A Beginner’s Guide to Esports Tournaments

Since 2015, you’ve likely heard the term “esports” and “esports tournaments” being thrown around. Although on this blog, we’ve already discussed what esports is, we haven’t gone into detail about what an esports tournament is.

What is an esports tournament? An esports tournament is a series of video game matches between a number of competitors who are competing for an overall title or prize. All esports tournaments must revolve around one or multiple video game titles.

In this article, we will be going over in more detail what an esports tournament is, what are the top esports tournaments and even how you can run your own esports tournament to reap the rewards of this growing phenomenon.

Esports Tournaments

Esports tournaments are the cornerstone to everything in esports, without them esports truly couldn’t exist.

These tournaments are similar to sports tournaments in terms of the fact that both tournaments require the competing competitors to play in a series of matches to be crowned the victor of said tournament.

Sports Stadium vs Esports Stadium

However, esports tournaments tend to vary in the fact that the actual competitions aren’t sports matches, but video game matches.

Similar to sports, these matches tend to only use a specific video game title throughout the event. This isn’t an exclusive rule, as some very unique esports tournaments may throw in multiple games of the same genre, but about 99.9% of esports tournaments will just have a single game focus.

Esports Tournament Matches

These tournaments also require teams to succeed in what is called a match over their opponent. From first sight, it would seem a “match” is just a single completion of a competitive game, but the terminology here means something a bit different.

What is a match in esports? An esports match is a compilation of a single or multiple games within an esports tournament. They are either defined as a Best of X or (BoX) or X Games, with X being substituted for the title number of games a match may be composed of.

Sounds a bit confusing? To simplify it a bit, most video games tend to have either really short game durations or a game’s outcome may be decided through many factors of luck or very dependant on very specific early plays.

As a result, a match is typically comprised of multiple games to provide a fair shot to each team in seeing who should proceed in the tournament bracket.

You have terms like Best of X, where X = the total number of games to be played in a match. X in this context will always equal an odd number, because an even number of games may result in a tie.

For example, you will most commonly see a Best of 3 (Bo3), which means a match is comprised of 3 total games.

In this situation, the team to win 2 games first out of the 3 end up winning the match. If one team wins 2 games before the 3rd one is even performed, the 3rd one will just not be played as the victor is determined.

Other BoX include Bo5, Bo7, Bo9, Bo11, etc. It can infinitely go on with any odd number but you typically don’t see anything exceeding 11, and Bo11 is very rare.

Tournament Brackets

Tournament brackets are also a subject I went into large detail on in a previous post (click here to be redirected to it). As a result, I won’t go into too much detail, but if you are interested in learning more about esports and/or being involved in esports, that’s a must-read.

Regardless, just like sports tournaments, esports tournaments are comprised of what is known as tournament brackets.

What are tournament brackets in esports? An esports tournament bracket is a set of matches with defined rules on how the victors and the loses of that match will proceed in the tournament. Brackets can either be a standalone tournament or be combined for an enhanced tournament experience.

Above is a single-elimination bracket.

There are generally 4 main types of brackets, each of which are providing a set of rules in what will happen to teams after they either win or lose a match.

For a quick example (and I will quickly define the 4 main bracket styles below), a losing team in a single-elimination will be out of the tournament but a loser in a round-robin would just play the same next match as if he won. In a double-elimination, the losing team would lose one of their elimination lives yet still have a chance to come first and in a swiss bracket the losing team will play another losing team but now is completely unable to come first.

Above is a double-elimination bracket.

Below I quickly defined each tournament bracket type, but for more detail I highly recommend you check out our article on the subject (click here):

  • Single Elimination: teams compete in a linear bracket where the victorious team within a match will proceed to face the closest non-eliminated team to them in the bracket, while the losing team will be eliminated upon their first loss.
  • Double Elimination: teams compete in 2 linear brackets, one known as the main bracket (also referred to as the winner’s bracket) and another is called the loser’s bracket. All teams begin in the main bracket. Upon being victorious on either bracket will cause you to play against the closest non-eliminated team to them. A loser in the main bracket will move to the loser’s bracket and the loser in the loser’s bracket is eliminated. In the end, the winner of the main bracket will face off against the winner of the loser’s bracket.
  • Round Robin: teams will face off in a match with every other team, regardless of how many victories or losses are accumulated. At the end, the team with the most victories is the winner of the bracket.
  • Swiss: teams will face off only against teams that win the same Win-Loss (W-L) ratio. For example, a team with 2W-0L will only face another team with 2W-0L. If there are no teams with the same number as wins and losses, you are either eliminated or crowned the victor. In some usage of swiss, these rules can sightly be altered for their specific application by the tournament organizers.

Top Esports Game Titles for Esports Tournaments

Just like sports, certain video games do better than others in the tournament scene. That said, unlike sports, there are massive differences in terms of the success of various esports tournaments.

A handful do exceptionally well, a majority of triple-A titles do decent when backed by the game publishers and the majority of general tournaments fair poorly in comparison to the exceptional ones.

There are a number of reasons why that is, from game publishers doing better work at running tournaments, the amount of revenue involved, the pre-existing player base of the game and many other factors.

A major factor is the fact that certain games are just better as an esports title than others. William Collis, author of The Book of Esports outlined how certain games do better in esports when they follow what he defines as the BAMS model.

I won’t go into too much detail on how it all works here, but I made a detailed book summary on the topic, click here.

Regardless, certain games do it exceptionally well. Just to list a few, here are some of the top esports game titles:

  • League of Legends
  • Overwatch
  • Call of Duty
  • PUBG Mobile
  • Free Fire
  • Rocket League
  • Fortnite

How You Can Run Your Own Esports Tournament

To run your own esports tournament is a lot of initial work but once you learn the basics, you can get through it fairly easily.

For this article, I won’t be going into depth on how to do just that. That said, I have a fairly high-level basic public guide on the subject here for specifically online tournaments, click here.

If you are, however, interested in how to run a full-scale esports tournament and want the guide in a detailed video course, I actually have that built out. To learn more about the video course, click here [COMING SOON].

Running a tournament can be very fun and rewarding. Doing it right can result in a real business idea and source of revenue. I’ve been running tournaments for over 5 years now, so why not learn from my mistakes and accelerate your growth in esports!