playoff game, it puts immense pressure on these talented athletes. It is here that the true and talented men of the NCAA shine through that edge their team to the next round. Those that get intimidated by such pressure, fall short and have to wait till next year. Nevertheless, it is surely a challenge to stay on top as teams’ communication will be tested and vital to their success.
The Villanova Wildcats are a pure example of that. I don’t have to tell you how close the game between Villanova and North Carolina was. In fact, with just seconds left, North Carolina was tied with Villanova 73-73. Expecting this championship game to go into overtime, Villanova got the ball back. As forward Kris Jenkins gets possession of the ball with the clock winding down, he gets a great look at the basket and shoots. He nails a three point buzzer beater to boost Villanova over North Carolina 77-73.
If you missed Kris Jenkins’ incredible shot, here it is in all of its glory:

If you would like to talk more about this incredible shot, come meet me and others in the forum.To nominate a play of the week, please post your entries on our FacebookTwitter or Instagram pages. Perhaps your selection will get chosen for next week’s “Play of the Week.”

Congrats to Total Sports Live for choosing this week’s play of the week.

Summing up what makes the Promotion Tournament stand out

The Promotion portion of the LCS season is something special. The 8th, 9th, and 10th place team in the league have to fight for their spot in the next split against the 1st, 2nd and 3rd team from Challenger.

Changes this split to the Promotion tournament have eliminated the tenth place team being automatically demoted, and has given them a chance to stay. The Promotion tournament takes place over three days. The format for the matches is best of five. Round one is a best of five between the ninth place LCS team and the second place Challenger team. The loser of this series is eliminated from contention. The second day, we see the eighth place LCS team play the winner of the first round match, and the first place team from Challenger play the 7th place LCS team with the winners of these series earning a spot in the LCS. The final round takes place between the two teams from day two who didn’t win. The winner of that series makes it to the LCS, with the losing team playing in Challenger.

Renegades, a team who went 6-11 in the LCS this season, played last summer in Challenger. (Image http://lol.esportspedia.com/wiki/File:LA_Renegades.png)

Renegades, a team who went 6-11 in the LCS this season, played last summer in Challenger. (Courtesy of esportspedia.com)

This Spring split, Renegades, Team Impulse and Team Dignitas will have to fight to stay in the LCS against the top two challenger teams, Team Dragon Knights and Apex Gaming. Before the rework, Team Dignitas would have been automatically demoted with Apex Gaming automatically advancing. Now, Dignitas has a chance to defend their spot while Apex Gaming has to fight their way in.

In Europe, the Promotion tournaments already happened and all of the LCS teams remained. Giants! Gaming cut it the closest, playing in 3 best of five series. The tenth place team, they played on day one and won, eliminating the second place Copenhagen Wolves. They then lost to Splyce on the second day, giving Splyce a spot in the Summer split. Then, the third day they faced Team Huma, who lost to ROCCAT the day before. Winning 3-1, Giants! reclaimed their spot in the EU LCS.

The promotion tournament as it played out. The LCS teams remained. (Image http://lol.gamepedia.com/2016_EU_LCS/Summer_Promotion)

The promotion tournament as it played out. The LCS teams remained. (Courtesy of gamepedia.com)

The new Promotion tournament is designed to do this. It even says it on the page on lolesports.com where it was announced. It was created to help “stabilize the LCS.” It is designed to keep the 10 LCS teams in, and the Challenger teams out.

Some of the reaction of this was negative, but I don’t see it that way. The LCS teams should have the advantage when it comes to staying in, after all they already worked to get that spot. They should be given the edge to keep it. If the Challenger teams want to get in with the big boys then they can win a few games.

Think about how unique of a concept the Relegation/Promotion is. This is really the only setting where something like this could work. Think about the rosters. There are ten teams of five, plus they’ll carry one or two substitutes. That means that the whole LCS is somewhere around 60 players. That is less than one football team, and it’s around 5 NBA teams.

There are great players out there who aren’t in the LCS. There is no possible way that the gap between the stars of the LCS and the stars of Challenger is that big. Not when the LCS has so few players. Plus, the players are all split up into defined roles. You’re telling me that the top ten jungle players on the North America server are the ten junglers in the LCS right now? That could not possibly be true, one of them is Crumbz. It is not unreasonable to think that the best player on the server in a certain role is in Challenger. This gives that player the fast track to the LCS.

Sorry Crumbz (Image taken from Worlds Season 5 VOD on lolesports.com)

Sorry Crumbz (Image taken from Worlds Season 5 VOD on lolesports.com)

Also, they are not geographically based, as much as I would love a world where the Cleveland Browns are in the minor leagues where they belong, robbing Cleveland of an NFL franchise would have too much of an impact on the city as a whole. However, the only thing an LCS team being demoted affects is that team. They all play in the same building, they all play on the same days. There are no home or away teams. This is truly the only sporting league in the United States where this could happen.

It’s amazing. I love every second of it. It is my favorite part of the LCS. Plus, once a team is 0-5 or 1-7, this will be the hardest game they play all split. Once they throw in the towel for the regular season, they’ll start scouting the top Challenger teams and begin preparing for this event. Will they have another chance in the LCS? Or will they have to go down to Challenger and climb back up? The revisions to the Promotion tournament have proven to keep the LCS teams in the LCS in Europe, we will have to wait and see what effect this has on the North American server.

Making the waters a little more attractive: The big stuctural changes that eSports needs to make if it wishes to attract investors

In our last article we discussed the disproportion of eSports, given its viewership (and its relative young-ness) it should be growing at a much larger rate than it currently is. I believe that one of the two major problems impeding eSports proper growth is this: the inability for franchises, or to put another way, that teams rise and fall from even competing too easily. It’s difficult to want to put serious investment, particularly from a sponsor’s point of view, in a team that within a few months may very well never see competitive play again. The next and final part of this series will discuss the last impediment, intricately related to this one, in that eSports merchandise is so far behind that of traditional sports. Now let’s dive right into this issue, as it’s a bigger one than it might appear to be.

Creating a franchise in a lot of current titles of eSports is rough. Aside from League of Legends, most eSports scenes are running on Major tournament circuit. I’ll deal with this issue in the later part of this article, but for now let’s just say that big investors will be weary of sponsoring teams who may not even make it into the next major tournament. Franchises, too, are members of a (e)Sports league and always will be there. For sure certain teams will always be at Major tournaments, it’s hard to imagine a Major tournament in CSGO without Fnatic or Virtus.Pro, or a Dota 2 Major without Evil Genuises. But most aspiring teams can’t dream of competing at that caliber of play, let alone starting up franchises in their current positions.

It says something when the sponsor logo is bigger than the team logo.

It says something when the sponsor logo is bigger than the team logo.

So what does this mean in the larger picture of eSports economic impact? Well, unlike in sports, where the thought of the Premiere League without Manchester United, or of the NHL without the Montreal Canadians, seems completely out of the realm of possibility, in the world of eSports big teams have been repeatedly knocked out of leagues by lower tier teams. In the LCS we see this all the time: SK Gaming, once considered the second best team in EU and the proud dancing partner of Fnatic in El Classico, is no more (the LCS, that is). CLG, one of NA’s most storied teams, also almost faced relegation. The fact is that even these well-established teams still are not guaranteed the same kind of status as major sports teams are, that is, that they will still be kicking, even if they have a bad split.

Insane viewership means insane revenue from advertisement and sponsorship.

Insane viewership means insane revenue from advertisement and sponsorship.

But what’s the big problem with this? Well, sponsorship works on the basis that the team sponsored will be seen playing in the biggest leagues/tournaments. The viewership difference between the LCS and the CS in League, the difference between an ESL or Dreamhack tournament against lower tier tournaments, is insane. It goes from 100,000’s to 10,000’s. And that’s huge for sponsors. Think of the costs for advertisements in the NFL. Those ads are because of the viewership, of the exposure of their brand. The same goes for sponsors for football (soccer) teams in Europe. There’s a reason Chevrolet pays the huge sponsor price to be placed front and center on Manchester United’s jersey. People are going to see it. But this doesn’t happen if that team is relegated to a vastly less viewed league.

But most eSports work on a highly contingent and short-sighted framework now. Teams scramble to fix troubles, usually by looking to talent elsewhere or cracking down on players, if they lose in a Major tournament because there isn’t time to build up that team. We see this in NA CSGO all the time, the constant shuffle of talent trying to find the right ‘clique.’ Instead of teams being given the chance to work together, to foster talent and teamwork, we are faced with them throwing together a bunch of good players and hoping it works. This is directly caused, in my opinion, by the fact of the constant pressure for short-term success that eSports’ current systems require of teams.

What does it matter if a team could, after a year of playing together, improve dramatically if that team is never given the funding or even the opportunity to do so? This is why we see, in CSGO at least, bigger teams hold onto rosters for longer, while tier 2-3 teams seem to constantly shuffle. The risk of changing players for a tier 1 team is huge: if the gamble doesn’t pay off, it could be the downward spiral into non-relevancy. And the same is said for tier 2-3 teams. The gamble is risky, but worth it if it works out (think ex-G2 eSports, now FaZe), where you managed to get a winning mixture of solid talent. Or, maybe acquiring that one star player that clicked with the overall team changes it enough to make it into the next Major tournament, and ultimately the breakout into tier-1ship. Instead of having the ‘luxury’ of the top teams, who can rest on their laurels so to speak, and build and grow together as a team, lower tiered teams are constantly shuffling, hoping to find the right mixture to make their breakout. And this is hostile to investments in lower teams that can have big turnarounds.

Alright, so far we’ve talked more about eSports growing on the talent/quality side and less about the money. But these two are intricately related. Because of this inconsistency within eSports, fair weathering, where someone is a fan of a team only because they are currently doing well and will leave once they aren’t, is almost forced on them. Who wants to watch as their favourite team spirals into insignificance, because they aren’t able to crack into a Major? Major tournaments almost force fair weather fans, because only (usually) the top 8 teams make it into the real testing grounds of best of 3’s. This means that fans are typically galvanized to current favourites, and this means too that sponsors need to do the same.

Nobody really cares about watching tier 2-3 teams play each other, which means that sponsorship of those teams is going to be lower than, say, tier 1 teams. But even tier 1 teams aren’t excused from having falls from grace, which only increases investor apprehension. A deadly storm of instability caused by relatively shifting eSports scenes, particularly in Major tournament circuit styles, alongside the fact that fans only want to follow the best of the best, and not building up a team allegiance, make investing too risky for a guaranteed payoff. Why invest massive money into a team that within a six month slump might dissolve, particularly where fans follow players more than teams in a lot of cases.

The nature of investment is taking a risk of buying into something with the prospect of it growing well beyond your initial investment. To put another way, it’s like planting an apple seed knowing that you’ll harvest the fruits of your labour later. But the current environment of eSports is, to put it bluntly, hostile to this kind of investment. Why invest in an environment who won’t have any interest in your apple tree because it isn’t producing fruit right after you plant it? eSports’ current state favours short-term strength over franchise building, and we see this from multiple angles. It’s hostile to teams growing slowly and collectively, because if those teams can’t make it into the major tournaments they’re almost doomed to obscurity. It’s also hostile to this kind of growth because fans tend to be much more flighty or player focused, preferring to either cheer for the winning team or for their favourite player over a franchise.

The Leafs struggle to be relevant is almost caricature and yet they're still one of the most profitable NHL teams.

The Leafs struggle to be relevant is almost caricature and yet they’re still one of the most profitable NHL teams.

But why is this impeding eSports proper growth? Well, investors can’t invest in such contingently natured things. You can’t invest, say, in CLG and essentially in Doublelift, just to have him leave the next split, go to rival organization TSM, and lose a portion of your fanbase (and, thus, viewership too) over such a relatively small off-season change. All of a sudden the value of the team drops. Will it recover? That’s the real question. But, more truthfully, will it recover quick enough to remain relevant. Sports teams lose their star players, have horrible seasons (or decades, if you’re a Leafs fan), but still retain fans, and thus are still sound investments. eSports, in its current competitive state, just doesn’t allow those kinds of things to happen, for the main reasons of fair weathering and inconsistent competitive play.

How do we fix this problem then? Well, I’m going to be quite bold here and state this: cut the tournament circuit crap and relegations. “But,” the scene will cry, “this is what the scene wants! This makes it so the most competitive players are playing!” I don’t think so. I’ve seen too many upsets in group stages, too many best of 1’s lost online qualifying for Majors to take this statement seriously. Sure, the scene has thrived, up until now, on that principle. But I don’t think it’s sustainable for players and teams. Fans might love it, it sure creates very intense games that have us on the edge of our seats, but it doesn’t allow the scene to grow in investors eyes.

I’ll tackle both things separately: we need to reconsider tournament circuit style eSports. Why? Well, because many teams are left with big question marks over their heads if they’re not in the top 8 (of 16) teams (thinking Counter Strike here). Will they qualify next time around? Will they be able to make a significant run in the tournament if they do? The problem with this style is it almost promotes short-term thinking on multiple levels. First, learning how to play an off-meta map really well has gotten teams into Majors over (possibly?) stronger teams who didn’t practice on that map, knowing it would never make it through the ban phase at the actual major. It also means that players and organizations are always looking to improve their teams, usually in raw talent or possible synergy kinds of ways. This creates a fluid state for most tier 2-3 teams, and one that is just too risky for investors.

So what would we replace this with? Well, looking around to most major sports that make a lot of money, league systems are what they do. It’s almost painfully obvious. But league formats are very costly to implement and start up, and also create a kind of monopoly that tournament organizers will be up and arms in (and thus also mobilize the community around too). But this will have the long-term effect that most fans want, that is, bigger and better production, discussion, and most importantly competition. The consistency of play, in league formats, allows teams to grow together, but also to be given just as much opportunity to repeatedly play against their peers. The best practice is against those who are better than you so you can learn from your mistakes and come back stronger the next time. But tournament circuits don’t allow this, if you lose once you may never have a chance to play again for months, or maybe ever. The stress is then on winning, not growing.

Okay, so Virtus.Pro seems to be doing alright for finding investors...

Okay, so Virtus.Pro seems to be doing alright for finding investors…

Investors don’t care about winning, they care about growing their money investment. This means that, say, investing in a smaller team that might have potential, that you can grow and mold around some untapped talent within it, or even just make it into a greater teamwork/synergy team than others, becomes a possibility. Sure, now that team is 9th out of a 10 team league, but with the proper management, they can grow into a 6th place team, and maybe even continue upwards after that. It’s not about having the best team for investors: it’s about finding the potential in teams, to grow that and create more money. Same goes for sponsors. Sponsors don’t need the best team to be viewed, they just need to be a consistently ok team to maintain a good record and possibly be seen in playoffs to be a sound investment.

League systems also are better as they work towards a playoff slowly and give ample time and opportunity for teams to prove themselves worthy. It’s not about getting lucky and winning two games in a row in a best of one format, it’s about consistently out performing other teams. But this is key because viewership tends to be much higher the deeper a team gets in a playoff series. A lot of eSports high viewership comes in the finals of tournaments, not so much in the lead up to it (although those numbers are still nothing to shrug at). Investors might see the potential in a 9th place team making it into playoffs and see the potential growth of that investment when and if they do. With tournament circuits this is a much higher risk, with arguably the same possible outcome. Which system fosters, then, this kind of investment better? I think I’ve made a case for league formats.

The next point with league formats that would need to be considered is the relegation system within them. Yes, relegation works great, and has brought some of the best teams in the LCS ever (think Cloud 9’s record in their first NA split.) But relegations also mean that those 9th place teams are always at risk of the same problem found in tournament circuits. If they can’t pull it around and climb their way out of relegation threats, then there’s a chance we’ll never hear of them again. Nobody wants to be investing in a team that’ll never be heard of again. Now, I’m not quite convinced that relegations should be removed entirely, particularly with how fledgling eSports still is. I think having a robust ‘relegation’ league is important. But, as the scene grows, relegation might want to be something that is eventually dropped entirely. Think about it this way: regardless of how bad (currently) that 10th place team is, it doesn’t matter. They’re a spot in the most stable, coveted eSport ever (whatever that may be). All of a sudden that team becomes an investment of huge potential. If you can turn them around, then you have just gotten a great team at a low cost (because of their rank). and if that doesn’t work, well, you can still sell the spot/team for a huge turnout because that’s the only way into the league. You want in, you pay my (the investor or owner of the team) price.


Removing relegations also helps with the problem of thinking in longer term mentality. Sure, that team might be 10th place again the next split. But with proper management, infrastructure and scouting for talent to replace weaker members, owners constantly have the chance to breakout. Instead of thinking, “lets assemble a super team of talent not in use,” they can actually build a team, helping to foster each player and replacing ones who are still problematic. It alleviates the constant pressure of having to prove themselves right now. There are plenty of teams in major leagues of sports that one wouldn’t have invested in, because of their standing years ago, but all of a sudden are top contenders to take it all. Being from Toronto, look no further than the Toronto Blue Jays for a case in point. The mania that surrounded that team as they made their first playoff appearance in a long while, was insane, and more importantly the merch sales too.

So what are I am saying here? We need to consider eSports as being hostile towards investors because of its short-sighted nature currently, and attempt to give it the potential to develop and grow over time. Investors will invest in short-term things, of course, but mostly if those have the chance for big return, which, currently, eSports does not. We need to open up for longer term investments. I’ve attempted to make a case for how to change this, that is, by removing the tournament circuit style so prevalent in eSports into a league system modeled off existing leagues, and then once this is established remove relegations or make them not as harsh as they currently are. In my next article I’ll be discussing how all of this leads to the difference in merchandise possibilities, a massive source of revenue for sports and a largely and massively lacking element in eSports.