One of the biggest complaints about esports is the lack of a fixed schedule and governing authority. The four big titles in esports are League of Legends, Dota2, CS GO & Overwatch. Esports has been known as the wild west for a long time and rightfully so. The early years in esports were filled with agents and teams cheating players of their rightful salaries. We have also had tournaments not paying prize money in a fixed time period. All of this combined had given esports a really bad name.
With the growth of esports, we have seen increasing prize pools, bigger tournaments, new organizations entering esports. The investment in esports teams and organizations has only been increasing at a rapid pace. If a venture capitalist or an investor wants to invest in esports today, he is still very confused on where to put his money. While the term esports is very generic, we see several titles, several third-party tournament organizers and a lot of tall claims in the industry. With the lack of a governing body, investors are clueless on whom to approach to understand the nuances and the basics of the various titles.
Over the past couple of years, the entire scene has become a lot more streamlined with dedicated calendar years for the games. League of legends had already paved the way for such a format with it’s Worlds Championships. It followed a Relegation – Promotion system similar to football in the English Premier League. But this year there have been several changes announced across the majority of these titles. We take a look at each of the title and how the calendar has changed for them in 2017-18.
Recently details about the Starladder i-League Starseries Season 4 were announced. The event will take place from February 17-25 and yet it was announced only around 50 days prior to the event. With the CS GO calendar year already being filled to the brim with third-party tournaments, isn’t it time to have a fixed schedule like Dota2 does? Or does a league system akin to Overwatch / League of Legends make more sense?
It’s too late for a League
Simple put third party tournament organizers such as Starladder, ESL, Faceit, PGL, Gfinity amongst several others are mainly responsible for CSGO’s success. Many of these organizers have invested in CS GO tournaments since as early as 2013 and have been the chief cause for the high viewership numbers and success of CS GO as an esport. Having a league system would inevitably require Valve to control the calendar year and exert a closed system. Valve has never approached such a system in its games mainly because it has a different business model than other game publishers.
Creating a league today would inevitably mean leaving out some of these event organizers, which would essentially be a slap in the face for them. The entire CS GO scene would come crumbling down due to any such decision. These decisions would ultimately With Valve’s intentions clearly not venturing towards any league based format anytime soon, we can safely dismiss this idea.
Touching upon the league format yet again, we have seen the inclination of Riot as well as Blizzard towards managing their games’ esports scene. This has resulted in big viewing numbers for the games. These are relative adjectives, but when we saw Overwatch League put out an excess of 410,000 viewers on an opening day, it shows the prowess a League format with dedicated advertising can have on the scene. It also helps that there is an authority to take final decisions regarding controversies and hence there is a sense of direction within the game.
Overwatch League might have its flaws and Blizzard by no means is a perfect company. However, for any investor looking to invest into Overwatch, they have a clear direction. It is going to be difficult for CS GO to embrace a League format. For now, we have two big online leagues with a LAN finals. Both the ECS and ESL have shied away from Twitch and moved to Youtube and Facebook (ESL) for live streaming.
The League format can still be implemented if Valve were to take control. But their hands-off policy in CS GO, is hurting the scene right now despite fuelling the early years of growth. But they don’t employ the same hands-off policy for Dota2, and we are seeing a resurgence in the Dota2 Pro Circuit.
Dota 2 Pro Circuit
This is an idea that has been implemented in another Valve game, namely Dota2. A year ago, Dota2 was facing a threatened esports scene with lower number of events and smaller prize pools. Dwindling viewers, lower prize money and a lot of roster changes brought a lot of instability in the scene. Valve’s initial efforts to ensure a stability in the scene proved to be ineffective. Hence they implemented a big overhaul in the form of the Dota2 Pro Scene update. Under this update, Valve announced a dedicated calendar year for Dota2. This year started and ended with The International, the biggest esports tournament every year in terms of Prize money.
The calendar year is filled with multiple tournaments from International to International. Valve has promised to match the prize money put forth by the tournament organizers. This has helped literally double the prize money of Dota2 tournaments apart from the International. Tournaments are divided into Majors and Minors based on the prize pool of the tournament. Most of the tournaments feature 300 or 1500 Dota Pro Circuit points. Their final results in these tournaments will determine invitations handed out to The International which is the biggest financial esports tournament.
Will CSGO Implement this?
WIth the exclusion of an Overwatch styled league format for CS GO, we have to look at Dota2 format. It presents several advantages over the current random system. The current circuit involves 11 Majors and 16 Minors on the way for eight teams to receive invites to The International. This system ensures that the best teams attend The International.
The Dota2 Circuit prior to the current update was very similar to that of CS GO.With the update, Dota2 scene has seen significant growth in terms of player numbers and viewership. It has also received tremendous support from various professional players. The fixed schedule and the clarity of their playing careers for the next few months provide a stability to the scene.
The biggest advantage of a professional circuit is a fixed schedule for all players. Players would have a first-hand knowledge of their schedule and whereabouts at any given date, and this is a huge advantage. The current system provides for a lot of uncertainty about the players’ schedules and whereabouts. A fixed schedule will allow organizations to book their travels in advance. It will provide a guarantee to potential sponsors about their attendance at tournaments.
A professional circuit will ensure the stability of rosters. Valve does enforce roster locks for teams looking to participate in the upcoming Major. However, that does pose a problem as we have noticed with SK Gaming. The Major qualification process goes on for a long period of time, at times stretching months at a time. A possibly stable circuit is the need of the hour. It would provide a roster change window, which would then ensure months of stability in the teams.
Visa Problems – A thing of the past
VISA problems have been plaguing the current teams especially when it comes to the tournaments held in North America. Tyloo had to withdraw from Eleague Boston Major, while Philadelphia Fusion could not attend the Preseason due to visa issues. Obtaining P1A visas for their entry into US, still proves to be a problem for most esports athletes. With a fixed schedule, it would provide organizations and payers ample time to apply for a successful visa.
If the new Major format is going to stick with 24 teams, then we should have all the Minors together as a separate tournament where the 8 best teams qualify regardless of region.
Why should a team be guaranteed a spot at the Major solely based on the region?
— Janko Paunovic (@YNk) January 13, 2018
CS GO players and desk talent are definitely working to their limits right now. The uncertainty of the schedules, tournaments and their venues results in a very hectic schedule.Talent personnel are working long hours while players regularly suffer from fatigue. When teams and players have a clarity on the road to the Majors, they arebetter equipped to choose which tournaments they want to attend. This will help the players, fans as well as organizations to be more efficient and streamline both their finances and efforts.
The CS GO Professional circuit faces a lot of problems right now ranging from visa issues to a hectic schedule. Valve has experimented and worked with implementing a pro circuit in Dota2 with relative success. It will help in solving several of the problems in CS GO and is something we should give serious thought. With CSGO pros advocating for the same, it probably will see light of the day sooner than we think.