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.

Why Street Fighter V should be more like DOTA 2

Freshly announced and already hotly anticipated, Capcom’s Street Fighter V already face snumerous challenges.

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Since 2008’s Street Fighter IV, the gaming, multiplayer and Esport landscapes have dramatically changed : free to play, community market place, streams are now setting the benchmark for any serious contender.

Whereas Capcom has only told as few as possible, speculations and expectations are going wild online. We think there’s a simple way to follow, for “SFV” to become a great Esport discipline : make a “Valve’s DOTA 2”.

The Seattle giant didn’t reinvent the game, but did revamp the whole experience around the game. The move, bold, proved itself with great results.

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Here are the key points Street Fighter V needs to check on its bucket list to become the true next gen Esport fighting game, all provided by the work and lessons from DOTA 2.

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FREE TO PLAY

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We won’t explain this business model (it’s 2014) and just name the dominant titles in Esport : League Of Legends, DOTA 2, Hearthstone and Counter Strike : Global Offensive. The three first are all Free To Play, when the later can be regularly found under $5.

Street Fighter, as an AAA title, seems to be aimed for a $70/PS4 $50/PC release price, but it shouldn’t. Sustainability is a critical goal for any Esport game, and this can’t be better helped than with massive amount of players, and constant waves of newcomers.

Street Fighter and its major updates sold 6,4M copies over the past 5 years, which is great, but not enough. This number could go through the roof should the game be free, or sold under $15. Namco Bandai’s own Tekken Revolution has shown the way of Free To Play, but the game is still too much leaning toward Pay To Win.

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VANITY BUSINESS

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DOTA 2 stands out from its peers, by offering a true Free To Play offer : every single gameplay element of the game is free and available to everybody. Which means that the only paid DLCs are all about vanity : new skins, effects, HUDs, load screens, loot items, stages, musics andwhat have you. At first sight, it might hurt Capcom’s revenues compared to paid new characters, but DOTA 2 showed that equal game experience for every players unifies the community and make them more willing to spend on cosmetic items.

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MONTHLY TECHNICAL AND GAMEPLAY UPDATES

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Street Fighter IV has proven to be a headache for each major update. Its technologic and business models weren’t designed for regular, minor updates like minor nerfs and buffs. Those are critical to keep a game balanced and free from OP techniques and characters.

Riot went a step further with League Of Legends, by changing the whole metagame between each season, making the game brand new and thus maintaining its interest.

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COMMUNITY MARKETPLACE

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The Street Fighter PC Community has proven itself very creative and active, when it comes touser generated content: tons of high quality skins, mods and such. And this, without any official support from Capcom whatsoever. Let’s imagine now what would happen if creators were to be rewarded. Street Fighter’s depth would exponentially expand.

Nowadays, Valve gets a huge 75% chunk of any dollar spend in community market, a multi million dollar business. We know Capcom is in a dire financial situation, and this could be a sustainable way to adress this issue.

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FLEXIBLE 3D ENGINE

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Valve just announced its new engine (Source 2 ?) for next year. According to the developer, the main goal behind this heavy switch is to make it easier to create special mods and skins – think about all the DOTA 2 special events like Frostivus, or Arcana class skins. Street Fighter V’s own engine is rumored to be the Unreal Engine 4, a wildly adopted and praised engine, which should act like a nice playground for the modding community and the Capcom’s developers alike.

Street Fighter’s incoming Omega mode should be easy to code in Street Fighter environment.

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BETTER LEARNING EXPERIENCE

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While Street Figher IV offered some nice training options with training mode and character challenges, it didn’t go beyond those features. Eventhough a MOBA requires an incredible amount of base knowledge and training, Street Fighter V should offer the same level of support and welcoming solutions for beginners. Community guides, tips, advanced training options, replays analysis… All this, ingame.

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ADVANCED SPECTATING AND BROADCASTING TOOLS

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Let’s face it : Street Fighter sucks for everything broadcasting. No ingame spec, and the Youtube share feature is a mess. DOTA TV is a benchmark in video games. Being able to follow a gamer from different view points, with several casters options makes a great spectating experience.

Streaming is now a huge part of a game’s promotion and evangelism and Street Fighter need to hop on the hype train.

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RICH STATISTICS

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We love stats, you love stats, everybody does. What is the most banned hero ? How many wards are bought each games ? Where do most of the kills happen ? Under the trivia bliss, stats help understand a game and its metagame. Street Fighter would be great to analyse and understand with all those datas : heatmap, most used combos and of course, objective tier lists…

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CONSISTANT, STRONG ESPORT INVOLVEMENT

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Next year, Capcom will support its Pro Tour, with $1M. It’s a nice effort, and the publisher has to keep on investing. Riot and Valve have proved that an inhouse developed Esport tournament is the right way. Numerous, pro tier tournaments are the backbone of a game Esport existence. Capcom has to level up its game to make Street Fighter an Esport must play, must watch. More tournaments and tighter control over the experience are mandatory for a Street Fighter V Pro Tour.

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BETS

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Money matches are a deep rooted tradition within the Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom community (just Google “Salty Suite”), sometimes bringing more hype and “salt” than official events. Even though the whole betting business is a legal and financial nightmare to set up, Street Fighter should integrate some item betting system. Sites like DOTA Lounge have proven to be wildly successful, adding more engagement from viewers.

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TL;DR !

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Street Fighter will certainly be a great game. But it could turn into something even greater, if Capcom seriously looks into what Valve did : ship a great game, and focus your efforts into all things around this product : community, spectators, programers, money etc.

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We’ll know a bit more about Street Fighter V directions, as more news will be unveiled this weekend during the Capcom Cup Finals. Let’s hope they push full mid.

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Tournament formats : should we stick to the classic ones, or try the new ones ?

At Toornament.com, our team is hard working to offer our organizers community the best, most complete tool to design and manage tournaments.

Lately, we’ve been discussing about the tournament formats we could, or should support. Toornament.com already handle a wide array of simple or complex formats, but some are still even more specific, to be handled the easy way.

Outside of “groups-to-bracket” land, and other leagues, exist some tournaments with a twist, whether they use a unique structure, or mix in several of them. Here are the most notable cases :

The upcoming MLG Colombus Open – 25K Series works as following :

  1. The Tournament will support as many as 144 Teams with 16 Teams starting in Pool Play and 128 Teams starting in the Open Bracket.
  2. The tournament starts with the Open Bracket, pitting against each other 128 teams in a classic Best Of 3 Double Bracket fashion.
  3. The 4 remaining teams in the winner bracket enter the groupstage of the Championship, joining the seeded teams. The 4 teams in the loser bracket are place in the Championship double bracket, straight in the Loser bracket round 1.
  4. The groupstage results will place teams according to their final place : 1st and 2st go to the Winner’s Bracket quarter finals, while the 3rd, 4th and 5th will end in the Round 3, Round 2 and Round 1 of the Lover Bracket.
  5. From there on, the tournament follows a Best Of 5, Double Bracket Format.

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Another (in)famous example would be The International 4, Valve’s very own Dota 2 tournament :

  1. Four regional qualifications were held. The winners go to the Playoff Phase 2. The seconds go to the Playoff Phase 1.
  2. The Playoffs start with 19 teams : 11 invited, the 4 regional qualifiers winners and the 4 regional qualifiers seconds.
  3. The Playoff Phase 1 pits the regional qualifier seconds against each other in a Single Bracket. The winner gets to go to Phase 2.
  4. The Playoff Phase 2 works like a championship, where all 16 teams play all each other. The leading teams get access to the Main Event Upper Bracket. 3rd to 10th goes into another Playoff. 11th to 16th are eliminated.
  5. Teams ranked from 3rd to 10th play in two brackets, where the lower seeded starts to play. The winner advances to the next match, against a higher seed and so on. The winner of each bracket gets to the Main Event Upper Bracket, 2nd and 3rd access to the Lower Bracket, when the last team is eliminated.
  6. (Fast ?) Forward to the Main Event, where the final 8 team fight there way from the Upper and Lower Bracket, in a double elimination fashion. Matches are Best of 3, Grand Final is Best of 5.

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Complex, exotic format seen here can also be found in other major tourneys, like Dreamleague.

“Traditional” discipline also use sometimes out of the box formats, from NBA (conferences) to NFL (teams do not play the same amount of matches) to the Volley ball World Championship, which no less than 3 groupstage phases, to single bracket semi-finals.

Goals differs, from geographic or time constraints to the will to generate more matches, give more chances for an underdog to face a champion…

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In our interview with Konstantin Schmidt, the Rush Esport Center founder saw in Esports an opportunity to experiment with new formats. Potential trade off would be to sacrifice efficiency to innovation.

Do you think Esport tournaments should comply to efficient and proven formulas, or take new approaches ? In the meantime, we’ll keep on offering more and more format, and can create custom ones, if you need them !