Tournament Organizers, Sustainability in Esports

In previous blogs, we have looked at how the athlete can best position themselves for success in the esports space. We have seen the powerful position that Game Developers occupy, and addressed their need to readjust their perspective and attitude as the landscape changes. We have also recognized that Intellectual Property (IP) affects every facet of esports, and can hold players, fans and organizations hostage.

Tournament Organizers: Brief Recap

Tournament Organizers (TO) are third-party companies that run their own esports competitions and events, online and off-line.  Essentially, they take care of all the planning, production, and coverage around the event. Like everyone else in esports, TOs are limited in the games they can use for their tournaments based on the licenses they can obtain from each Developer. In the earliest stages of the esports industry, TOs provided the infrastructure necessary for competitions and fandom to take place, and they were fundamental in creating what exists today. 

Carved-Out Space

There will always be room in esports for TOs who want to create events for competitive communities that have been developed largely without Developer involvement, like the annual EVO tournament. This is the gap that some TOs exist in, to provide fans of these games the ability to come together and compete in these titles and crown a champion.

Similarly, the competitive CS:GO scene is almost exclusively run by TOs, with the Developer sponsoring certain tournaments and providing competition oversight via broad rules and regulations.

Smaller, more local TOs are often able to run esports tournaments, as long as they adhere to whatever guidelines a Developer may have for using its IP – like EA’s Community Tournament Guidelines.

Precarious Position

TOs are being affected by Developers creating franchised leagues, as this essentially eliminates the need for Organizers. I would add a brief sentence about WHY a franchised league = no TO involvement required (i.e. the franchised league is far more structured and more money goes into it, so no need for TOs to organize the logistics etc / or whatever the actual reason is) These leagues are new to the esports world, but if successful, it’s logical that more Developers will follow suit, which could really hamper the ability for TOs to put on successful events. 

Additionally, TOs are being encroached on by esports organizations.  Overactive Media recently purchased a live events company, and other organizations are making their own plans to activate in the event space.  It’s another evolution in the history of esports organizations, and it’s a part of the race to figure out the monetization issues in esports.

Sustainability in Esports

There is a lot of debate as to the current state of the esports industry, like whether there is an ‘esports bubble’, and what the future of competitive esports will look like.  It seems there is a growing need for more investment at esport’s lower, developmental levels if a Developer wants to create sustainable competition.  It’s a particularly serious issue for Developers – like Blizzard and Riot – who have heavily invested in their respective titles as competitive esports recently.  But, whether the Developer wants to make that investment themselves, or allow third-parties to get involved is an entirely different story. 

The true value and opportunity for many TOs lies in the ability to create local competitive ecosystems for the Developers who are making a heavy investment into the competitive side of their video game.  And Riot has actually been finding some success by opening up its lower, developmental North American League of Legends Academy League to TOs, which suggests that relinquishing some control over their IP is in the Developer’s interest.

 But, like everything else in esports, it’s up to Developers, the IP owners, to recognize the contribution TOs can make to their competitive scene, and overall esport sustainability.


 Thanks for reading my blog. The above content is not legal advice but observation about the esports industry. If you have any questions or comments or would like to schedule me to speak at your event, head over to my website

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