Written by Aman Parmar
When we gauge the scale of a tournament like DreamHack, Intel Extreme Masters, The International and the like, it's not difficult even for the untrained eye to judge the planning, effort, time and money it takes to organize and manage such an event.
These organizations also rely heavily on planning related to budget projections that would allow them to divide the amount they wish to allocate to their recurring events, for both logistical purposes and the prize money. This is also one of the strongest reasons why we don't see such large scale tournaments happening almost every month.
However, the lull created by the lack of activity in-between these annual, bi-annual or Quarterly tournaments has spawned a sub-ecosystem. This void between big tournaments is actually a necessary evil. Here's why:
1) Helps the organizations make wiser decisions and mend their shortcomings by learning from experience, plan better, etc.
2) It keeps an eSport alive and kicking by putting the community in the driving seat
This parallel industry's very existence is based on the micro renditions of the full blown events we idolize. These Micro Tournaments lie at the heart of this ecosystem and are the breeding grounds for future pros. It's vital for us to dig deeper into Micro Tournaments and find out why they're so important to the competitive gaming scene. So let's dive right into it.
What's a Micro Tournament?
To begin, let's understand the meaning of the term Micro tournament by defining the two words it's made up of:
a) mi·cro - Extremely small, Small-scale.
b) tour·na·ment - A series of contests between a number of competitors, who compete for an overall prize.
Generally speaking, a micro tournament is a single contest or a series of contests organized on a small scale with prize money. It's usually a single day event but can easily span over a number of days, weeks or even months, in which case it may use a points-based system to determine the eventual winner(s). These tournaments offer gamers the flexibility of being able to play from the comfort of their home and yet face serious competition with a realistic chance of winning cash and/or hardware prizes.
Popular Micro Tournaments and Organizers
Electronic Sports League (ESL)
The Electronic Sports League holds regular online tournaments, many of them being weekly or monthly with some nice prizes. The eSports they usually organize micro tournaments for Starcraft 2, League of Legends, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, SMITE, Tribes Ascend and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Their Go4tournament series is really popular. It uses the points system to determine the top position and disburses the prize money accordingly. Let's take the example of Go4 League of Legends tournament and see how it works:
Go4LoL on Sunday
$200 prize money for 1st place
Top16 earn points
Go4LoL Monthly Finals
$500 prize money for 1st place
Top8 of the Monthly Ranking qualifies
Takes place on Saturday after the last cup of a month
5vs.5 matches are played each week on Sunday with unlimited number of participants. The winner gets €100 in prize money along with points for the top 16 teams. At the end of the month, the top 8 points earners of the month duke it out for a chance to win a €500 prize on the Saturday after the last cup of the month. The sign-up procedure is quite straightforward:
a) Sign-up on ESL's website (www.nationalesl.com)
b) Create a team
c) Sign-up for the Go4LoL tournament
ESL's crowd puller though has been the Go4SC2 series of micro tournaments featuring the #1 eSport in the world – Starcraft 2. Two matches are played each week, one on Wednesday and the other on Sunday. Each of these events award points to the top finishers. At the end of the month, the top 8 players (point earners) qualify for the monthly finals to compete for the €500 prize money.
You can easily sign up for the Wednesday and Sunday cups. Again, here are the steps:
a) Sign up on ESL's website (www.nationalesl.com) with an e-mail address
b) Once your account is activated, you'll need to link it to your battle.net account.
c) You'll then need to provide a contact method aside from your e-mail address, so they can more easily get in contact with you (via Skype, IRC idling, etc.) should you have some prize money headed your way, among other things.
Even though these events can be signed up for well in advance, they don't guarantee you a spot! This is due to the limitation on the total number of players who can participate. For instance, the Wednesday event limits the over participation to 256 players. The Sunday event, which has a prize of €200 Euros to the winner, allows twice as many participants i.e. 512. You have to check-in via the check-in page as soon as it becomes available (which is usually 20 minutes before the tournament is about to begin).
Given the high number of participants, the tournament is kept simple by using the Single Elimination format where you'll be randomly pitted against any opponent. In case of StarCraft 2, you'll need to launch your game and sign into your battle.net account. Your next match will appear in your matches section at the bottom of the page. You'll be required to get in contact with your opponent, and one of you shall set up the match, with the correct settings (the map that should be used will also appear in the match listing). After the match is over, one of you submits the results in the match setup section and uploads a replay of the match, while the other one confirms the results. You're now ready for your next opponent.
ESL's Go4 series covers a variety of games – Go4BO2 (PC), Go4BO2(X360), Go4CSGO and Go4LoL apart from the Smite 5v5 Series as well as the Tribes Ascend Arena cups.
Team Liquid– TL covers most of the major Starcraft 2 tournaments and their forums have an exhaustive list of upcoming online as well as offline micro tournaments. However, when it comes to Starcraft 2, a micro tournament can have a totally different meaning to it. A micro tournament in Starcraft 2 can also mean to practice/play on a map you can play the micro part of the game (i.e. unit movement, kiting etc.) without having to worry about the macro part of the game which is mining, getting gas, etc.
The famous Swedish Zerg/Terran player Stefan "MorroW" Andersson can be credited for his contribution to map-making that focused solely on micro. A number of micro tourneys often show up at the famous iCCup and there a number of active micro tournament map makers on Team Liquid.
Perhaps one of the strongest micro tournament organizers for StarCraft 2 can be found over at z33k.com which has so far organized a whopping 8,279 StarCraft 2 tournaments! You'll often see Single elimination being the de facto standard for most of these tournaments but match types, number of participants, and prizes that are up for grabs all vary between tournaments. Try not to miss the bit that mentions the Prize for it could simply read "Bragging Rights."
Anyone who's heard of Zotac cup has heard about Kevin 'strenx' Baeza who won 48 Quake Live Sunday Cups featuring a single elimination format with best of one up until the Quarter Finals and then a best of 3 for the Semis and a best of 5 in the Finals. The StarCraft 2 Zotac Cups have had notable sign-ups and winners from South Korea including Ko 'HyuN' Seok Hyun, Kim Dong 'RevivaL' Hyun, and Kim 'Sleep' Sung Han. Some other notable names who've taken part in these tournaments are Sascha 'GoOdy' Lupp, Joan 'Fenix' Alejo Morayra, Lee In 'Lucky' Soo, Choi 'Polt' Seong Hun and more.
The tournament has a single elimination, bracket-style structure and is conducted one day per week with $100 on the line. The top 16 point earners also make it past the monthly qualification system for the monthly finals with €800 at stake which are divided into €500 (1st), €200 (2nd) and €100 (3rd).
Virgin Gaming caters to the console-heavy player base and helps them battle each other in quick Play & Go Challenge cups as well as Bracket based Tournaments. Most of Virgin's micro tournaments revolve around 1vs.1 matchups. Players can set their stakes and then duke it out in head to head battles in any number of the latest sports games, including NHL 12, NBA 2K12, Madden NFL 12, EA SPORTS MMA, FIFA 12 and Fight Night Champion. Their system automatically tracks the results of matches, and makes the appropriate payments to the winner immediately following the match. All that's required is an Xbox 360 or PS3 with an online gaming account, and a Virgin Gaming Account to tie it to. Sign-ups are a breeze too!
Virgin Gaming are a lot more into sports games which as a genre have a mammoth fan base across the world. VG are currently working on implementing several new match types in the future. It's imperative that you get yourself an account and compete with fellow sports fanatics.
Unlike major leagues, when micro tournaments vanish, it doesn't hurt much because another community tournament immediately takes its place. We here at PGT suggest you keep your eyes open for these tournaments as they're the bread and butter of the scene and the perfect platform for you to launch your pro-gaming career.