SoloMid and Tournament Paywalls
by Hardy 'SQSing' Pace August 8, 2012 @ 06:08pm
League of Legends tournaments can fall into two broad categories, 'filler' tournaments and 'substance' tournaments. The amount of weight given to the winners is the main factor in determining which category a tournament will fall into. A filler tournament, regardless of video quality, will generally be very frequent and the winner of the tournament will not be thought about by the viewers longer than the duration of the tournament. A simple way to compare a filler tournament against a substance tournament is to think about how much the community pays attention to the winner, and the hype that follows. The average community member will be able to recite the winners of IPL, IEM, and MLG to name a few, but if asked who the winner of the SoloMid Invitational #3 was - you might need to do a little research first.
Now, to clarify, I think filler tournaments are essential and great additions to the League of Legends community. If the only tournaments we could watch were the big ones, we would never see our favorite teams play for large periods of time, and it removes a source of revenue for teams between the larger tournaments. Without the Go4LoLs and SoloMid Invitationals we, as the community, would be scrambling for new content to sate our desire for competitive League of Legends.
However, the big issue is when can a tournament begin charging for HD - the option that has become the industry standard? First and foremost the stream quality must be at the highest the industry can offer. If you begin to charge for HD quality, you must ensure consistency. The viewers became very vocal when SoloMid Invitational experienced multiple sound issues today, a problem that cannot be a common occurrence. The other is bandwidth and avoiding lag, a lagging stream is a bad stream, and must be avoided at all costs.
A factor of quality that is very often overlooked is the flow of the tournament. The flow is determined by wait times for teams, breaks between games, and overall downtime of the tournament. A tournament that does not flow well will not keep viewers, or at the very least frustrate viewers and devalue the experience.
Another large factor that falls under the overall quality of a tournament is casters, and is becoming a growing area of critique for tournaments. League of Legends isn't old enough to have lots of ex-professional players who have taken up casting, a benefit that games like StarCraft 2 have. With the distinct lack of credible and experienced casters to draw from we can only blame tournament organizers so much, but it is something that should be heavily invested in. A good caster can carry a bad or eventless tournament to success.
Once stream quality is achieved, the community might be more receptive to a paywall but the one thing holding a weekly tournament such as the SoloMid Invitational back is how much the results actually matter. A weekly tournament where a winner is crowned then forgotten is hard to hold much value in this category - but there is nothing stopping the organizers from expanding their tournament. A very simple way to add more weight to the winners is to have SoloMid filter the weekly winners into a larger monthly or bi-monthly tournament, preferably a LAN. If the tournament can build up, provides anticipation, and create hype then the value will rise, and the reception to payment will as well.
All in all the tournament organizers must legitimize their tournament in the eyes of the viewers through stream quality consistency and tournament expansion. If the tournament stays in its current form, I don't predict a high subscription rate.
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