Esports project management – Planning & Tournament Organization

This will more than likely be a long series where I deep dive into project management in esports. You can check out my background and credentials in esports if you’re wondering who I am or why I’m writing about this. I will focus my discussions overall as a tournament organizer and some best project management practices I’ve picked up along the way in esports. This first part will be tailored to a new project manager or tournament organizer looking to enter the space. This list isn’t exhaustive but will start as a good entry point.

Step 1 – Planning

Ahh yes, the classic planning phase on project management has reared its head in esports. The only thing is that’s it’s a bit different in esports compared to traditional waterfall project management.

In the classic sense or non esports world, there’s a project management office (PMO) that secures funding (from the business) for projects and allocates specific projects to a portfolio manager and then to a project manager potentially. However, in esports generally there’s a tournament organizer who acts as the PMO, the portfolio manager AND the project manager. On top of that, you’re also the business owner because you’re securing your own prize pool. Wow.

So what do I mean by planning in esports? There’s a ton that goes into a tournament just in planning so i’m going to list a bit of it below with some explanations.

  • What game are you going to be targeting?
    • Example, am I going to be doing a Dota 2 tournament? If so, when? What does the event calendar look like? Am I throwing an event at the same time as some other tournament organizers who I am going to piss off? Is it during The International?
  • Are you going to target professional or amateur players?
    • Amateur and professional tournaments are vastly different. They have such different needs it’s not even fair to compare them. However, you should have a good idea of who you’re going to be targeting and what it’s going to cost to attract pro teams.
  • Who are your sponsors going to be?
    • If this is a sponsored event, who are your sponsors going to be? Are they going to cover the costs? Do you have an internal budget for this event?
  • Is the event live or online?
    • There is such a large difference I can write separate guides on each. Live events are SIGNIFICANTLY more difficult and have a completely different set of requirements.
  • How do you plan on paying the teams?
    • Some teams are international, some are local. Figure out how you’re going to pay teams or ask team management.
  • Do you have a ruleset in place?
    • What’s the ruleset? Many teams / players will ask specific questions and you should have a ruleset that makes sense and is modern for them to read over if required. When it’s needed you’ll be glad you have it.
  • Do you have a team in place?
    • Are you going to be doing everything or do you have specific staffing in mind? Check out some roles in esports for further information.
  • How are you going to broadcast it?
    • Do you have an established tournament brand behind you or are you broadcasting cold onto a new twitch channel?
  • Do you have logo / branding requirements?
    • Do you have sponsor requirements? If so, work with your broadcast partners to ensure they get introduced correctly. A run of show can help with this.
  • What’s your tournament format?
    • Having a ridiculous tournament format will be a turn off for a lot of teams. Really think about what you are proposing to teams.
  • What’s the prize pool?
    • Each game varies, each team will / won’t accept various formats or prize pools etc.
  • What are the match hours?
    • Am I targeting EU teams and proposing NA times? Think of what the teams would best react to.
  • Are you going to have qualifiers for this tournament? Are they going to be open world wide or just regional?
  • Have you identified staffing needs? If so, who?
    • Is this an amateur tournament where you need only minor staffing or is it a professional tournament where you need 50+ staff?
  • Do you need legal contracts in place with teams and staff?
    • Ensuring legal contracts are in place is always a good practice.
  • Do you need a license to host a tournament for your specific game?
    • Some tournament licenses cost money, some don’t. Look into this.
  • Do you need a venue?
    • What is the internet situation like? Do they have backup lines? What’s their bandwidth and is it dedicated to you or is it shared?
    • Do you need security or police presence?
    • Do you have a floor plan to plan the event?
    • Can you view the event in a tour before committing
    • Does the venue have an hour limit in place? Ie, does it have to close by 9pm.
  • How are you handling flights if you’re flying players in?
    • Some flights are international and at late hours. Ensure you’re aware of when players land and expect to be at your venue.
  • Do you have a hotel sponsor? How many nights are staff staying and where are they staying?
    • Work with the hotel staff to let them know what you’re doing and what your needs are upfront
  • What’s the food situation like for staff?
    • Please ensure they’re taken care of :).
  • How are you handling ticket sales?
  • Do you have someone to take care of merchandise sales?
  • Do you have transportation to and from the venue for players and staff?
    • How are players / staff getting to the venue from the airport? Do you have pickup?
  • Do teams need a stipend for food? If so, what is it?
  • What is the practice room situation like? Are they dedicated? Some teams won’t come if they’re shared.
    • Strategies do not want to be leaked within teams and are important that teams feel comfortable
  • Are all the teams aware they may need visas to enter the country?
    • Ensure you know your visa requirements or contact an immigration lawyer.

So there you have it. Part 1 of planning an event. Some parts aren’t applicable if you’re doing an online event but could be good to think of if you transition live. Esports project managers and tournament organizers need to plan for a lot. It is always a difficult task and being prepared is just Step 1. I’ll write more in the coming days on tournament organization in esports. If you have any questions just feel free to ask!

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