The Structure and Format of eSports Tournaments

eSports have carved a niche for themselves, and it continues to spread like wildfire. Teams are growing, and players continue to achieve legendary status as they show their skills in esports competitions.

Throughout the gaming year, eSports teams go head to head trying to edge one another out for the grand prize.

As there are different esports, so are there different structures for their competitions. eSports competitions are similar to those of the traditional sports in the sense that they match teams up against one another so that the ‘best’ wins the biggest prize of the season.

It is important that it finds a balance between fair matchups and exciting viewing experiences. This will support esports teams and further spread esports viewership.

The best tournament structure should be one that reflects the performance of teams such that the best two teams square off for the grand prize. In general, most eSports teams prefer these kinds of structures.

Different Formats of eSports Competitions

In esports game developers have autonomy over how eSports teams compete in its game. They determine the structure and rules of the competition.

Before we move on to the different formats, let us take a quick look at the match types that are played within the competition.

Match Types

Best of 1 (BO1) – A single match between two teams. There is no margin for error in this case as the winner takes the points. This type is often used in the group stage of competitions.

Best of 2 (BO2) – This type is used mainly in competitions that award points for draws. Basically, two competing teams face each other twice before a winner is declared.

Best of 3 (BO3) – This is where a game of 3 is played before a winner can be decided. This match type sorts of cuts teams some slack. There have been cases where a team loses the first match and goes ahead to win the remaining two. This type is mainly used in the knockout stages.

Best of 5 (BO5) – As you can guess, competing teams play each other as much as five times to determine the winner. However, if a team wins the first three games, then it’s a wrap! This set up is often used in grand finales.

Now let’s move on to how competitions are often structured. There are basically two ways: the group stages and the knockouts. Each of these formats has different approaches which are adopted based on how the organizers see fit.

Group Stage

Round Robin

Photo Credit: Mazer Gaming

In this approach, every eSports team in the competition play one another. Teams are awarded points depending on the outcome of each game whether it is a win, draw, or loss.

Round robins are often played in BO1, BO2, or BO3, match types depending on what the organizers want.

Double Round Robin

This is an alternate approach but similar to the Round Robin. The main difference here is that each esports team play every other twice. This is popular approach in esports competitions.

Points acquisition and match types are the same as round robin.

Swiss System

This is a format that does not necessarily involve elimination. It is sometimes used when there are lots of competing teams.

The way it works is rather simple, in the first round, teams are drawn at random and they face off usually using the BO1 match style. The second round will involve the best teams playing one another while the losing teams too play one another.

It follows this pattern: #1 seed plays #2, #3 plays #4, #5 plays #6, etc. There’s a limit to the number of rounds to create an endpoint. Teams earn points just like in round robin. After the final round, the team with the highest points is declared winner.

Mind Sports South Africa, the country’s national esports body adopts this format for all its tournaments.

Knockout Stage (Playoffs)

This format is pretty straightforward; a team is eliminated if they lose the matchup. The winning team progresses to battle against other winning teams.

Single Elimination

The name of this approach explains itself. Fixtures are made by seeding teams or drawing them. The path to the final is already apparent but which teams progress depends on their performance.

In this format, teams play in BO3 or BO5 match types. Teams that win progress to the next slot on the path while the losing teams go home.

Double Elimination

Photo Credit:

This approach offers two paths to the final. All competing teams start in the primary path just like the single elimination. The winning team will progress to the next slot on the primary path.

What makes this different is that the losing team, instead of going home, goes down into the secondary path. This path too leads to the final.

The winning teams continue to play against one another as they progress. Teams in the secondary paths too continue to play one another. However, it’s game over for the losers here.

Both paths continue, with losers from the primary path dropping to the secondary path, all the way to the final. The final will now be between the last team standing from both paths.

There’s a catch here though, the finalist from the primary path starts the final with a 1-0 advantage for its good performance.

The double elimination bracket is gradually making its way into esports competitions as organizers are beginning to combine different formats.

In Conclusion

This format is gaining a lot of proponents such as Ben ’Knoxville’ Steenhuisen, a DotA statistician. He has a standpoint that the double elimination format more accurately reflects esports team’s performance. He went ahead to suggest that this approach ensures that the best team wins.

There is no better time to take gaming seriously. If you dream to become a competitive gamer, you will surely need some help. That is what Gamercraft is here for, to bring out the professional gamer in you. Get in touch now!


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