Planning Guide for Grassroots Esports Events

Want to host an esports event, but not sure where you should start?  Any event requires a lot of planning, and there are a lot of elements specific to esports that you might not be aware of. 

In an effort to help ensure your grassroots tournament is successful, we’ve put together this helpful guide of things to consider as you go through the planning process for your first esports event.

Goal

Yes, this is the starting point for any event.  What do you want to accomplish?  

Budget

Once you figure out what the goal is, do you have enough money in the budget to accomplish that goal?  At this point in the planning, it might appear that you do, but as you go through the budget process, it might end up costing more than you think.  You need to look at all of the elements involved:  venue, vendors, A/V, lighting, staging, tickets, IT, marketing, etc.  Yes, it’s a long list, but having a realistic budget that supports the goal of the event will help you make the right choices.   Keep in mind that you can’t count on ticket sales alone to cover your costs, so finding sponsors for your event is imperative.  This doesn’t happen overnight, so you might need to move the dates of the event to allow for a longer timeline to find sponsors.  If you have a rock-solid concept and plan appropriately, the sponsors will come.

Venue

If you are planning an event, you need a venue, and there are many things you should look at while scouting potential locations. 

  • Is the venue available for the dates you plan to hold the event? 
  • Does the venue have the right amount of space, layout, and infrastructure for what you want to accomplish?  
  • Can the venue provide tables and chairs for players, or will you need to source those from a third party? 
  • Is there an internet connection in the venue, and if so, will they let you use the bandwidth? 
  • Does the venue have adequate power for everything, or will you need to use an event power company? 

The gaming aspect is probably going to be first and foremost in your mind, but don’t forget to think about footprints for potential sponsor/vendor areas and box office/ticketing as well.

Load In / Load Out and The Event Schedule

A common mistake for first time event planners is not factoring in setup and tear down time when booking the venue.  Do NOT underestimate how long it will take!  Play it safe and allow for more time than you think you might need.  You might have to pay a little more to book additional hours/days with the venue, but you will probably save more money because more time to load in/load out often means less labor.  When creating the event schedule, don’t try to cram too much into a limited amount of time.  Make sure you have enough time between tournament rounds to allow for some flexibility, and always have someone who’s main role is keeping things on track.  

Bandwidth

As mentioned above, it is extremely important to find out if the venue you select has bandwidth installed.  Most venues do, but there may be additional charges if you want to use it.  You should also consider how much bandwidth will be needed to support the event. The answer to that question is not always an easy one and will depend largely on what needs connectivity (ie. gaming consoles, streaming, ticketing, Public Wi-Fi, POS, sponsors, etc).  It’s best to find an IT partner to help determine your needs and design a reliable network.  Staying connected is the last thing you want to worry about at an esports event, especially if the tournament is being streamed on Twitch and the primary games are based online.

Games, Tournament Format, Rules and Scoring

Choosing games that have mass appeal is always a solid option, especially if this is your first esports event.  Try to focus on a tournament style competition with one or two games, and then build in some ancillary competitions with another game to keep things interesting for spectators.  Keep the number of games to a minimum (5 or less), and make sure you consult with knowledgeable gamers and/or esports professionals.  It’s extremely important to ensure the format, rules, and scoring that promote fairness among the players and make sense for the size and duration of the event. 

Consoles, Monitors and Streaming

You’re obviously going to need consoles, monitors, and a streaming system, but where do you get that gear?  There are two options.  You can hire a company that brings it in, or you go the community source route and provide attendees who bring their own console/monitor a discounted ticket price.  Hiring a knowledgeable company is the best option, but if you have a limited budget, community sourcing can work.

Permission / Licensing From Software Companies

Some games require special permission to play in an esports tournament setting, especially if there are a large number of gaming consoles logging into their service from a single IP address.  If you don’t get permission to use the game in your tournament, you may get a cease and desist letter from the software company.  Some companies also require whitelisting of IP addresses for esports events.  If your IP addresses are not whitelisted, you risk having players not being able to connect to the servers during the event.  It is always best to contact the software company well in advance to make sure you have the appropriate permissions to use their game, and to ensure the IP addresses won’t be blocked by them during the tournament.

Staffing The Event

You can work through a lot of the planning with a small team, but for the actual event, you are going to need more people.  First, determine the roles you need to fill (emcee, production manager, scorekeepers, timers, ticketing/box office, food and beverage sales, etc.), then look at staffing those positions.  Sometimes you might be able to use volunteers, which can be great for the bottom line, but that might not be an option.  Everyone involved needs to know what their role is, and who is in charge of all the different aspects of the event.  Make sure you delegate responsibilities so you can avoid getting pulled in on everything that comes up.  Have someone create a master contact list and distribute it to the entire team so everyone knows who to go to if there are any questions or issues. 

Promoting Your Event

If you’re this far in the process, congrats!  It’s time to start getting the word out and generating a buzz about the event.  No event can be successful without players and attendees.  Social media is a great place to start, but that alone might not be enough.  Diversify your approach to advertising, and make sure it’s targeting the right demographics.  Find a marketing professional who has some experience that can help you make the right choices, and if you want to reach the people who matter, make sure you have enough money in the budget to maximize your marketing efforts.

Audience Engagement

Keeping everyone engaged and entertained during you event will not only ensure a great experience, it will also help boost the buzz and attendance for your next event!  There can be some downtime between tournament rounds, so plan to have some house music to play, contests, and prize giveaways to fill the lulls in the action.  You also need a highly visible leaderboard so everyone knows how tournament play is progressing, and large screens/monitors so the attendees can watch the action.  In addition, aligning yourself with sponsors/brands that bring in their own experiential activations and other unique fan experiences is always a plus.  And lastly, don’t forget about streaming.  If you plan on streaming any part of your event, make sure you have someone dedicated to monitoring the stream and chatting with online attendees to keep them engaged, too.

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