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How to Run an eSports Tournament (The Right Way)

How to Run an eSports Tournament (The Right Way)

For as long as there have been video games, there have been competitions to determine who has the best playing skills. While the earliest events were probably staged in somebody’s basement with champions determined simply by whoever achieved the highest score, today’s gaming industry is a booming business, marked by marquee events and featuring big-name players with huge followings. So popular is competitive gaming today that a term has been coined that is quickly becoming a part of everyday vernacular: eSports.

Are you looking to join the eSports movement and run your own tournament? Whatever your motivation, be it financial gain, getting your brand out there, or even promoting a cause, running an eSports tournament can be a very challenging proposition. But by following these steps, you can put yourself and your event on a path toward success. 

Decide Whether Your Tournament will be Online or Offline

One of the unique aspects of eSports, and certainly a significant factor in its explosive growth in recent years, is that it allows spectators and competitors to participate either online or offline (this is the term often used to describe events where attendance, participation, or both, are done in-person).

This is one of the first decisions you will have to make when planning to run an eSports tournament: whether your event will be staged online with players competing from remote locations, or if it will be held at a venue with in-person participation in front of live fans. (In addition to their in-person activities, offline tournaments often have an online element as well, such as live streaming.)

As recent circumstances have demonstrated, gamers and fans can sell out a large venue in no time flat, but they will also flock to marquee online events by the thousands. As we will be seeing, online and offline events have their own unique nuances from a planning and operational point of view. Read on to learn more about them.

Set Your Goals and Objectives for Running an eSports Tournament 

This may sound obvious, but before you begin the planning stage of running an eSports tournament, you must identify and set your goals for staging this type of event. The presumptive answer will likely be related to financial gain, but this may not always be the case for every event organizer or tournament host. The success of some eSports tournaments is not necessarily determined by dollar sales, but by other measurables.

There are several reasons why you may want to run an eSports tournament, starting with the obvious one: to make money. A well-run event not only stands to be profitable in its own right but could very well mark the beginning of a highly lucrative enterprise. Depending on the size of the event, there are multiple potential revenue streams emanating from an eSports tournament, including:

  • Event ticketing
  • Media rights (for instance, live streaming)
  • Advertising (on the event’s website, social platforms, printed collateral like programs, and at the venue in the case of offline tournaments)
  • Merchandising
  • Corporate sponsorships
  • Vendor partnerships
  • Licensing and royalties 

While financial success from running an eSports tournament is never a guarantee, with so many ways to generate revenue from a single event, it not difficult to see the appeal of operating one. But the reasons for organizing an eSports competition go beyond the money aspect. In fact, there are gaming events that end up in the red and yet are considered successes for the other objectives that they accomplish.

There are notable instances where running an eSports tournament can serve purposes other than money-making, such as these:

  • Staging an eSports tournament can be a dynamic way of interacting with a particular audience (e.g., target customers). 
  • It can be used to engage in targeted outreach to a particular demographic group (e.g., millennials or working professionals under the age of 30).
  • eSports can be utilized for building close-knit communities of followers and ambassadors for your brand.
  • Running an eSports tournament can open up a specific territory or region for a product or service.

In such cases, organizing an eSports event serves more as a marketing, promotional, or branding vehicle than a standalone profit-making endeavor. Put another way, the money spent to stage such an event could be chalked up to well-spent advertising dollars. Along the same vein, organizing an eSports tournament could be part of your long game strategy by building brand equity among a particular sector or community.

How to Run an Online eSports Tournament

At first blush, running an online eSports tournament may appear to be a drastically simpler undertaking than staging a live, in-person event. After all, there is no need to deal with the logistical headaches of working with a venue on things like adequately preparing the site for the event, staffing all the event areas, and managing things like event ticketing and crowd control.

But an online eSports tournament is still an event that you will be heavily promoting as a worthwhile experience for participants and spectators, so there is a lot at stake, not the least of which is your reputation as a host and organizer. This is where taking the right approach can make all the difference between a successful event and an utter disaster.

Your online eSports tournament game plan should include these steps (it is worth noting that many of these event-planning strategies apply equally to offline events):

  1. Choose your gaming title wisely – Certain games are simply more conducive to competitive gaming, such as fighting games and MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arena), and many developers integrate tournament-ready features like holding rooms and lobbies where players can enter a playing queue until it is time for them to compete.
  2. Decide on your tournament’s rule sets – This encompasses how the matches play out and players advance (e.g., each round is best of 3 or best of 5, etc.), as well as player registration requirements, the maximum number of entrants, and any customized rules governing actual play.
  3. Keep the event running smoothly – A well-run eSports tournament is not only must-watch entertainment for spectators and fans, but will keep the players fully engaged and primed to deliver their best performances. This means that brackets are well-managed, and matches are held on schedule. 
  4. Consider the streaming option – In today’s entertainment climate, live broadcast and consumption of media content is a major revenue stream (no pun intended). This is particularly true for eSports events, so this is one aspect of running a tournament that should not be overlooked. Fortunately, many platforms simplify the streaming process (including audio feed enhancement tools).
  5. Promote your eSports tournament – You will need to get the word out to properly promote your online eSports tournament. Social media platforms will likely be your best bet to engage with your target audience and attract a competitive pool of participants.

Running your own online eSports tournament may seem like a daunting task and it does present unique challenges. There are quite a few aspects to be mindful of, but with the right approach, an understanding of the fundamentals, and a good team to rely on, you can stage a successful eSports event.

How to Run an Offline eSports Tournament

Running an offline eSports tournament may be a more complex endeavor than its online counterpart, but the potential rewards are worth the extra effort. From both the player and spectator perspectives, nothing can replace the excitement and buzz created by a well-run live event like an eSports tournament. And nothing can better boost your reputation as an eSports organizer, either.

But staging an in-person event like this does present unique challenges that are not encountered when hosting online tournaments. These are some of the important considerations you should keep in mind when running an offline eSports tournament:

  • Venue selection – Important considerations for choosing the right venue for your event include the number of competitors and projected attendance, as well as the facility’s capacity for staging this type of event in terms of available bandwidth. Consider logistics as well; for instance, the availability of public transportation and the cost of parking. 
  • Gaming hardware – Unlike online tournaments where competitors use their own hardware, you will be responsible for furnishing the gaming platforms and other hardware that the participants will be playing with; this includes PCs and peripherals, the latest monitors, and furnishings like tables and gaming chairs.
  • Event staffing – This is another aspect of an offline event that cannot be overlooked. As much of the players’ and spectators’ experience will be dependent on the support and customer service provided by event staff. (Venues often provide their own event staff, but this includes members of your own team as well.)
  • Costs and expenses – Staffing an offline event is a major expenditure, and there are other expenses you should anticipate as well, including facility fees for utilities and cleaning, catering for staff meals, and software. 
  • Event promotion – Since your offline eSports tournament will be taking place at a physical location, your promotion for the event should focus on drumming up local interest through social media posts, print advertising in local publications, and if your budget allows, publicity events staged in the same locale.

The old expression “don’t bite off more than you can chew” certainly rings true when it comes to running an offline eSports tournament, mainly if it will not be a one-off event. It may be wise to start small with your first tournament and book venues like community recreation centers or even local gaming centers. From there, you can scale up as you gain experience and your reputation as an organizer grows.

Managing the Operations of Your eSports Tournament

Depending on the size and scale of your eSports tournament, you may need help managing the operational aspects of the event. Large, established tournaments offering huge prize purses and attracting millions of viewers require the services of highly specialized third-party event planners who charge a handsome sum for their services.

Fortunately, there are more affordable options for managing your event’s operations for those seeking to run their own eSports tournament without breaking the bank. At the top of the list are specially-designed management software that enable operators like you to oversee and manage the various aspects of running a successful eSports tournament.

With the growing popularity of eSports events, many tech companies and developers are seizing the opportunity and launching products and services aimed toward enterprising parties who want to stage their own eSports events, including tournaments. For instance, this software platform offers powerful tools that would enable you to manage these aspects of an eSports tournament:

  • Payment systems – Secure and timely payment processing will eliminate one of the biggest worries an event organizer can experience – getting paid on time.
  • Ticketing – Efficient assignment and distribution of event tickets will ensure that attendees enjoy the festivities without hassles.
  • Participant tools – Features designed to enhance the player experience are also necessary, such as allowing participants to manage their teams and rosters through an online portal.
  • Administrative dashboard – Monitor, oversee, and manage your eSports tournament’s various aspects (including players, games, and schedules) from a single dashboard.
  • Flexible tournament formats – Manage multiple tournament formats from one software platform, including single elimination, double elimination, and lucky draw.
  • Value-added services – Other eSports tournament management software deliverables include live leaderboards with scores and rankings, as well as real-time statistics and other vital data feeds from tournament activities.

eSports tournament software platforms also help you with managing your pool of participants and keeping every aspect of your event running in an orderly fashion. Functions like checking in players, keeping everyone informed of match times and playing schedules, and even resolving disputes, can all be done with the aid of powerful gaming management software.

Whether you plan to stage your event online or offline, by incorporating the right tournament management software into your operations, you can ensure that your eSports venture is a successful one by any measure.


Needless to say, even though it revolves around gaming and entertainment, running your own eSports tournament is serious business. Organizing this type of event can be a complex undertaking, whether you are a first-time host or a seasoned TO (tournament organizer).

There are many facets to manage, and all it takes is one thing to go wrong for the success of the entire event to be jeopardized. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to increase the likelihood of a successful event. Having read this guide on how to run an eSports tournament, you are off to a good start.