Designing the Halo Esports Ecosystem – February
Welcome to the second installment in our new blog series, Designing the Halo Esports Ecosystem. The goal of this blog series is to detail how we are working to develop a healthy and sustainable ecosystem for Halo esports. If you’re interested in our philosophical approach to esports as a fan, player, team, tournament organizer, or even sponsor, then this blog series is for you! If you’re hoping to learn specifics about format and roadmap, stay tuned because that info will come as we get closer to the launch of Halo Infinite.
In the first blog we set the table and talked about our approach at the highest level, as well as our role in the ecosystem. Thank you to everyone who read the first installment and gave feedback, it’s great to see so much interest in how we are thinking about the ecosystem strategically.
In this month’s blog we’re going to do a deep dive into tournament operators. What’s the role of tournament operators? (outside of the obvious running of tournaments) What are the types of tournament operators we’ll be working with? How does HCS Grassroots fit into the picture?
Let’s do this!
ROLE OF TOURNAMENT OPERATORS
Tournament operators (TOs) are a critical part of any esports ecosystem and Halo is no different. In Halo, we are taking a tiered/multipronged approach with the relationship and types of TOs that we work with in the ecosystem. The reason we're taking this approach overall because it allows for long term and sustainable partnerships in the ecosystem, as well as scaliblity on a global scale so that we can better support the participating regions. This starts with Official HCS events which are fully funded by us. There’s also a hybrid approach where we are jointly funding events with tournament operators. As well as the grassroots scene where we are there to support with promotion, prize pool, and more. Over the last few years, we've been experimenting with different business models at different times to learn and inform how we want to structure Halo Infinite's esports ecosystem. While the different models had been done in a more staggered way, Halo Infinite is when all the tournaments in this tiered system will be taking place at the same time.
At a high level, TOs are the executional arm of both competition and broadcast typically made up of tournament administrators and broadcast producers. Additionally they are responsible for booking event venues, setting up the stage and event, and ultimately executing the event. Even for Official HCS events (think HCS Invitational at SXSW) we hire tournament operators and spend months working with them closely on executing and delivering our vision. Often times the vision will start at a high level and then will be molded and crystalized as both parties share ideas and collaborate, as well as make adjustments due to logistical hurdles that might arise. We prefer to work with partners who can bring ideas and creativity to the table and are as passionate as we are at delivering a great player, fan, and viewer experience.
To take this a step further, we created a role for Halo Infinite esports called “Global Management Partner”. We knew that as a relatively small team we would need support in solidifying and executing our vision for the Halo esports ecosystem from competition, broadcast, sponsorship, and so much more. That’s where Esports Engine comes in. As an extension of our team, we work day-in and day-out with Esports Engine. On top of that, we’re excited to say that we’ve hired Esports Engine to be the main operating partner for official HCS events for Halo Infinite as well as the Halo World Championship. We stated in the past that we see Halo Infinite esports as a continuation of 2018 programming and events, and this the same core team (plus more!) who we worked with back then.
While the HCS team is based here in the United States, we do have a global vision in place for Halo Infinite esports where we are looking to host competition for players in Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand to start. To help us operate in those regions, we’ve also been working to enlist the help of tournament operator partners local to those regions. Our vision is to find operators who are able to partner alongside us in the local Halo community to grow the scene. Often times in esports, tournament operators are running events on a game but have little to no support from the publisher and are often left to fend for themselves. As architects in the ecosystem, we want to work with tournament operators in a way that is sustainable long term so that they can see return on their investment and increase their investment over time as the scene grows. Finally, it’s important that TOs are investing alongside us in our players and ecosystem because it means they are more incentivized and ultimately care more about the success of everything. This philosophy allows us to scale globally at the start of Halo Infinite’s esports journey and sets the path for future expansion.
Like always, HCS Grassroots will continue to support standard tournament operators (UGC Classic or Gamers Outreach are good examples) as well as community tournament operators (think Halo Australia, GTHalo, etc). For us, it’s about supporting these existing partners who had already been operating before HCS Grassroots even existed, but also about adding new partners to the Halo ecosystem and working to ensure that each of them have opportunity to grow. Philosophically, we still very much believe that these tournaments are great for the ecosystem and players (new and veteran alike) - and in the future, they will supplement the main HCS league.
Ultimately for some HCS Grassroots TOs (not necessarily community TOs), deciding to invest in Halo is a business decision as well as one of passion. We’ve been talking to TOs and learning more about what it would take for them to run Halo tournaments not just at launch but well beyond that as well – our goal is to help lay the foundation for a long term sustainable ecosystem. And we’ve also been learning about what things we can do to help in this area, while also keeping in mind the scenes on a regional level and what the player experience is. Our vision and aspiration is that players feel like there’s always something to compete in, which would be a mix of official HCS tournaments, HCS Grassroots tournaments, and other partner tournaments. This would also include a variety of formats and game settings/modes which would make up a bustling and varied tournament scene.
Finally, as an evolution of HCS Grassroots, certain events will be made eligible for sanctioning which means they would adhere to the same game settings and rules as the official HCS league, as well as give players the opportunity to earn HCS points that will help improve their seeding.
At a high level, our aim is to have an ecosystem with a healthy group of tournament operators in the scene, on a global level, who have the ability to run tournaments on a consistent basis over the long term.
If you’d like to learn more about the HCS Grassroots program, you can read more and even apply.
Finally, if you’re a tournament platform interested in participating in the Halo esports ecosystem, you can feel free to reach out to me.
As always, interested to hear what folks think so feel free to send any comments on twitter as well.
Until next time,