I’m writing this piece as both a team owner and the operator of another major league (NASL). I firmly believe that being supportive of other organizations both when they get things right and also when they make mistakes is helpful to the overall growth of our scene. The purpose of this article is to discuss why the 2012 MLG format is amazing and will go a long way to helping stabilize the scene.
Paid trips are great [Small Teams Argument]
The first thing that I love about the new MLG format is the insane amount of money they are spending on flying players places. This fact doesn’t get as much attention as it should, in my opinion. Some people look at the Winter Arena prize pool, and the Winter Championship prize pool and say, “with only a bit higher than $100,000 in prizes it doesn’t seem like MLG is stepping it up that much.” This line of thinking, however, is missing the bigger picture. MLG will pay for 32 flights for its “Arena” event, along with 16 flights for its “Championship” events – that’s 48 flights (and hotels) per season. The average flight with hotel for the event is $1,500. Multiply that out and you get roughly $75,000 in flights and hotels paid out to players for each MLG Season. You have four seasons on the year, which brings us to about $750,000 in total – and I’m sure MLG has other events planned in between each of these seasons that they have yet to announce. For those worried about MLG not stepping it up, look at the numbers and think again.
Why are these paid trips so good, though? As a team owner, trying to budget flights for all my players on the year is a frightening prospect. Not all of us have the luxury of having major sponsorships like EG, TL, Fnatic, and Mouz to be able to send multiple players to every event of the year. This will prove to be a huge help to smaller teams trying to make names for themselves and will surely serve as a major motivator for the middle-level and aspiring pros. Perform well at a qualifier and you get your trip paid to go to the Arena tournament. Regardless of whether or not a player qualifies from the Arena, the exposure vs. cost is amazing. This allows for smaller teams to get their players playing on a bigger stage at potentially no cost, and I’m sure for some teams will make their 2012 budgets look much more manageable.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the future MLG Arena events will have a more open qualification process. The Winter Arena event qualifiers were invite only – much to the chagrin of a lot of people in the community. This is totally understandable however, and should be taken with a grain of salt. MLG as an organization, as a mountain of work to climb to prepare for all these events, so making the first season invite only saves them a huge organizational headache. During these months they can build the infrastructure to have more open qualifiers for future Arena events to give even more players a chance – bear with them. It’s the same as having NASL Season 1 be invite only, to start out, it just makes a lot of sense.
That being said, the Arena format gives more unknown players an unprecedented opportunity to get the exposure necessary to catapult them to a more recognizable status. Further, it will allow them to actually get to compete with the players that in the 2011 MLG format, they may never have had the chance to.
Paid Trips Are Great [Big Teams Argument]
This format isn’t just good for smaller teams trying to make a name for themselves, it is also beneficial to bigger teams as well. Sure, a team like EG has a lot more money than a team like vVv, but just because a team has more money doesn’t mean spending it frivolously on flights is good, either. Straight away team EG has two players who will be flown directly to the MLG Winter Arena tournament, that’s a good $4,000 in travel budget the team gets to save. You can be sure that a team like EG and TL will have an average of 3 players getting flights to each Arena tournament, and an average of 2 players getting flights to each Championship tournament – that’s 5 per season, on average. This will save big teams in the neighborhood of $50,000 yearly on travel.
A big team can use that money saved to send more players to other events throughout the year, pay for their training facilities, reward their players more for all the hard work they put in to improving, or even sign new players. I could be wrong, but I doubt the owners of these major teams are going to complain at having an event like MLG front the bill for them to compete at the events in 2012.
This is especially good for European players – who have been very hesitant to send players to MLG events in 2011 because of the costs. Mouz sent Thorzain once, HasuObs once, and MorroW once. Millenium sent ToD to Anaheim, and at each MLG there are maybe a hand-full of European gamers that try their luck at competing. The Arena format change makes it so that at least eight European players will be able to attend the Arena tournament, and gives them a 50% chance of qualifying for the Championship. I am confident that European participation at MLG will be much greater in 2012 than it was in 2011; MLG is working to become a much more global event.
A Lower Prize Pool Isn’t That Bad
If you’re looking for eSports to develop into the level of real “sports,” then outlandish prize money figures aren’t the way to go. The prize money for a Grand Slam victory (Tennis, for those who don’t know), ranges from $1.5 to $2.3 million. I realize that this is monumentally higher than eSports prize pools, but Tennis is monumentally bigger. Relative to how much top players earn, the prize for winning these events isn’t that major. Further, because Tennis is purely an individual sport, a higher prize pool is warranted since Tennis players don’t have a team to pay their salary or travel expenses for them. Some pro gamers have balked at the lower prize pool of the MLG events, wishing that the money put into travel could instead be used to make the prize pools more extravagant.
I think MLG’s 2011 events proved that you don’t need an out-of-this-world prize pool to put on a stellar event with top notch competition. In real sports, the majority of a player’s income comes from: a) sponsorships and endorsements, and b) his contract with his team. In the case of an individual sport like Tennis, endorsements are the primary source of income and prize money comes second (in team sports prize money is probably 3rd). The NBA awards a few thousand dollars to players for making an All-Star team and winning the Slam Dunk contest nets a player about $20,000. The thrill of competition, pride, and victory is one of the biggest drivers of professional sports – and of course, a big contract and/or endorsement.
The fact that eSports is generating a bigger audience of fans and spectators who are increasingly willing to consume sponsored products is a good thing. The fact that an organization like MLG is promoting more top notch competition at each of its events is a good thing.
Pool Play Resets – Yay!
There were many flaws to be found in the 2011 pool play system. A player could be seeded into pool play, lose all his games, go into the championship bracket and lose all his games and still be ranked higher than about 80% of the participants. The top-heavy point structure made it so that losing a pool play seed was virtually impossible (only 2-3 players in 2011 lost their pool seed). In 2012 this problem will go away, with the Arena tournament top 16 determining the pool play for the next Championship event. Because the 2012 format is much more open, it gives any number of players a shot at getting into pool play. The players who perform the best will be rewarded the most, and one strong performance won’t guarantee a pool play spot for the entire year any longer. This is good for variety, for motivating players to consistently perform, and in the fairness of competition.
Equal Treatment For All
I might be a minority, but it bugged me that Koreans were the only ones to get direct invites and paid trips to MLG. I know that MLG had a partnership with the GSL – but it doesn’t sit right with me, and a lot of other gamers to see Koreans come in and take the prize money, glory, and hard work of the hundreds of other players who had to scrap together money to come to the MLG events and compete. On top of this, Korean players were allowed into the playing areas earlier than other players in order to give them more practice time.
Now, with the Arena system every player will have an (almost) equal opportunity to get rockstar treatment from MLG. I also enjoy the fact that they implemented a rule in which MLG will only pay for your flight if you are physically in the region of which you are trying to qualify. I.E. Korean gamers can’t take all the NA spots unless they are living in Korea. We will be seeing eight amazing Korean players come to every MLG Arena, but we won’t see all 32 players in the Arena tournament be Korean. American and European players will have equal opportunity to get a paid trip to compete on the grand MLG stage, and this is only a good thing.
Hopefully new pool play rules and the “pro badge” can benefit all the qualified players equally as well, and not just the Korean ones. Overall, I am very excited about this change in particular.
Ultimately, I think that MLG is doing things the right way to start 2012. The format is good, the prizes are nice, and the fact that they are paying for so many people to compete in the LAN events are a huge bonus. That being said, I am looking forward to an awesome 2012 from MLG and can’t wait for the first Arena and Championship events! MLG has always proven to be a most exciting event. MLG is setting a good bar and tone for the year. I am still waiting for IEM and IPL to release the full details of their 2012 plans, and NASL’s have yet to be released as well. Needless to say, if the other organizations are able to put forth their best efforts the same way MLG is, 2012 will undoubtedly be a much better, and more stable year.
Much kudos to Lee, Adam, Sundance, and all the other folks at MLG for really working to make their event as good as it can possibly be.
This blog reflects my personal opinions. It does speak for the NASL, CSL, or any other organization I am affiliated with, it is meant to express my ideas on different topics, events, people, and things! I hope that people can find my thoughts as an insider informative and useful as well as incite a meaningful discussion and debate. I will refrain from posting classified or sensitive information in this blog, and if such information is mentioned, it will be without specific names, figures, etc.