Last week I started a two-part series on the topic of saturation as it relates to the fighting game tournament scene. In part 1 I discussed the issue of dealing with an ever increasing number of tournament-viable fighting games, reiterating the importance of a lean, well-prioritised tournament line-up and highlighting some of the pitfalls that organisers should avoid.
This week I’ll discuss the topic of event saturation. The focus here will be on the frequency and volume of tournaments taking place. I’ll address the challenges organisers face when trying to schedule events in an expanding global tournament scene. I’ll also share my ideas on how organisers can help to make their event stand out in the crowd.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Another point Justin Wong raised in this ESFI World interview was that the onslaught of major tournaments world wide was taking its toll on his time, even though he’s a pro-gamer.
“[The tournament scene is] growing tremendously. I just hope it doesn’t get too oversaturated because I think too many tournaments kind of wear people out. Not everyone is sponsored and obviously the people that make the community are not just the top players, it’s everyone who attends these tournaments, also.” – Justin Wong
“Please spread out tournaments because I would like to stay home for a weekend.” – Justin Wong
Players that want to travel around for tournaments have finite budgets. Even if you’ve got a sponsor helping to pay the bills you can’t be in two places at the same time! As the number of tournaments grows it’s becoming increasingly difficult to space events out. Globally the congestion has reached the point where overlaps are inevitable. All organisers can do is keep up to date with announcements and select dates that minimise the impact of any overlaps on their event.
For example OHNX was part of the Road to Evo series in 2012, but it took place the exact same weekend as Winter Brawl in the US, another Road to Evo tournament. To make matters worse the World Game Cup France 2012 went down on the same weekend! Ultimately the OHN team decided the gap between OHNX and Shadowloo Showdown 2012 was critical, while the other overlaps would have little impact, if any.
Sharing is Caring
Communication can greatly help to avoid tournament overlaps. This requires organisers, at least at the local level, to openly share their target dates with their peers. Following the disastrous clash between OHN9 and Shadowloo Showdown 2011 I’m pleased to confirm that communication in Australia has improved, however some parties still display a lack of openness which I fear will eventually lead to a repeat of the OHN9/SS2011 incident.
Since there will always be events you cannot discuss dates with ahead of any public announcements, the best you can do is wait for others to announce their plans and act accordingly. While more successful this is a reactive approach. Eventually organisers have to stop waiting, make a decision and hope for the best.
Points of Distinction
Let’s say you’ve identified dates that will minimise overlaps for your tournament. This puts you in a pretty good position, however it still may not be enough to maximise your attendance. The best Australian example of this can be found in Melbourne. At present there are two annual majors in Melbourne: Shadowloo Showdown (SS) and Battle Arena Melbourne (BAM). Each is organised by a different group but both organisations work together to run both events. Event dates are separated by around six months, putting them in a good position to maximise player support for each.
In reality interstate attendance at BAM2011 was down considerably compared to past years following strong interstate attendance at SS2011. On paper both events are very similar – they run basically the same tournament format for almost the exact same set of games. Their primary distinctions are that SS draws in a wealth of international top players, while BAM features Smash Bros. games prominently in its line-up. The result is that unless you’re a Smash Bros. player, SS is simply more “bang for your buck” than BAM.
In my opinion the best way to make an event stand on its own in a crowded field is to minimise overlapping content with its peers. Guest competitors (e.g. from overseas), more prizes and unique rewards (e.g. Evolution seeding points) can help make your event stand-out, but there are also other ways you can go about it.
- Alternative Formats
If one event specialises in singles, consider making your event specialise in one or more team formats. Teams have proven effective at many events, and are even standard for some very well-regarded Japanese tournaments such as Super Battle Opera (SBO).
- Different Bracket Types
Double elimination may be the standard but it’s not the only way to run a bracket. Swiss, single elimination and round robins can all be explored as potential alternatives. You can also change the games per set. Be careful to avoid rules that make the results “too random”, or formats that take too long to run.
- Unique Games
There are many niche games that usually sit in the DIY space. If one of these games is very popular in your area, consider promoting it into the official line-up. Likewise don’t be afraid to drop a game out of your line-up if it’s not very popular in your area. Both changes help to give your event a unique flavour and focus.
These types of distinctions can also be made at the local level. For example Melbourne currently features tournaments about once a week, consisting of around four “individual” gatherings that happen on a monthly basis. If all of these events include a double elimination SF4 singles bracket then there’s little incentive for most people to attend every local tournament. However if only one or two of these include SF4 as a focal game, each with a different format, then every event has a chance to develop support whilst adding useful, fun variety to the local tournament experience.
Right now there are more new, tournament-viable fighting games available than ever before, with players making the most of the variety on offer. There are also more major and local tournaments happening around the world and Australia is no exception. We’re even seeing more Australians travel to overseas majors. Players are forced to divide their attention between many great things, and ultimately not all quality games and/or events will receive their “fair share” of support.
Tournament organisers need to be aware of the potential damage saturation can do to attendance at their events. Carefully defining the line-up of games, timing the event to maximise potential attendance and presenting an event that is distinct from its peers can help organisers to add to the scene in a way that expands opportunities rather than burying players in an avalanche of identical opportunities.
Photo from Evolution 2011 courtesy of shoryuken.com.
Feedback and Future Articles
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]– Ziggy –[