The International 5 competition structure analysis

As The International 5 is underway, let’s talk about its complex structure and the way it handles performances, elimination and other matters.image

Let’s be honest: last year International was a mess to follow: regional qualifiers, last chance tournament, round robin, double playoff, main bracket, all intricated with one another.

For the 5th iteration of its grand tournament, Valve made things simpler, but retained the multiple phases format. Here’s our break down on these choices:

Open Qualifiers (NA, EU, CN, SEA)

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  • Up to 1024 teams
  • Single Elimination bracket
  • Match format: Best of One
  • The winner is qualified for Main Regional Qualifier

Toornament’s notes: the first step to The International is a brutal welcome. Hundreds of opponents and no misstep allowed!

The combination of “Single elimination bracket” and “Best of 1 Matches” is really steep, but what choice do you have, when thousands of competitors around the world want and can take part in it?

This format is very time efficient, but should never be picked for any advanced stage of your competition.

Regional Qualifiers (NA, EU, CN, SEA)

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  • 10 teams
  • Group stage : 2 groups of 5
  • Double elimination bracket: Top team of each group enters through the
  • Winner bracket, 2nd team enters the Loser bracket
  • Match format: Best of 3, except for the Finals in Best of 5
  • Winner is qualified for the Wildcard tournament.

Toornament’s Notes: Classic structure. The limited number of participants allow for a double structure format, the classic “Group to Playoff”. This allows a good amount of matches and the right balance of forgiveness when a competitor stumbles.

The only twist here is that your group performance weighs more than usual on the rest of the competition, as the 2nd ranked in the group directly goes to the Loser bracket, instead of entering the Main bracket with a low seed. This method will be used throughout the whole competition.

The Wild Card

  • 4 teams
  • Double Elimination Bracket
  • Match format: Best of 3
  • Top 2 teams advance to the Main Event
  • Bottom 2 teams are eliminated

Toornament’s notes: A small, quick competition qualifying the two last teams for the Main Event. This phase wasn’t necessary, as the organizer could just have invited 12 teams instead of 14 and qualified the 4 winners of the Regional Qualifiers.

We think it’s a good way to start the Main Event with an appetizer, and a perfect rehearsal for the admin, streaming and casting teams.

Main Event – Group Stage

  • 16 teams
  • 2 groups of 8
  • Round Robin: Everybody plays each other within a group
  • Match format: 2 games. 2-0 earns 3 points, 1-1 earns 1 point, 0-2 earns 0 points
  • The top 4 teams of each group enter the main Bracket, the Bottom 4 teams of each group enter the Loser Bracket

Toornament’s notes: This is The International specialty: a huge amount of 112 matches being played in the course of 4 days. Still, the largest phase of the competition doesn’t eliminate anyone.

The rankings it produces are purely Seed intended, as everyone will go to the next phase no matter what. Again, Valve leans toward the “top to the winner bracket, bottom to the loser bracket” method.

We thus feel that this phase is very forgiving for everyone and that the organizers want to give as much chances as possible to every participant. We wouldn’t expect less from the most anticipated Esport tournament of the year.

Main Event – Playoff

  • 16 teams
  • Double Elimination bracket
  • Match format: Best of 3, except the Grand Finals using Best of 5 and the Loser Bracket Round 1 using Best of 1

Toornament’s notes: The last phase of The International 5 follows the ever popular Double Elimination Bracket, adding two modifications to the original model: at the very end, the Grand Final is a Best of 5 match, instead of a set of Best of 3 matches, where the competitor coming from the Loser Bracket has to “reset” the Finals by winning a first Best of 3, whereas the competitor from the Winner Bracket just needs one set to win it all.

At the very beginning of the tournament, Valve has left a steep Loser Bracket 1st round for the bottom competitors. This round is played in a Best of 1 match, meaning a swift elimination for 4 of the bottom teams.

We do understand this decision – Group Stage rankings must come with a price, or no teams will be motivated to really perform, or show their strategies and best moves.

Final Wrap Up

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The International is really one of a kind. Its much hyped, crowdfunded money prize is the talk of the town, but its competition structure is worth a look. Valve went with a very unique way to treat its competitors, going from brutal phases to more forgiving ones

The fact that all the teams play a lot of matches over an extended period says one thing for us: The International is a massive competition, but also a massive  celebration of DOTA 2 as a game, a community and an Esport discipline.

The generous amount of matches reminds us the NBA league, where the fans get plenty of show and exciting moments. The extended length of the competition – 2 weeks from the start of the Wild Card to the Finals of the Main Event – leans toward the World Cup (4 weeks), which gives time for everyone to celebrate.

As a tournament organizer, you should take notes from The International. There are great ideas (we haven’t even talked about All-star matches, 1v1, media days, days off etc.) to keep in mind, but also lessons you should take as a warning. The main one being that The International is a huge event with huge resources. Valve did a good a job to size the need for their phases, but few people and companies can afford the millions of dollars needed.

All in all, always think about your competitors and the audience experience! The right balance between the amount of matches, the timeframe and people’s endurance will be key to your success. Share with us your ideal Tournament structure and in the meantime, let’s enjoy The International 5!

Why you should add new games to your Esport event

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The incoming Nintendo shooter, “Splatoon”, is designed with competition in mind.

We all know Esport is nowadays driven by a few chosen games : League Of Legends, DotA, Counter Strike, Hearthstone, Call of Duty, Street Fighter and such. Those major disciplines are followed by a pack of underdogs : Smite, Super Smash Bros, EA Sports games, World of Tanks etc.

But their numerous Esport compliant games with a little, but active community. We recently saw a huge “Arma 3” match and Nintendo is driving it’s newest IP “Splatoon” as a friendly, but highly competitive shooter.

As a tournament organizer, should focus your ressources on popular and known games, or give their chance to new  one ?

We support the later, for 5 reasons :

1. Easier to get to the community and publisher

Getting support from a game community or publisher may be a hard task, as everyone are close to harrass them for some attention, support or money. New or minor but promising games are on the other begging for attention and events. Getting to them will then a much easier process.

2. Money

Working on a new game can also bring great opportunities, as the game publisher will have some budget to spend on adds (media) and special operations (you). Bring a well thought pitch deck and your “new game” tournament won’t take ressources aways from your “main games” tournaments. It may even earn you some money.

3. Variety
If your tournament boasts several games, it’s always a good thing throw heavy contenders and rookie in the mix. Variety is an underrated value in Esport tournaments and Olympics are a great example of how major and minor disciplines benefit each other – and ultimately, benefit the event awareness.

4. Room for innovation
Well established games often rhymes with conservative tournaments. Groupstages to simple/double elimination playoffs are the staple in Esport tournaments, with few alternative structures. Some games like Heartstone, have their own format but again (i.e “Conquest”), but it’s still hard to chose another path. Fresh games are the perfect playground for fresh tournament structures and scoring system. Grab the opportunity !

5. “Small risk / hi reward” bet
Trying to support a new game may be seen as a risk and in a way, it is. It’s up to you to limit that risky part of the bet. Don’t invest in money prize (or let the publisher / sponsor take care of this), invite a limited amount of participants and try to squeeze the logistics requirement into manageable volume by your admin team.

As Toornament already support more than 70 Esport disciplines, we hope you’ll request us to support more !

Esport is growing, Disney / HTC / Besiktas / KeSPA edition

In a recent post about

what we expect for Esport in 2015

, new sponsors were one of our key points. More money and more recognition never hurts. Wishes came true these last days, with some new actors involved in Esport, from HTC to Disney…

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HTC gets a triple kill in LoL

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We wrote earlier that one of the main goal for Esport this year would be to attract sponsors outside the gaming industry. The past years have seen some interesting partnerships, but most ended being one shots. Now comes HTC. The Taiwanese smartphone company may be jumping into gaming this year with a new product. To show its longterm dedication, HTC striked not one but three sponsorship deals with major League Of Legends teams :

Cloud 9

Team Solo Mid

Team Liquid

Those deals focus on the North American LoL scene, showing some insight from a traditionalist sponsor which we haven’t seen before. Also worth noting the wording used by the team : “premium” a “long term” shows that we’re not dealing with some kind of one shot or gear giveaway for some shoutouts.

Besiktas football, basketball, handball and volleyball club adds LoL

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One of the largest sports club in mid-East, Turkish organisation

Besiktas JK

, just added a League Of Legends team, along with its soccer, basketball, hand ball and volley ball rosters.

Aces High is a turkish LoL team

which recently took part in the IEM Cologne. Linking an Esport club to a sport club has always been a long time and logical Esport fantasy, but this happening with a major international sports team (Besiktas soccer and basketball teams are quite renowned on the international scene) adds more weight to the deal. Here again, symbol matters more than any actual figures.

Korea closes the gap between Esport and Olympic Games

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Korea remains one of the most advanced country for all things Esports. We just learned that the local Esport authority, the famous

 KeSPA, has gotten e-sports accepted into the 2nd level of the Olympic Committee

. This means that Esport now required one last step to be integrated into the Olympic disciplines pool. Esport is 20 years old now, but its craziest dreams from the early days are about to come true.

Disney’s new teenage sensation goes Esport

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Last, but not least, Disney. The company behind Pixar, Marvel, Lucas and well, Disney, is also a juggernaut in the teenagers content industry, with hits such as High School Musical and Violetta. The new kid on the block is no other than a profesional gamer. From (another Disney’s) TV Show “Jessie”, Cameron Boyce will also star in a new show broadcasted on gaming/anime channel Disney XD.

“Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything”

follows “

a teenage professional video game player who circumvents life’s challenges using his gaming acumen

”.
But the most interesting part of this show lies in the (pro)gamer status treatment. Gamers characters have long been depicted as losers climbing from the bottom (I have no friends etc.) to the top (I’m finally cool, even tho I’m a gamer).
“GGPME” work the other way around. The hero here is an established cyber athlete, living the glamorous life of an Esport star until a thumb injury throws him back to “normal” life. We expect some stereotypes here and there, but the pitch itself shows a new step in Esport and gamers recognition : According to Disney, being a pro gamer is cool. This may look trivial to you, but this “bold” take on the matter may influence millions of kids – and their parents.

9 Esport trends we expect in 2015

As 2014 went down as a great year for Esport, 2015 may lead us to even higher levels of recognition, audience, sponsorship and of course, great moments : more games, more countries, consoles, women, production values… Take a look at our 9 trends for this year.

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1. The consoles real awakening

If consoles represent the largest slices of the gaming industry, they’ve remain a minor force in Esport. Of course, Call of Duty, and FIFA and Destiny are selling millions and can count on a large user base. Fighting games are at home on consoles more than on PCs. There are numerous competitions, champions. But nothing as big – money wise and audience wise – as PC Esports disciplines. Why do consoles trails so far behind ?

Reasons range from technical and financial hurdles to regularly update games, no Free 2 Play major titles or limited streaming options. Things may change with this generation of consoles, as Microsoft and Sony have finally understood the huge benefits of long term, ever evolving, strong community backed games.
Of course PS4 and XBox One boasts direct stream to Twitch. But the most important feature may lie in the new publishing deals, allowing developers to update and enrich their game without having to pay each time and thus, having one major update once in a year – think Street Fighter IV, here.

Consoles needs to play catch up with PC, but they’ve finally understood and may hold the real explosion for Esport in the next years. They already had the great games, they just need to become just as great as platforms.
 
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2. Less financial turmoils

Most of the dramas occurring on the Esport scene are about players being out of a team and money. As more and more dollars are pouring into Esport through growing money prizes, contracts and sponsorship, the Esport scene still looks like a far west movie. Unpaid cashprizes, team going down because of one sponsor’s off the deal, managers running away with the money they’re supposed to collect for their players, the lack of proper contracts…
One of Esport main effort this year should  be about legal and financial supporting document, made available to anyone – with some wiki for basic knowledge and customisation of those documents.
 
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3. Emerging countries

Right now, Esport is a global phenomenon with a few leading territories : North America, Europe, CIS, China and Korea. Some countries may nonetheless rise this year. We’ve kept an eye on the Japanese scene, which has always been notorious for its talented players, especially on the fighting games scene. The PC scene, yet minor, is growing with the first DOTA 2 and League Of Legends professional teams.
Japan’s status on Esport is tightly linked to consoles status on Esport, as gaming PC is very rare there. We expect Japan to grow steadily over the next years. Large countries such as India are also showing strong commitment signs, with more and more tournaments and players. Esport needs to evolve beyond the classic US-EU-SEA triumvirat to become a real global phenomenon.
 
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4. Crowdfunding for everyone

Valve blew people’s minds and wallets with the The International 3. The way people could fun the cashprize and get away with great content proved to be  a huge hit. Last year International gathered close to $11M (Valve started with $1.6M), paving the way to a new generation of community backed tournament. So far, most have been a success. Most are DOTA 2, but Hirez Studios Smite World Championship went over the $2.5M mark. There may be some failure and excesses along the way, but this business model is headed to a bright future.
We’re working hard on Toornament to bring this crowdfunding mechanics to all our users.
 
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5. FGC joins the family

Esports and Fighting Game Community had a long love / hate relationship. Long (and numerous) stories short, the FGC never felt like it belonged or wanted to belong with the PC Esport scene and business model and thus, developed a strong community sense that both held it together and closed it to the other communities.
Last months have shown encouraging signs, with the best fighters being drafted in major Esport teams, streaming and so on. With Capcom’s Street Fighter V poised for the end of this year or 2016 on both PS4 and PC, the shift everyone was hoping for may be finally happening.
Fighting games are amongst the most spectacular, skill demanding and audience understandable Esport discipline and they deserve to be top tier disciplines.
 
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6. More new games and mid-sized communities

As the video game industry and culture have spawn numerous great games, Esport should reflect this depth. We all know that you can’t fully dedicate yourself to many Esports disciplines, but maybe give a try to other games, along with your main. LoL, CS and Hearthstone may reign supreme, but other deserves attention and involvement.
The case for more games also lead to more opportunities for developers and modders to try new things and keep Esport disciplines pool fresh and new.
 
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7. Female champions

Ah, the neverending topic. Women and Esports is a heated debate, as everyone thought Esport would erase the physical differences between men and women. For others reasons, Esport progamers are huge majority of guys. Why the lack of girls ? We won’t try to answer on this post. But 2015 may see the rise of women champions in a non female dedicated tournament. Scarlett has paved the way and progamers like MagicAmy won big Hearthstone tournament recently.
It’s a matter of time and dedication and finding the right talent at the right game, but a woman winning a major tournament – and remain in the top tier players for some time could be a huge boost and eye opener for Esport enthusiasts and neophytes alike.
 
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8. Generalist / sports sponsors

Something we love about the LCS : Coca Cola and American Express as premium sponsors. Esport needs here to put emphasis on the “sport”, more than on the “e”. Every gaming company is now onboard with Esport but our culture needs to grow wider. It’s more than gaming, it thus should attract more than gaming sponsors. Generalist sponsors would mean higher credibility, new audience, more money. Time to mail Nike, Starbucks and L’Oreal. 
 
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9. Production Value

It’s been one of the buzzwords lately, even tho few really get it. “Production values” means everything tournament organizers put to make a good show on site and online. More cameras, more casters, inbetween matches content, analysis, nice main stages, stream overlays etc.
As tournaments production value is going up as the time and iteration goes by, it shall be noted that the tournament itself isn’t enough nowadays. In 2015, Esport enthusiasts expect more. More entertainment, more content, more show. Production value, they call it.
And – surprise – this is where we kick in. We’re hard working at Toornament to empower with all the most critical tools to run perfect and spectacular tournaments !

When Esport schedules need an agenda

In the past few days, the DOTA 2 Esport agenda got quite busy, with the reveal of 4 major tournaments : Dreamhack Summer, joinDOTA League with MLG, ESL One and Valve’s very own International 5 qualifiers.

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But the announcements were not met with the expected hype and cheers. They even were welcomed with a negative feeling : all those great events will happen in the same month of June, making it hard for teams to attend them all and fans to follow them all, while the rest of the year suddenly feels empty of major events.

This June, 4 major DOTA 2 events will collide :

Dreamhack Summer

  • June 13th-16th
  • (announced August 14th 2014)
  • Elmia, Jönköping, Sweden

MLG joinDOTA League

  • June 26th-28th
  • (announced December 4th 2014)
  • est. USA

ESL One

  • June 20th-21st
  • (announced August 12th 2014)
  • Frankfurt, Germany

The International 5

  • Qualifiers est. June 7th-14th
  • (announced December 15th 2014)
  • est. Seattle, USA

And we’re just talking about the ones we know as of today. As this situation already happened last year, the community, from fans to pro gamers like EternalEnvy, got upset.

On the organizers’ side, things a more complicated. Schedules conflicts are no new stuff. Finding, booking and getting a correct time and a free slot for an event location, dealing with all other events using those locations, from sports, to live music, to conferences etc. The right days are scarce.

Still, a tournament could be Jeopardized, if no top tier team shows up. Would attend or support Dreamhack Summer, if all the best teams are on the other side of the globe, trying to qualify for the much larger International 5 ?

As long as Esport agenda is made by independant organizers dealing with their own and without concertation, we might witness some more tournament traffic jams.

Each Esport discipline should find a way to build and tune its season, like Tennis does with the ATP circuit, spreading the major tournaments across the year.

In the meantime, let’s hope June doesn’t become a DOTA overdose.