ONOG Pokemon Invitational Explained

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by liquidmonk, Feb 17, 2017.

  1. liquidmonk

    liquidmonk Well-Known Member

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    Hello TrainerTower/VGC community! If you’re reading this, you’re probably well aware of the ONOG Pokemon Invitational: Presented by GEICO. If not, make sure you head over to http://pokemon.onog.gg/ and read up on the details in the announcement post here to first check it out. The following is my attempt to be fully transparent about the intentions of this tournament and how it came to be. I will try to anticipate any concerns the community might have and address them here. Note that I will be speaking for myself and none of these thoughts necessarily represent those of ONOG.

    Inception


    This all started with Yoshi’s Invitational. When Markus first had the idea of such an event almost a month ago, he approached me for advice. I gave him tips on things such as how to make Liquipedia brackets, how to look for sponsors, and how to promote the event. When he announced the event, however, I was not prepared for the negative backlash that followed. The community almost rallied against him in what they saw was a shady money-hungry cash grab. Though I think everyone can agree there were numerous problems regarding the announcement and execution of the event, it was still very disappointing for me to see the supposedly “tight-knit” community not able to assume the best intentions of each other.

    Though the event seemed destined to fail, I wasn’t ready to give up on what I thought was a great idea at its core. Anyone who’s read my article on storylines knows I’m a big proponent of using this kind of tournament in order to “grow the game”. Thus, the next day, I started to ask around to see what I could personally do to salvage the idea. One thing led to another and eventually I pitched the idea of running an online Pokemon tournament to an esports organization I closely work with, OneNationofGamers. They agreed and the ONOG Pokemon Invitational was born.

    The Nitty Gritty

    For clarification, ONOG will be the tournament organizer, providing professional esports-level production. Together, ONOG and its sponsor, GEICO, will be taking care of all the associated costs including the prize pool. For those of you who aren’t from the US, GEICO is the second biggest auto insurance company in the United States. I think it’s safe to say GEICO is the biggest and first big and the first non-endemic sponsor a VGC-only event has ever had.

    I will be taking the lead in project management, planning, and administration for the event. Please take special note that I am not a player in this tournament.

    Tournament Goals

    I will clearly state the main goals of this event from my perspective in order of importance:

    1. Primary Goal: Use this tournament as a proof of concept to show that broadcasting Pokemon tournaments CAN be profitable.

    The main goal of this event is the same as the intended goal of Yoshi’s invitational. We want to see if hosting a Pokemon event can viable for a sponsor. That is, can VGC provide a similar level of return per dollar as other esports titles? As such, we’ll be focusing on maximizing viewership and minimizing costs to some extent. At the end of the event, we’ll do some cost-benefit analysis to assess how successful it was. If we see it’s either profitable or has potential, it’s possible this won’t be just a one-off event. If we can show that hosting and broadcasting VGC tournaments is a profitable venture, it’s also possible that other organizations will take a closer look at this scene.

    2. Create an entertaining broadcast that the community can enjoy.

    This is a goal with every esports broadcast, but I think it’s especially true here. As this is the first event of its kind, I feel like we have something to prove to the VGC scene. We want to show that these events will be beneficial to the community would create new and interesting content to watch.

    3. Spread VGC to viewers who may not be familiar with VGC or competitive Pokemon.

    One misconception many VGC players have about “growing the game” is that it’s all about growing the hardcore player-base. As other esports title have shown us, this is fundamentally not correct. What makes other games so successful is not only the hardcore players who grind everyday, but the casual fanbase that tunes into broadcasts and provides eyeballs for advertisers. By producing a hype tournament and advertising through non-VGC means, we hope to draw more eyeballs from outside the scene and really “grow the game”.

    Note, however, that this goal is tertiary to the other stated goals. While I believe these types of invite events are one of the best and proven ways to attract fans (see the Hearthstone scene), the other goals are currently more important in my eyes.

    On the Invites

    One major complaint about Yoshi’s Invitational was that the invited list of players was a close-knit group of friends and that the tournament organizer was one of players. For this event, I was solely responsible for picking the players and as I’m relatively new to the scene, I’m not close friends with any of these players. As a third party, I took a step back and tried to objectively pick who would be best for the stated goals of the tournament. Remember that these goals were:
    • Proof of Concept (translates into viewership)

    • Create an entertaining broadcast

    • Introduce VGC to players not familiar with VGC.
    You may not agree with who I picked, but hopefully you can understand my reasoning and thought process. The following is my team-building process:

    To start off, for the first edition of this event, everyone had to have a capture card. Although it’s technically possible for one player in the tournament to play without a capture card, we wanted to avoid this situation as much as possible for failsafe reasons. As such, I pretty much only considered players who I knew had capture cards.

    Aaron and Wolfe are the two easiest picks, both with the two biggest followings among the “hardcore” VGC scene. Both are very skilled players with Wolfe being the World Champion and Aaron winning the equally prestigious Melbourne Challenge.

    Rounding out my core is Markus, the man behind the original iteration of this tournament. Not only that, he is quickly growing his Twitch/Youtube following and is one of the best in the world with a 3rd Place Worlds finish and a Dreamhack Leipzig win.

    With my AMW core rounded out, I wanted a splashable player that fits on any team. I decided on Sejun Park, the 2014 World Champion, a player that I think everyone loves and is a fan of. This especially brings hype to the event since we hardly ever get to see Sejun play outside of Worlds.

    With the inclusion of the previous four players, I think I’ve captured the attention of the majority of the “hardcore” VGC scene. Thus, with my other invites, I wanted to capture other audiences in order to increase the viewership. My next choice was Shoma Hoami, the 2015 World Champion. If a Japanese player were playing, I figured I could more easily advertise to the Japanese market. And similar to my reasoning behind Sejun, I believe Shoma also brings a lot of hype because you so rarely get to see Western players play Japanese players.

    Next, I wanted to capture a bit of the less hardcore audience. Although Alex Ogloza does more than just VGC these days, he is still a very serious and strong competitor and the previous 2014 US National Champion. He consistently places near the top on multiple Pokemon ladders

    For the seventh spot, I also wanted to be able to spread VGC to the general Pokemon audience. There were a number of choices I considered for this spot before eventually settling on Dan(aDrive) He has been deeply embedded in the general Pokemon community for years, has connections with almost every other large channel, and has his own sizeable audience. More than that, while he is perhaps best known for shiny hunting, Dan dedicates a fair amount of his channel to battling. He has participated and done very well in multiple leagues for multiple years and has a mind for competitive Pokemon. Despite the fact that those draft leagues didn’t use the VGC format, Dan has played his fair share of doubles. He has dabbled with VGC on his channel in the past and has recently been running a series on his channel to help prepare for the St. Louis Regional Championships. In making this series, he has received personal coaching from large variety of VGC streamers and demonstrated a passion for the scene. I believe offering him this chance to compete with some of the best players in the world can help him grow as a player and also shepherd many of his followers into the VGC flock.

    Finally, I looked at my lineup and decided I had enough big names that I could afford to invite a “smaller name” without compromising viewership. My pick here was Enosh Shachar, a very strong and well-liked player who I think is one of the most metagame-changing players in the scene this year so far with his Tapu Fini team that placed second at the San Jose regional.

    On Open Spots

    One question I’m sure to get is “Why no open spots?” This is something I considered, but ultimately decided against due to the logistics of running an open event and the requirement of needing a capture card. As this event was put together with relatively short notice, I had to contact and confirm all the players, casters, writers, translators, and other staff with very little lead time.

    However, I want to reassure everyone that open spots are something we’ll very seriously consider if we run future iterations of this event. ONOG has a very long history of catering towards the average up-and-comer. In 2014, I worked with ONOG to run the first ever Hearthstone Invitational with open qualifiers.
    In 2015 and 2016, we ran the biggest open tournaments in the Hearthstone scene by far in a circuit of $60,000 each year. Looking to the future of VGC, open spots are definitely on our radar.

    On Charity Donations

    Another feature of the tournament we strongly considered was having the entire event be a charity tournament. That is, each player would name a charity before the tournament began and instead of winning money for themselves, we would donate money to a charity of the winners’ choices. After careful consideration, however, I decided against this idea because it would set a dangerous precedent for the VGC scene. If this event were to be successful, any follow-up events would seem like a downgrade if it were not for charity. I think it’s important for VGC players to make money playing the game they love, a luxury that is afforded to players of all other esports titles. In the future, however, ONOG will be very open to charity events.

    On Timing

    Originally, I wanted to find a weekend to put on this tournament that wouldn’t conflict with any other VGC events. Unfortunately, every other week either had a conflict with either a streamed regional or a prior commitment by ONOG. Thus, we are forced to conflict with the NJ MSS on the same weekend. They’ll also be putting on a stream earlier in the day on Saturday with some talented staff, so make sure to check them out: https://www.twitch.tv/libertygarden

    In addition, the time-of-day the tournament is broadcast is bound to be less than ideal for some countries around the world. In this case, Europeans will be the ones that will have to stay up a bit later in the night. When deciding the time-of-day to broadcast, we highly prioritized the US audience to do right for our sponsor, GEICO, a US-only company. A secondary concern was not to overlap with the NJ MSS as much as possible. Thus, you’ll notice that the tournament will be held during US prime times.

    How to Support the Tournament

    If you believe this is a good initiative, the best way to support the tournament is to support the sponsor. If you live in the US, enter the Nintendo Switch giveaway at http://pokemon.onog.gg/. And when the referral link goes up on the microsite, see if you can save money on your car insurance by getting a quote from GEICO. You can also tweet with the hashtag #GEICOGaming telling them how much you value their support of the VGC scene. Otherwise, just spread the word about the tournament and watch it yourself!

    In Closing

    Special thanks to the players competing who gave me valuable feedback regarding this tournament including Aaron Zheng, Alex Ogloza, Enosh Shachar, and Wolfe Glick. Special thanks to community members in the scene who also took much time out of their schedules to advise me on the event. This includes but is not limited to Jason Krell, Matt Jiwa, Rajan Bal, and Rushan Shekar. Thanks to the staff of TT for help in coordinating coverage. And especially thanks to Markus Stadter; without his initial idea and drive, this tournament would not be what it is today.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 17, 2017
  2. Sudrakon

    Sudrakon Member

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    It's hard to express how happy I am right now. When I first heard of Yoshi's invitational I was so happy, I thought it was a great idea to attract viewers and possibly sponsors for VGC, but when Markus said he'd not do crowdfunding I got worried because I thought it was impossible at this point for VGC tournament to have a sponsor and that crowdfunding was the only option. Very fortunately I was wrong and now we have GEICO as a sponsor in a tournament by ONOG (which I know very well as someone who had watched a lot of Hearthstone tournaments since its beggining).
    I'd like to give my most sincere thanks to GEICO, ONOG and specially Monk for making this happen. I don't live in the US so I can't enter the giveaway but I'll sure spread this to everyone I know that is even remotely interested in Pokémon.
     
  3. Temple

    Temple Member

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    I think the players brought in is a fantastic group of both people that someone active in VGC would know and someone that someone who is new to VGC would know about. Can't wait to watch
     
  4. R Inanimate

    R Inanimate Well-Known Member

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    While the backlash for the initial Invitiational pitch was severe, I'm glad that you guys are still willing to give this a go, while listening to some of the criticisms and fixing up the presentation. I look forward to seeing some fun matches and some surprise performances
     
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  5. Werford

    Werford Member

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    I'm very happy that this is going forward.

    As you alluded to in your response to the community response for the Yoshi Invitational, I believe that a large part of the backlash was that the tournament itself did not seem well thought out, to be generous. I'd imagine most reasonable people can understand the need for a small invitational tournament like this, but the way that the Yoshi Invitational was going to be implemented left something to be desired. It's easy to see why many players saw malicious intent in having a crowdfunded tournament in which the tournament organizer could potentially collect winnings, especially in a community unused to having these types of tournaments. Add that to the frankly insulting user "rewards" for contributing to the tournament and the fact that one competitor was locked behind a paywall, and you can see that the people involved in organizing that tournament did not seem to think things through.

    It's hard to come into a scene as capricious as the VGC community and run a tournament like this, but I am very excited to see how this goes. You seem to have thought this through, having valid reasons for the decisions you're making. You considered the shortcomings of the first attempt at an invitational like this, and you seemed to have addressed those shortcomings in making this one. I'm very happy that you went above and beyond in being transparent as well. I feel as though that will create some goodwill from a community standpoint in that this tournament clearly has a goal of benefiting the community instead of just the players participating in the tournament.

    I do want to touch on one point for those of us in the community don't seem to understand well enough: your third goal. I've already seen backlash on twitter and other channels about a "shiny hunter" being included among such established VGC players, but in all honesty you're perfectly correct in your assessment that in order to grow the game, you want to create more casual fans. It's much easier to grow the fanbase of a game by broadening your audience just by virtue of having more potential new fans. Having a player or two who has an established fanbase is an excellent idea in that by virtue of their participation, their existing fans who will watch them do anything will get an introduction of what VGC is like. I'm sure more than a few people who would otherwise only watch shiny hunting streams might decide "Hey, this is pretty cool!" and try to make themselves a VGC team and/or attend a tournament.

    Thank you for giving this another shot. If I had one slight criticism, it would be not holding the tournament on the same weekend as an International Challenge, where casual players may be more likely to play because of the lack of entry fee and the fact that they can play from home. It may be a good idea to advertise the fact that International Competitions exist, as this will let any potential VGC fans start building their teams for the next tournament.
     
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  6. Pyritie

    Pyritie Member

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    Great to see this turned around. This one looks like it will be much more successful. Best of luck to the organizers and I hope everything runs smoothly.
     
  7. Nails

    Nails Active Member

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    Really glad to see that the concerns from the first iteration of the tournament were addressed and that you weren't turned off from the community. This event looks like a great thing, thanks for organizing it.
     
  8. snooze11

    snooze11 Member

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    I can Int tell you how excited I am for this! I actually have hope VGC will become something big! Really glad to see that you guys kept going with this! I'll definitely be watching!
     
  9. madifz

    madifz New Member

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    I was a casual who only restarted playing in 2015 after ditching the Pokemon series back in 2002. It was watching YT pokemon videos (mainly Cybertron), and reading community posts on NB and Smogon that got me hooked on VGC spectating. When I couldn't find a proper VGC stream on Twitch, I contented with watching playthroughs, speedruns TPPs and shinyhunters. I'm just starting to play VGC this format, excited for this tournament. Hoping it could kickstart a wave of future live VGC broadcasts; I watch them with the same anticipation and excitement as when I watch live sports:)
     
  10. Trainer Nobu

    Trainer Nobu New Member

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    As a long time pokemon player and a insurance agent working for GEICO I am quite excited. Looking forward to it very much and props to those who set it up.
     
  11. NightLight

    NightLight Member

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    Very excited for this tournament ^~^
     
  12. VGCsverdrup

    VGCsverdrup New Member

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    We ESports now?
     
  13. Pokebie

    Pokebie New Member

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    Alola~

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