Is Good Organization the Key to eSports’ Success?

Yes, completely. That’s it, you can go home, no need to read the article. What’s that? You want an explanation? Sure, OK, I can do that.

In light of the recent events occurring in the Hearthstone World Championship Asia Finals, I thought it’d be a good time to bring up the eSports topic once more and discuss the importance of good planning and good organization in tournaments. For those of you that don’t know, the HWC Asia Finals have faced a variety of issues including random restarts, error messages appearing on the observer screen, and a variety of similar technical issues. Mind you, this tournament is not a small cup organized by some independent organization. We are talking about the Hearthstone World Championship (albeit only the regional qualifiers) which is a tournament that is organized by Blizzard themselves. These kind of things should not be happening.

Any viewer already knows this, however. We all want a smooth experience when watching any eSport, be it Hearthstone or Dota, but often times the importance of this is overlooked. Why? Well, because most organizers are much more concentrated on maximizing revenue through marketing (and other such techniques) rather than ensuring a safe connection.

Take big tournaments like the DAC or any Starladder. They have some, though not many, technical issues. Many times the players aren’t treated as they’d desire and this also results in problems. However, if you look at the presentation side of things, these tournaments don’t lack much in any of those aspects. The cosmetics for Starladder (and the arena itself) have been impressive and the DAC introduction was frankly amazing. Similarly, in the world of Hearthstone, you have offerings of Ferraris as prizes to Chinese players or a dedicated cast of workers in the HWC that provide extra content such as interviews or Ben Brode‘s laugh. Even with these things, the tournaments still sometimes face small technical issues or the players aren’t treated as well as they should. This is due to the pressure that eSports feel to grow.

The DAC main event Day 1.
The DAC main event Day 1.

See, the fact that technical issues arise isn’t because organizers are inept and should be fired but rather because many times their scope is shifted from that area of the work. Can you imagine a Superbowl where Katy Perry was singing a beautiful song but where the teams were unable to play because the stadium wasn’t ready for them? Where the stream would face constant hiccups or at times display error messages? No, of course not, that sounds ridiculous in a sport.

However, in eSports, even big tournaments like TI5 seem to face these issues because the focus of many organizers is to make eSports more appealing, more fantastic, and flashier. This is mainly due to the fact that many organizers don’t even break even (as v1at previously stated about Starladder) when organizing a LAN tournament and because eSports is overlooked by many people as something that isn’t professional enough. Truth be told, we aren’t professional. The issue here is that to prove that eSports aren’t a joke we need to first show that we can organize a proper tournament.

So much confetti but technical problems are still present.

That is where popular opinion diverges from organizers’ opinion. Both Valve and Riot concurred that one of the many ways to make eSports more “serious” would be to add suits to the mix and make things look more professional though not necessarily being so. Essentially, they built a house with somewhat shaky foundations but decided to ignore those problems completely. Don’t get me wrong though, the work of organizers is impressive and mistakes are bound to happen, but to this day it baffles me that you can have Deadmau5 playing at your tournament but not have the ability to change your stream settings without showing us the OBS client.

The weirdest thing of all is that simple yet efficient tournaments like Dotacinema’s Captain’s Draft or the ViaGame Housecup end up making as much if not more money than big flashy LANs and are usually praised for a slight innovation coupled with an impressive efficiency. Granted, LANs are necessary in eSports and very hard to organize, so it’s unfair to compare them to an online tournament, but if organizers concentrated on improving basic things like scheduling or living conditions for the players (just minor details, we all know organizing LANs is not easy) and on preventing errors such as showing the caster’s camera to one of the players then they’d have the necessary solid foundations to show us the flashy displays that everybody knows and loves. I mean, most of the previously mentioned errors could be fixed with a couple days of testing and tinkering before the event. I love confetti guys, I really do, but let’s maximize efficiency and a smooth viewing experience before we move on to the big parties.

Viagame Housecup esports
The chill atmosphere at the Viagame Housecup.

Bottom line, we have seen complaints after most every LAN about one aspect or another and most of these complaints center around technical or scheduling issues. In other words, small mistakes that can be easily fixed are the ones that people complain the most about but somehow organizers will keep making these mistakes over and over. Is this because they are inept? No, it’s all because most of their hard work is focused on making the event more impressive rather than helping it run smoother and without mistakes.

Let’s stop trying to make eSports encompass as many viewers as possible, for now at least, and let’s concentrate on fixing the small issues that can encumber the viewing experience. That is the real way to make eSports professional.

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