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.

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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Featured tournament : IEM San Jose

The Intel Extreme Masters are back this week end, with two exciting tournaments we will follow and update Live !

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The League Of Legends tournament is one of the first international event since October LCS World Championship Finals in Seoul.

Western top teams such as Cloud9, Solomid and Alliance will battle for the $50,000 cash prize.

Starcraft II will also be represented with $25,000 , with the whole Korean stars squad including ForGG (who just won Dreamhack Winter), Bomber, HerO, Polt and friends.

We will be following and updating each tournament results, schedules and stream links this week end, with our embedable widgets.

Happy cheering !

[Organizers] 10 ways to introduce Esport

Esport is a tale that needs to be told over and over again. The privilege of the early adopters, one might say.

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But evangelism is a necessary step for all the non Esport savvy people coming to your events : parents, boy/girlfriend, passing by crowd and of course generalist medias… You name them.

As we’ve been through this “enlighten me” process countless of times – and will do it for a couple thousands more times – here are 10 ways we efficiently used to explain Esport with simple arguments, or just sparkle a light in our audience head.

1. Think of it like the new skateboard

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Photo : Tony Hawk at X Games

Esports is already big from today’s perspective, but it’s still in infancy if we were to compare with what’s coming in the next 2 years. Think about skateboard, which started as an underground, underdog discipline, before going mainstream.

2. Also think about metaphores

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Photo : Chess player Alexandra Botez

Event tho they don’t always nail it, metaphors bring a better, smoother understanding. Chess, archery, soccer, poker… Use familiar disciplines to explain yours. Just warn that Esport is never exactly the same.

3. Yes, there are physical prowesses

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Photo : Starcraft II player Losira

Main critics towards Esports are that the progamers are not “real” athletes in their own right, as they don’t run and sweat. Prove them wrong, talking about A.P.M, Eye / hand coordination and reflexes. Don’t talk about Hearthstone.

4. It is the heir of the 3 largest popular cultures in decades

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Photo : Riot LCS Finals 2014

Esports = Video Game + Internet + Sports = Here to stay and dominate. Enough said.

5. Talk money

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Photo : Dota 2 International 4 growing cash prize

Because yes, money talks. People often hang on cold hard cash facts to give credit (no pun intended) to something new to them. The International 4 $10M cashprize, or NaDeShot $1M yearly revenues should do the math (pun intended).

6. There’s variety in the disciplines

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Photo : Some of ESWC 2014 disciplines

Esport is not about a video game. It’s about a lot of different video games. The depth of Esport disciplines adds to its credibility (more people, more communities, mores styles), as there is a type of game for everyone.

7. You’re on familiar ground

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Photo : Street Fighter signature move

Esport is a new field for the people you’re talking to, but video games aren’t. Chances are they have already played or seen Call Of Duty or Street Fighter once in their life.

8. Listen to the casters

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Photo : Professional CS:GO casters

Esport is not only about the champions. The casters are the other stars, bringing insights, help and hype to any event. It’s one of the best way to enjoy Esports without…

9 …You don’t need to understand everything

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Photo : ESWC crowd

… You to understand everything. Like any sport, Esport is also about the show. Sometimes, you enjoy a crazy move because the crowd is going nuts, or dead silent. Because the casters and the champions are throwing their headsets in the air. Because you’re feeling a chill even tho you don’t clearly understand what’s going on the screen.

10. Just come and watch

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Photo : League Of Legends Copa Latino Americana

Esports are a very empirical thing. People can’t understand the hype, the excitement, the cheerings and the dramas until they’ve seen it in the flesh. No more talk : invite them to jump in !

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 !

Toornament interviews, with Konstantin Schmidt : “Minor issues will always occure, you just have to be ready to resolve them quickly.”

We happy to start on our blog a serie of interviews focusing on Esport tournament organizer. Whether they run local, friendly tourneys, online leagues or big, pro events, organizers always have a great amount of experience and tips to share.

Let’s start today with Konstantin Schmidt, founder and owner of Rush, a new breed of E-sports place in Germany. He’ll share with us his views and advices on everything Esport organization. Let’s fire the questions !

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Hello Konstantin, can you introduce yourself to our readers ?

My name is Konstantin Schmidt, I am 23 years old and the founder of Rush e-sports center. Rush e-sports center is the first of it’s kind in Germany aiming to make E-Sports available to a wider audience by hosting tournaments for everyone on a regular basis.

What are your favorite tournament formats and why ?

A group stage played in double-elimination followed with a double-elimination KO stage. Why? We have teams with far ranging skilllevels. We feel this gives less skilled teams a fair chance to go far within the tournament.

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As a tournament organizer, what are the main challenges and issues you have to face ?

The organization is key, everything simply needs to be on point. A minor delay here and there can cause overall delays of an hour or two. Next to that all hardware needs to run smoothly, the servers need to be running on point.

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What are your top priorities, motos and tips to built a top notch tournament ?

Set up your gameplan and make sure you can stick to it – this mainly involves the schedule, people hate waiting. At the same time you have to be flexible and prepared for most “hickups”. Minor issues will always occure, you just have to be ready to resolve them quickly. This may be tough for the first 2-3 tourneys, but you get the hang of it. If it is a LAN tourney, entertainment during the breaks is a big plus for most gamers.

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New business models such as paid registration and crowdfunding may change the way you build tournaments in the near future. Are your embracing those new leads ?

Our whole business is based on paid registration, allthough we try to have tournaments funded by sponsors as much as possible and thus be able to host tournaments for free for our customers. Crowdfunding is something we are looking into at the moment, but have not yet actively persued.

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We recently saw new tournament format, with complex structures. The International 4 may be the most (in)famous example of this trend. Do you think Esports should explore new formats, or comply to the existing ones, already tested and widely adopted ?

Esports is mainly followed by young people who, as gamers, must be quick to adapt. This combined with the fact that it is a very young sport makes esports probably the best place to try out new things. We ourselves have changed our formats several times over the past months because we just felt we found better alternatives.

Any finals words of wisdom, for the people about to organize their first tourneys ?

Do not underestimate the organization going into these things and give it your best effort. You may feel like it’s a bit too much at times, but once it’s all ongoing and you see how much people appreciate these tourneys, it will be all worth it. And thank you for supporting this great sport!

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Thanks Konstantin !

If you want to know more about Rush Esport Center, go check their website and Twitter.

If you want to be featured in our Interview series and share your passion for Esport event organization, just contact us !