SBD/December 6, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Creating The Model: ESL Standardizing Tournament Formats For Biggest Events

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Esports tournament organizer ESL is standardizing its tournament format across its biggest event series in '18, making all ESL One, Intel Extreme Masters and ESL Pro League events six-day, 16-team competitions. As it stands today, every event is reconsidered based on different factors, involving anywhere from 8-16 teams, with wide variation on how many slots are determined by qualifying events versus invitations. In many cases, teams accept and then learn the details with only a few weeks’ notice. "We wanted to make sure we change it to set clear expectation for everyone in the ecosystem as to how many teams are going to be at a specific event, and then how many of those do we invite, and based on what criteria, and then how do the rest of the slots get determined,” said ESL VP/Pro Gaming Ulrich Schulze. The change also is designed to appeal to sponsors’ and advertisers’ planning needs, and is yet another step in the esports industry’s ongoing attempts to change its free-wheeling approach to something more aligned with corporate planning budgets and calendars. The expanded tournaments will be more costly, Schulze notes. “A significant six-figure increase,” Schulze said. "But we believe it’s something that we can more than make up for on the revenue side.” Schulze said ESL officials settled on the 16-team format as a way of ensuring the presence of the most marketable, successful teams while also giving qualifiers of local relevance a chance to compete. The changes affect at least 10 planned events on the calendar for '18. In each competition, the 16 teams will be divided into two groups for the first three days of double elimination group play, with the top winners there advancing to a six-team tournament in the second half. The second half will be played in major arenas where possible, though it will be difficult to secure a third day in some high-demand locations.

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