v1lat on tournaments organization
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Below is a translation of an article by Vitalii 'v1lat' Volochai, one of the most popular Dota 2 commentators on the CIS scene, adressing recent complaints and drama regarding quality of events organization.
Yesterday on sports.ru there was a blog by Alexander Zavoloka called 'Bathroom breaks and tables too high, things cyberathles are annoyed about', which highlighted excessive demands of certain eSports stars. Alexander used Jacky 'EternalEnvy' Mao, current Team Secret and former Cloud9 player, as an example. I completely agree with author's point of view but my comments caused an entire storm of enraged replies, mostly from the English-speaking community, which misinterpreted my thoughts most likely due to incorrect translation. I will try to explain what I meant.
Esports are the fastest growing sports in the world at the moment. Every day, thousands of new people come to play and watch, so every day the popularity of tournaments, players, teams and games is increasing. It is absolutely reasonable that prize pools are increasing as well, more companies are interested in advertising and there are even more people who are trying to make money. And somehow, the eSports community is convinced that the tournaments and organizers are taking all the money from tickets to themselves, give out some through prize pool and not giving shit about players and teams. All organizers are swimming in money and ignoring the players who are requesting simple stuff like private bathrooms, individual hotel rooms for players or chairs of certain height. The very bad organizers are rejecting simple player requests. ESL, DreamHack, Starladder are bad, but the players are the good guys and they will tell everyone about it. Good guys...
I haven't been involved in events organization for about a year. Since January 2015, I've been focusing only on commentating but from 2008 to 2014 I was actively involved in the process and became very familiar with it. I will try to explain how a tournament works and how it earns money. As an example let's take DreamSLTV One with finals at Sports Palace, Budapest.
If you want really good teams to play in your tournament you have to make put up an impressive prize pool for starters. Considering that DreamSLTV One has been around for about 5-6 years and that organizers know the market very well, they decide to set a starting prize pool $150,000. Not much, but not too low either. You want teams to come to Budapest from China, America, Russia, Europe! Besides that, the prize pool is extending through sales of tickets and sets/skins. Let's write down $150,000 into costs.
Next the most important thing - skins! The reason that all organizers have vacations on Bora Bora and sail on yachts! We need to organize a chest with sets and sell it along with tickets. The artists take their share but it is not a big deal because sales will be huge and money will pour. Skins creators usually take 60-80%. DreamSLTV One organizers are sophisticated, they work with good workshop artists and give them 60%. Valve's system works in the following way: the organizers can add any percent of the chest price to the prize pool, which is doubled by Valve. So, 100% of chest price is 12.5% to prize pool from organizers +12.5% to prize pool from Valve +12.5% organizers keep to themselves + 62.5% going to Valve.
The chest price is 5 dollars. Therefore, from each chest sold, organizers earn $0.625. Don't forget that 60% belongs to workshop artists. Let's ASSUME that skins of DreamSLTV One are so cool that they sold more chests that The Summit 3 - 70,000! Organizers get $17.500. That goes into revenue.
Let's continue. We have to organize the online part, which is a very difficult process because cool tournaments usually have qualifiers around the world, from Malaysia to America. All matches need to be commentated. More matches means more content, more viewers on streams and Dota TV and, therefore, more Twich ads money! But there is one thing... DreamSLTV One organizers learn that from 50,000 everyday viewers 80% have adblock, so only 10,000 actually see the ads and only half of them are from regions where ads make at least some money. After one month of online competition, organizers get a revenue report from Twitch - approximately $15,000 per month (average for top event channels). Online part goes on for two months, so $30,000 go to revenue.
The finals are coming! Organizers start working on it. Actually they started working on it four months ago because otherwise it is impossible to rent decent platform and prepare required equipment. Renting Sports Palace in Budapest for four days, technical logistics, equipment delivery. Some things are delivered from Bucharest but these big LED-screens, so everyone can see everything properly, come all the way from Cologne. We also need a couple of kilometers of cables, wires, 50 PCs for streaming, 15 PCs for the stage (5 in reserve), 20-30 PCs for training area, monitors for all of them. We need tables, mics, cameras, banners. Consider that we live in civilized world - we also need to hire companies that will provide security, catering and cleaning. DreamSLTV One organizers are professionals, they will do all of that but that will cost some money. Most of it, of course, renting costs but logistics cost a lot too. Costs - $80,000.
Next thing we need to bring the teams and accommodate them. Organizers know that players were very disappointed by a hotel in Jonkoping during DreamLeague: three players shared one room, food was served only very early in morning, internet was bad, everybody complained. ESL One Frankfurt got its share of complaints, too - hotel rooms were too small, some had malfunctioning showers, internet required extra fee. We need to solve all these problems - find a hotel near Sports Palace because organizers really want players to not complain about traffic jams and stuff. Eight teams from all over the world come to Budapest. Flights for every team cost $4,000 for Europeans and Russians, $8,000 for China and America. Total of $48,000. We manage to find only 4-star hotel because finding 100 rooms in Budapest is nearly impossible. Some players will have to live by pairs, some will share a room with their managers. First complaints are already coming towards the organizers. 50 rooms for six days - $40,000.
The first day of finals is followed by sleepless night. Organizers are finishing a three-day construction and tuning everything to the perfect condition. Internet, wi-fi, commentator booths, analyst decks, sound for the audience, stream sound, big screen picture, Twitch stream, VOD recording, training areas, internet for training, food for players, food for staff, security, communication for staff, players delivery, water, lots of water, badges for players and staff, dividing the Palace into access areas. The first serious problems appear. This is Sports Palace, so all bathrooms are located on the second floor for viewers because basketball teams are not likely to be in a need of one. Organizers lock one section from viewers, hire additional security - problem solved. First match starts, first map is finished, everything seems to work fine, expect a single internet issue but the admins are good so they sort it out in five minutes. After the first map one player wants to smoke a cigarette and not just one but the judge restricts him from smoking 'one more'. 'There will definitely be a pricky tweet about that' comes through organizer's mind but that is lost among a ton of ongoing issues. We need to control food delivery, check for separate food for Muslims and vegetarians, check having both sparkling and non-sparkling water. We need energy drinks, coffee. Players need heat pillows for palms, air conditioner for the training room because it is hot. On the contrary, the stage needs a heater because it's really cold. Also we need to order special heaters that do not heat surfaces because players don't like hot mice. Et cetera, et cetera. I omit costs for staff transportation, commentators fee, analysts, that all sums up to about $30,000. The organizer has raised some money at the entrance by selling 5,000 tickets, 5 dollars each. Plus $25,000!
The event is finished. Winners got their award. Super! Now we have to pack it all up, clean Palace and go home to count our huge profits.
Total revenue: 30 000 + 17 500 +25 000 = 72 500. Total costs — 150 000 + 80 000 + 40 000 + 30 000 = 300 000.
Oh yes, tournaments have sponsors. The sponsors are usually very good. To conclude the article I will leave you some food for thought, homework of some kind. What do you think, will DreamSLTV One organizers manage to find sponsors to cover227 500 costs over two periods? And that only to EVEN UP revenue and costs. But we also need to swim in cash and go to Bahamas.
So here we are. Four days after the event, the organizer is reading players' twitters of facebooks and finds complains that Budapest Arena doesn't have bathrooms near the stage, that after matches the food was cold and there was no microwave, that the stage did not have a mini fridge with energy drinks, that hotel internet was bad, that the stage was too cold, that the security guy did not allow players to the Arena without a badge, that ....
Ladies and gentlemen. Tournament organizers put colossal efforts into their work. And they've been doing that for a very long time. Without ESL, DreamHack, Starladder, MLG there would be no the International, no teams, no popularity. All these people put their soul and time into the tournaments. Around 200-300 people are involved in organizing events in Dallas or in Frankfurt. All these people do not deserve all that shit, which some nominal player of team A or manager of team B pours onto them on social networks. If you want to change something, write a letter to organizers, point out the issues, help them but do not humiliate them on public forums, unleashing hordes of kids to shitstorm organizers by your command.
You have to show respect. Only then will you be respected.