Adding Value to Your Tournament

Adding Value to Your Tournament

1.Introduction

Esports tournaments are about more than just the thrill of competition and the relentless pursuit of improvement. While many of your attendees will be cutthroat competitors who are eager to push themselves to the limit and become the best they can possibly be, most of the people at your tournament, especially the spectators, are there for one reason and one reason only: having a good time.
 
As a tournament organizer, its important to keep in mind that your event is a vacation for most people. While you should always make sure that the competition is fair and well-organized for the people who are taking it seriously, remember that above everything else, your tournament should be fun!
 
Below you’ll find some helpful tips and ideas for adding value to your tournament, for the people who aren’t there to win it all. Before writing this article, I asked a few of the players in my local Project M scene what they felt has made their tournament experience better over the years, and you’ll see some of their responses here as well.

2.Amateur Brackets

One of the worst feelings you can have as a competitor is setting aside an entire day to play in a tournament, only to get knocked out immediately, leaving you with nothing to do with the rest of your afternoon. Amateur Brackets are a great way to give new players an opportunity to play more sets and start working out those tournament nerves. An amateur bracket is a side event that takes place after the main competitive bracket, usually only available for players who didn’t make it past the first round of the tournament.
Amateur brackets allow you to introduce a low-stakes, but competitive place for your players to improve. You can encourage players to try their best in the amateur bracket by offering small prizes and incentives, such as merchandise from your tournament sponsors or free entry to your next event. You can even give away things like VOD analysis or a coaching session from a local top player. Ultimately, your amateur bracket should be about fun first, and improvement second.
 
There are a variety of ways to organize an amateur bracket, depending on the type of tournament you’re running, but generally it should be based on a player’s placement in the bracket. 
 
For example, in a double elimination tournament, you might send every player who finished 0-2 or 1-2 to amateur bracket. In a round robin tournament, you might allow the bottom two players of each pool to participate. In a swiss bracket, you might have players with 0-5 or 1-4 records placed there.
 
This is ultimately up to your discretion, but ideally you want your amateur bracket to be as even a playing field as possible. It should be competitive, fair, and most of all, fun.
 
If you’re interested in running an amateur bracket for your tournament on smash.gg, check out our help center article for more info on how to set it up.

3.Side Events

Another great way to give your players more to do is running a variety of fun and wacky Side Events. A side event can be any kind of low-stakes tournament featuring an alternative game mode, or a game not featured as a main event. 
Some examples include:

  • A “Bob-Ombs on High” bracket for Super Smash Bros. Melee
  • A “Rumble” tournament for Rocket League
  • A Divekick side event for a Dragon Ball FighterZ or Street Fighter V tournament
  • A “High Explosives” or “Snipers Shooutout” event for a Fortnite tournament
  • Events with out-of-game restrictions, such as a “two players, one controller” or “blindfolded singles”
  • And more!
If you’re running a multi-day tournament, side events are an effective way to fill out the weekend with fun activities. 
For example, many tournaments will have a “Day 0” on Friday or Thursday, where players are allowed to practice and socialize at the venue, but no tournament matches are played. Days like these are the perfect time to run side events. Having a fun, no-stress event allows players to get to know each other and warm up for their bracket, without taking things too seriously.
Additionally, side events provide a way for people to unwind after a stressful day of competing. On the second or last day of your tournament, when most of the bracket has been completed and you are running through the last stages of the tournament, having a variety of fun side events to enter allows your less competitive attendees to feel like they still have a reason to be at the venue.
A popular side event for the last day of a tournament are Ladder Events. Ladder, also known as Matchmaking, is a feature on smash.gg that provides a live matchmaking experience that allows players to continuously queue against new opponents, similar to how open matchmaking commonly works for online games. Ladder gives players an opportunity to spend an entire day grinding out tournament sets if they wish, and is a perfect choice for players who are there to get better. 
If you’re interested in running a ladder at your tournament, check out our help center articles on setting up and running your ladder.

4.Location

While it may seem obvious, its hard to stress how important venue location is to your attendee experience. Your tournament might be held in a state-of-the-art facility with top-notch gaming PCs and dramatic lighting, but it will all be for naught if there isn’t any good food nearby.

 

Some things to keep in mind when choosing your venue location:

  • Is there a good variety of food options near the venue? (IMPORTANT)
  • Is there adequate parking for your attendees?
  • How accessible is the venue? Some of your players might be flying in from out of town and won’t have access to a car to get there.
  • If most of your attendees will be adults, is there accessible alcohol near or in the venue?
  • Is there anything fun to do outside the venue? Are there shops, arcades, restaurants, or other activities nearby?
Booking a venue almost always requires some compromises, but these should act as general guidelines for what makes a venue valuable to your attendees. If you’re looking for help securing a venue, check out our article on Event Basics.

5.Booths and Raffles

Art and merchandise booths are crucial to making your tournament fun for non-competitors and non-fans. While many of your attendees will either be competing in the tournament or spending most of the weekend spectating matches, you will have plenty of people who are new to the game, or just there to support a friend, family member, or significant other. These people are just as important to your attendee experience as the people who make top 8, so don’t forget to give them something to do with their time!
 
Booths are perfect for giving your tournament more of a “convention” vibe, and your competitors and spectators alike will enjoy the opportunity to have a break from the competition, take a nice walk around the venue, check out some cool art, and maybe support an artist in the process.
 
If you’re running an in-person tournament, raffles are another great way to get non-competitors involved with the fun of the event. If your tournament has any merchandise, such as t-shirts, hats, or posters, raffles are effective at getting people excited about the tournament and getting your brand name out there. Remember: people love free stuff!
 
If your tournament has any merchandise sponsors or artists, ask them if they’d be interested in participating in a raffle. If you want to encourage participation, you can give out one free ticket to everyone who enters the tournament, and award bonus tickets based on tournament play, side-event participation, scavenger hunts, etc. for people who want a better shot at the prize. 

6.Spectator Experience

Many tournament organizers think of spectator experience only in terms of stream viewership, but the spectators at the event are an important part of what makes a tournament exciting and memorable. Being in a huge crowd with tons of other screaming fans is part of what makes competition so exhilarating, and esports should be no exception!
You can improve the spectator experience and encourage attendees to get excited about the tournament by doing things like:

  • Hiring an MC or having a volunteer call out matches before the players walk on stage, as well as hype up the crowd
  • Throwing free merchandise into the crowd during stream down time
  • Encouraging players to bring signs and cheer for their favorite players
  • Playing hype music to get people excited between matches
All of these and more can add to the crowd experience. Always remember that your job is to show people what makes your game and your community special, and when the venue crowd is excited, it will rub off on the viewers at home.

7.Conclusion

As a tournament organizer, attendee experience should always be your #1 priority. When people go to your tournament and feel like their needs are being catered to and that they have a lot to do, they’re much more likely to come back next time and tell their friends to come with. Remember that, when all else fails, your job as an organizer is to make sure that people are having fun. 
 
If you found this article helpful and would like even more info on improving your tournaments, check out our series of articles on tournament organizing, and good luck out there!
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