If you have ever wondered how to run an esports tournament, here’s the ultimate guide to help you creating the best League of Legends, Overwatch (or whatever video game you love) tournament ever. But how to navigate the dozens of tools and platforms available when each of them claims to be “the best platform to run your esports tournament“? In this article we’ll tell you which are the best tools among those, and why you should choose one over the other.
Eight important decisions to make before setting up your event
Whether or not you ended up here after watching the latest League of Legends Championship Series match and beaming with excitement about the huge CGI drake flying above the heads of thousands of people, or whether it was after enjoying the outstanding dance Ahri, Akali, Evelynn and Kai’sa performed in front of the audience, now you must be left wondering about the day you’ll be the one to make all of this happen.
If you’re thinking about organizing an esports tournament, you’ve come to the right place. I won’t promise that you will be a master of CGI technology, neither can I assure Ahri will be dancing in your bedroom, but in this article and in the ones to follow, we’re going to see how to run an esports tournament.
So, let’s begin with the first foremost important step to take.
1. Which video game should I choose to run my esports tournament?
Well, unless you have comprehensive knowledge of every single video game, this should be quite an easy choice. The first event should be focused on the game you know best, mostly because knowing the video game would make things run much smoother. In doing so, organizing an event on something you love instead of choosing the title because it is the most known or followed, will allow you to be more involved in the project.
However, how to behave when your love for both League of Legends and Overwatch is equally shared? In this case, carrying out a little bit of research would be profitable. Given the opportunity of choosing between two video games, going for the one that’s most watched or played is indeed preferable.
The factors influencing the views vary accordingly to different variables:
The first variable you should consider when looking for the most popular video game is the country. For example, running a League of Legends tournament in the US, would be the wisest choice given the fact that Worlds 2020 has been the most followed event with almost 4 million viewers. Are you from Italy? Then just try FIFA or Call of Duty. If you hail from England instead, setting up Counter Strike events would probably be your best pick.
When talking about “timing”, make sure to pay attention on the scheduling time slots: if your event falls on the same days as the Overwatch League, then your Twitch account views will hardly add up to a double digit number, as well as the participants of your esports tournament. All this is not meant to imply that you’re a not worthy enough, and neither that your tournament is not up to snuff, however, organizing smaller events while Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok is playing the best match of his carreer during the LCK would cause the so-called “cannibalization”.
In the language of marketing, this term is used to indicate a decrease of demand of a product because of the introduction of a newer product in market. Even if the term is used with a slightly different connotation than its original one, it fits nonetheless. It’s quite common and quite obvious that bigger events always obscure the smaller ones. For example, even titles such as Rainbow Six Siege would have never become significant esports, had ESL scheduled the Six Invitational, despite well-known tournaments being played simultaneously. Choosing the right time window is the key to success.
Think about esports and think about their fast/endless/non-stop growth. Why do you think esports have been rising so significantly over the past few years? It’s quite a new phenomenon if we consider that the first official esports tournament was the Space Invaders Tournament held in 1980.
How has it all been made possible?!
Esports are seen to be everywhere, yet nowhere. They will always be available since they’re on the internet. You can see the League of Legends Champions of 2013 on Twitch or you can go on YouTube to enjoy the best plays by Martin ‘Rekkles’ Larsson while he was still playing for Fnatic. This has been happening since the beginning: esports are naturally considered a form of digital entertainment. Thereby, think twice when you consider the chance of organizing an event in your lan room: planning online tournaments would give you higher chances of gathering more participants, more views and a different level of virality.
Anyway, despite all these variables, my first advice is “choose the video game you love the most”; is it known just by twenty people? It doesn’t matter as long as enthusiasm, love and passion are beside you, success is guaranteed… And who knows? You could even make a new game popular.
2. Make sure to think about the rule book
Every esports tournament needs rules and no one would like to play in a toxic environment.
Deciding the mode in which the tournament will be played is the first step to take when starting to run your esports tournament: if you’re planning a League of Legends tournament for example, then you should pick the map (Howling Abyss or Summoner Rift?), the number of players (1v1 or 5v5?) and set up your bracket: will it be a single elimination or a double elimination type of tournament? How many players will be able to join your event?
Be sure not to miss anything. People will have a tendency to ask you countless questions despite being given the most detailed report ever. It’s for this very reason that if you haven’t been clear about the rules, good luck with the hundreds of emails or messages that will pop up on your screen at 3 a.m.
After deciding on the generic rules, be aware that you are likely to be asked questions like “What about smurfing, aimbots, and account sharing?”.
Smurfing, aimbots and account sharing
Everybody knows these are the main issues in the gaming community: cheaters will always be there, ready to ruin your experience and your promotion from silver 1 to gold 4. Anyway, as long as it happens during a Street Fighter best of 3 or an aram, it’s no big deal. Even competing against a full team of smurfs in a ranked game might be acceptable… You’re still probably going to scream and uninstall after that game, but it’s nothing compared to losing a tournament or in the worst case scenario, losing prize money.
Imagine if someone decides to play in your tournament and is matched against “supercuteguy”, an extremely brilliant iron 2 player who could auditioning for G2, be aware that the first one’s going to rightfully complain. As the TO, you’re the one who’s in charge of solving the mystery (is “supercuteguy” a smurf or not?), otherwise you would be losing a player or even the whole team.
One solution that can be recommended is the division of the tournament to accommodate different player levels. By dividing the tournament in different tiers, each rewarded accordingly, the players will be more motivated to run for their prize. This, by no means, indicates that the cheaters will be gone, but the chances of them playing at your tournament will be reduced for sure.
Another advice is to check every single match being played, or you can simply hire a referee. From here we move on to the 3rd step…
3. Ask people’s help you run your esports tournament
Running an esports tournament may not be easy. As you will be caught up in a lot of activities, having someone to help you will reduce both the time needed and work load for the organization.
The next thing that may pop in your mind is that “I don’t even have money for myself, how to afford hiring someone else?”. You would be surprised to know that there are many people out there who would be more than glad to help out and collaborate with you, whether they are paid for it or not, most esports fans just want to be a part of the scene. This gives rise to one of the main issues: esports are precluded to professionals and there is no place for amateurs.
Whenever there is the opportunity to get involved in a tournament, or any other kind of event, you will probably end up meeting guys full of passion and will to do something: just try to reach for them on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter or any other trusted community for that matter. Having said so, take into consideration that unpaid people could easily lose interest and start delaying their jobs. Hence, be sure to be surrounded by reliable people who are driven by a lot of passion and a strong sense of duty.
A perfect compromise
Coming to think of it, our thought process might be along the lines of:
“You just suggested me about hiring someone for free and then you warn me about the possibility they would stop doing their job altogether”.
It’s not something bound to happen every time. Most organizers have found the perfect way to avoid having their best collaborators quit on them: you only pay the members of the staff who have proven to be valuable.
Remember to always treat your staff as a family and show appreciation for what they’re doing. Be sure they’re always satisfied and on the same page about your decision-making. Listen to their ideas, even if they don’t seem viable and make sure that they feel part of your community instead of being your subordinate.
Someone who’s gratified in the environment he/she is a part of, will be less likely to leave.
4. Should an entry fee be applied?
This is a tough question. One could think about a participation fee only in the case where a cash prize could be financed from it, just like what happens in the DOTA 2 tournament “The International” where the prize pool is financed through a sort of crowdfunding: even the money coming from the Battle Pass bought by the players is used for the event.
Consider that the amateur scene is largely made by players who join tournaments for sheer entertainment purposes. Most of the time we’re talking about fifteen-year-old gamers without a consistent income that would be most likely spent on a pizza rather than an esports tournament if they are not involved in competing.
What amount should be levied as the entry fee?
This is something related to what has been aforementioned: nobody would participate if you think about asking for fifty dollars per player, unless your prize pool is 10k dollars of course. But even so, how many people could afford that?
Most of the tournament organizers decide for a five-dollar participation fee that more or less represents an affordable expense for anyone.
The last factor to consider is a little more controversial: every publisher has its own rules, this means that as far as you’re not asking for any money from the participants you can do (most of the time) whatever you want. However, if you’re thinking about levying any kind of entry fee, then you should be aware and mentally prepared to accept and abide by the publisher’s policy. Some of them don’t allow the players to make money with their video games.
How can one be sure about what to do? Since every publisher follows its own rules, an easy thing to do is to go on their website and check for them. You can also try to contact them directly on any support channel, but there’s no guarantee they’ll answer or that they will be aware about what to do.
For League of Legends, you may check the guidelines you need to follow when organizing tournaments
For Overwatch and others Blizzard video games you can check here, and so on.
Whatever you do, if you want to run an esports tournament just be sure not to go against the rules.
5. Choose the best platform to run your esports tournament
Toornament, Battlefy, Faceit, Challangermode and so on, which platform should you choose to help you run an esports tournament? Even though we’re going to talk about each of these platforms in the articles to follow, I can anticipate that despite being pretty similar under some features, these services can offer diversified tools that fit better in different scenarios.
As an apt example, if one wishes to organize a wide tournament or a championship with different match settings, then Toornament is the way to go. On the contrary, for a single day event you should use Battlefy, an easy platform for teams to sign in and also characterized by a more linear process of creating a tournament.
Delving into further details, Battlefy doesn’t have a limit to the participants who can join your league, while Toornament doesn’t allow more than 250 players unless you contact them and ask for a larger tournament. Toornament does not have an integrated payment system (you can use any 3rd-party service you want and link it to your registration process), whilst Battlefy requires a verification process to make sure that one is a serious TO and that there won’t be any chances of having the money being stolen. Therefore, when considering an entry fee without giving any kind of assurances, the most practical option would be redirecting on another platform or using challangermode. The latter gives you the chance to ask players for money in order to participate in your tournaments.
In considering these scenarios what you should be aware of is that challengermode will ask you more or less than 50% of your earnings: when asking for 5 dollars, the amount to end up in your pockets will be just 2,5$ and this is not very convenient when talking about a small number of players and a nominal participation fee. On the brighter side of the page, if there are going to be a large number of participants instead, probably challangermode would be the number-one-platform. It also gives the players the chance to find a team if they don’t have one already, which is extremely helpful in the recruitment of the participants… Wrapping up with the ideal platform to opt for, get ready for number 6.
6. Ask people to join your esports tournament and build your community
If you are not much of an extrovert person, probably this is going to be the worst part of the organization, because it’s a full-time job mostly about persuasion: you have to be active on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and ask teams to be a part of your event. Be prepared to handle lazy and suspicious people who might be plain difficult at times. Hence, all the rules should be clear and if it’s being thought of delegating duties, it must be done with someone who is thoroughly prepared and knowledgeable about the organization. If you have your notifications “on” on Discord, probably you’ll be woken up in the middle of the night because someone decides that’s the perfect moment to ask you for some information on the tournament.
Anyway don’t waste your time looking for teams on all the social networks: out of all, Facebook is the least worthy when it comes to recruiting teams, while Twitter and Instagram are the best choices by far because you can reach a higher virality with your posts.
When a team has decided to join your event, you can transfer the conversation on Discord (or TeamSpeak if you’re more comfortable with it) and use the platform to keep the participants updated. After all, none among the known platforms (Toornament, Battlefy or Faceit) allows you to contact teams directly.
“What if I don’t want to invest in recruiting teams?” Unfortunately, there is no other option but to do so.
Advertising could be a valid alternative but with an investment of 50$ per month, you will probably reach less than 5 teams… maybe. If you do not have any knowledge of marketing or any insights on how to set up a perfect advertising campaign, you’re likely to end up wasting your money.
7. Decide if you want to stream your esports tournament
Streaming your tournament means you are able to reach a wider audience, made by both the teams, who could join in your next tournament, and viewers who are interested in watching esports competitions.
Thereby, my advice is to stream your event and let the whole world know about what you have organized. It doesn’t matter even if your first streaming will have 5 viewers only, that’s a number bound to grow up, especially if you’re willing to invest a lot of energy in the social networks.
Upon reaching a decision on wanting to stream, be aware that you must decide where to do so since, usually, you cannot stream on both Twitch and YouTube simultaneously. Beginning to stream on Twitch and then uploading the video on YouTube is a valid alternative, but it must be kept in mind that not everyone is used to Twitch, while YouTube is known by everybody and subsequently, everybody knows how to navigate it and how to use it. There shouldn’t be undervaluing of any possibility even if the choice seems quite obvious.
Streaming a match on Twitch comes with more requirements: you will probably need OBS studio or similar software and a more importantly, a caster. People want to attend a great show and what makes esports special is the atmosphere. By these means, the caster should be the most important member of your team, the main element to make your Twitch account more professional and to make your event outshine the others.
8. Decide that right now is the moment to start and run an esports tournament
If you want to make a tournament and you got the drive, willingness, zeal and passion to, the last step that must be taken is… to start. You have read till the end of this article and you’re probably on the right path. If you are still unsure though, just be aware that turning your idea into a fully developed tournament is surely a big commitment: it requires a lot of work and will probably reduce your hours of playtime on hand. Nonetheless, it is also true that the satisfaction achieved once the event is over, will be worth it. All of those acknowledgments, recognitions and all of those people that would be joining along the course to make a community, will all be worth it… All of this will be bound to pay off your sacrifices.
This will prove to be a learning experience about Esports, about people and about responsibilities; Not only will this help enrich the CV, but also if one is dreaming about working in Esports, an experience like this will help open some doors for the career path towards a tournament organizer. Throughout this journey, there will be tough moments that one may have to encounter along with some days where the thought of quitting may also come to mind. Even though consistency is the secret for success, it is ok to have those bleak moments of dullness and it is ok to take a break. What is important is to muster up the courage and strength to resume work and continue with a fueled-up vigor and consistency. In the end, do not ever be afraid to seek for help when needed.
“What if I fail?”. Failure doesn’t exist. You’re just experiencing, growing and doing something great. Just don’t give up and keep working on it.
To your accomplishment, one day you will get exactly where you want to be.