How to Start Planning Your First Esports Tournament

The esports industry is rapidly growing and as a passionate gamer, getting involved in an industry that you love where you are working directly with top tier players and other passionate gamers is an amazing dream-come-true. But with any dream comes work to have success and the chance to fail. The esports industry is not an easy industry to get into and prosper in, especially as an esports tournament coordinator.

Esports revenue growth from 2015 to 2017 and estimated revenue growth in 2020. Source: Newzoo.com.

Many people look at the prize pool of esports, the venue and the external entertainment and wonder how could an esports tournament make any money when they are spending so much money on an event. Once you start hosting your tournaments, you will soon realize the value that esports tournaments provide to their creators that triumph over its cost of execution.

But that leads us to the question of how you start hosting esports tournaments anyway. This article is for people who want to run an esports tournament but don’t know where to start or rather how to start. Once you follow these tips, you will have successfully initiated the planning process for your first esports tournament.

Decide to Move

This first point may sound cliché, but it is very important! The fact that you are reading this article proves that you are an oddball, someone who is willing to take risks and wants to achieve their dream. Don’t take that value for granted, continuously move forward and progress.

For anyone who is reading this but unsure if they want to (you don’t have strong emotions pulling you into chasing your dreams), you need to put logic into play. Consider the feasibility of hosting an esports tournament. First off, a major disclaimer but your first few tournaments that you will make you little to no money.

You will need to leverage your first few tournaments and events as learning experiences, to learn how to optimize them, and it allows you to obtain photographs and quantitative data about your brand’s presence that you can utilize when you reach out for sponsorships; Your main source of income.

This is event is the LC PUBG Mobile Open 1, my first event I hosted outside of my city that I made 0 dollars on and continued to make no money as I hosted subsequent PUBG Mobile events. I continously lost $50 to $125 for each one I hosted as a learning expense. 

Do you know the saying “You have to spend money to make money”, this principle applies to all business including esports? Sweat equality can only take you so far or only be so effective without the investment and support of money.

Especially for your first events, you will need to consider if you have the money flexibility to be spending time at a loss for that time and money. The money would go into things like food expenses, venue costs, equipment costs, decorations, memorabilia, prize pool, additional entertainment, any paid-software, streaming equipment, staff, etc.

You could run an event without spending money on any of those things (especially for online), but those things increase the overall value of your brand to pitch to sponsors and extremely increase the value of your brand to your consumers while also becoming even more favourable for your prospects (possible future consumers).

You will also be spending a lot of time for no real return. Are you willing to spend that time? Do you have the time to commit? Getting into the esports industry is not for everyone, you need to make a calculated decision on if you want to commit.

But if you commit, you MUST commit! Don’t start what you won’t finish. Completing something 50% is the same as not doing anything. Completing something 95% of the way is the same as not doing anything and you wasted a lot of time. Once you start, commit to the project and get a reward from it.

This is less than half of my team for a hackathon project called SoliHack. We were 2 months away from hosting our event before it had cancelled due to poor leadership from myself and overall dying commitment. We spent over 5 months planning this event and got 0 return after it was cancelled.

Sometimes it’s the smart decision to abandon a project, I’ve done that in the past, but don’t set your tournament up to fail. Don’t have huge expectations that can’t be met. This segues us perfectly into our next topic of discussion.

Decide Your Objective

Go into the project with a plan and with a goal to achieve that will help you determine if your tournament was a “success” based on your standards. Although I’m not a huge advocate of this, in this scenario I would recommend opting into using a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Relevant, Timely/Time-Bound).

The key in that is the Achievable or Attainable (meaning the same thing). Your first tournament doesn’t have to be amazing (seriously, too many new projects fail because the organizers are too ambitious), don’t be ready to make some massive successful tournament, it just won’t happen. 

Once you have your SMART goal setup, now you are not only committed to your project but now you know what it takes to get on the path of being successful.

Figure Out What Your Tournament Will Be

This article isn’t meant to get into too much depth about the logistics of your tournament or how to proceed in the planning procedure, but if you made it this far, I may as well get you started on it.

First off, you obviously need a game or a set of games. I recommend keeping it to one game when you start your first few tournaments, one that is well known by either you or someone on your team (as a project leader, you don’t need to know the technicalities behind a game as long as someone on your team does).

Once that easy question is out of the way, you need to consider if your tournament is going to be online or a live physical event? You need to take into account a general idea of your bracket structure and the expected duration of your tournament.

If you have your heart set on creating a live event (completely respectable), I recommend reaching out to your local high schools, college/university building or your municipal government. Those parties typically have great venues to host a tournament in and depending on the context and how you pitch your event (make that pitch all about them and their community), they will typically be willing to lend you some space for free.

This was my first live esports event, it was done in a high school classroom. I made a lot of mistakes but I learned in a low-risk low-reward environment!

Keep in mind for live events be mindful of what time restriction they place on you, try to book a lot more time than you need if it’s free. Make sure you have time to come in to setup and teardown post-event. This is a common mistake by new organizers that extremely underestimate the time required.

For online tournaments, you will need to determine things like how you will communicate with your participants (Discord is a sure-fire communications platform for most games and in most locations after players signup), how will games be hosted online, what resources will you need to facilitate the tournament (communications platform/s, a tournament management platform, referees), what will be your match dispute system (make it very clear to your players), how will your rules be clear and concise (doesn’t have to always be concise depending on the context, but for your first few unprofessional free tournaments, being concise is the way to go).

Be Ready to Learn

This may feel like I am jumping backwards now, but this really isn’t relevant before you get into motion on planning your tournament and executing it. I’m going to give you a reality check, some tough love, but you don’t know everything, hell you don’t know most things. If you are going into hosting your first tournament with an inflated ego and plugged ears, I recommend you not host a tournament at all. You lose major values that typically can justify you hosting a free or a tournament at a loss in the first place.

Even after you host a series of tournaments and after you had major success, this always applies to everyone. The suggestions you may hear or the things you witness may not always be right or a direct correlation to a specific cause. You don’t have to take in all the information but listen to it with an open mind.

Only through doing that will you continuously improve, and will you be able to achieve the best success possible.

Get to Work

There’s a lot of work left for you to do; You better get at it. If you aren’t sure how to proceed, I am currently in the development of an ecourse that breaks down every step behind organizing an esports tournament. This comprehensive guide comes with many industry-standard examples and will take you step by step in hosting small and large events.

Before you leave off, I want to leave you with this: Be ready to fail. You will fail over your career, and if you don’t ever you need to start taking more risks. Failing is just a stepping stone for growth and success. Everyone fails, don’t beat yourself over it and continuously utilize your failures to push yourself further and farther and faster! You got this, go make your dreams a reality!

Comment below why you are interested in hosting an esports tournament in the first place!