Event scheduling has re-emerged as a hot topic within the Melee scene. How do majors currently run their tournaments? What’s the best way to schedule a major? Is it possible to run a tournament where nobody complains about scheduling?
coming to the realization that there is absolutely no way to run a tournament where no one complains lmao
— Level1 | contra (@connrokelt) September 11, 2022
In today’s column, I’ll be explaining three different ways of event scheduling. When breaking down these types of schedules, I’ll be talking about their pros and cons, typically from four different perspectives: organizers themselves, the viewers, the average attendees, and top competitors. At the end of the piece, I’ll share some of my personal thoughts and takeaways.
NOTE: There are many different variations of the following schedules. I have merely kept them listed as I’ve done below in order to highlight the basic “concepts” illustrated in them.
Schedule 1: “The Modern”
|Friday||All of Doubles
Top 64 Singles
|Sunday||Top 8 Singles|
This schedule is what most people now associate with going to a major. In it, Friday is entirely dedicated to doubles and variety content, with usually zero or minimal amount of singles round 1 pools matches in the evening. On Saturday, the vast majority of singles is handled up to the final phase of bracket – typically Top 8, but sometimes Top 12 – which then happens on Sunday. More or less, this is the type of schedule that Genesis and Shine have run for the last few years.
There’s a lot of attendee and organizer convenience within this schedule. For organizers, it makes sense to split events by day. Keep doubles constrained to Friday so it doesn’t interfere with singles, keep singles in the same “one day regional” format that the majority of competitors are used to, and dedicate Sunday to top eights for the stream. For prospective attendees, there’s no pressure to take time off work or school, at least if you’re not playing doubles. Simply show up Friday night or Saturday morning. In the worst case scenario, request a pool change.
However, this type of schedule limits viewership, and as a result, a potentially large revenue source for tournaments. Placing all of doubles on Friday glues it to the worst streaming day of the weekend when you could use it as a supplementary ‘warm up’ for singles top eight on Sunday. Furthermore, I’m not sure that boosts to the convenience of prospective attendees outweigh the benefits of spreading the spectator and player experience across the whole weekend. Per Blur, three-day passes, are still the wide majority of purchases for attendees. Day 1 offers practically nothing if you’re not into doubles, you can’t leave the venue on Day 2 without risking losing time to play matches (a particularly draining experience for top players) or watching good Melee, and you spend most of Day 3 waiting for top eight. Can we do better than this?
Schedule 2: “The Big House”
All of Doubles
|Sunday||Top 64 Singles
Top 8 Singles
The Big House is a unique tournament series in many ways. One of those ways is in scheduling. For Friday, it prioritizes round one singles pools and variety content. On Saturday, The Big House typically does most of round two pools off-stream, but runs the entirety of doubles, streaming top eight of doubles on Saturday evening. To conclude the weekend, The Big House does Top 64 in singles all the way to the finale from morning to evening. Every day has a self-contained story. Friday is for content, Saturday is for doubles, and Sunday is for singles.
If you’re the typical attendee, it’s easy to find what to like here. You get your matches out of the way Friday, have content to watch in the evening – and if you play well, you have more time to play on Saturday. For most attendees, Saturday offers a chance to pick between playing doubles, watching round two pools, or traveling around the city, but with none of the time pressure that exists in “The Modern.” Better yet, your Sunday experience becomes the best spectator experience in the world. You even get a break for lunch before top eight.
Let’s get into the “bads.” First off, most top competitors I’ve talked to dread “Top 64 Sunday.” It leaves them simultaneously gassed and with boatloads of downtime between streamed sets. Second of all, this is a schedule for die-hard attendees. Without getting time off from work, chances are that you’re going to fly out before or immediately after top eight. Another issue is feasibility. A tournament running this schedule with fewer resources may drive face-first into numerous bracket delays for round one and round two singles. That’s the part of the event which has to run more smoothly than anything else.
Schedule 3: “The Classic”
Top 64 Singles
|Sunday||Top 4 Doubles
Top 8 Singles
This is called the “classic,” because, more or less, it’s how some tournaments used to run all the way back in 2017. The plan is simple: keep singles and doubles moving throughout the weekend. Run R1 and R2 pools concurrently for singles, but keep all of R1 off-stream and only move forward with R2 singles, with influencers, crew battles, and content creators getting the spotlight in the evening. For Day 2, you run Top 64 for singles and run R2 doubles to Top 4 (maybe even Top 8) in separate blocks throughout the day, but you stream only the winners’ bracket matches, keeping loser’s all off-stream. The order doesn’t matter as long as the end result is running the finale of doubles before Top 8 of singles.
“The Classic” is amazing for viewers, in-person and at home. You have something to watch every single day. Unlike each day being relatively self-contained like “The Big House” or volatile like “The Modern,” you naturally want to tune into what happens the next day, as the entire weekend tells a story. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is merely a ploy for sponsors. The average attendee gets their matches out of the way on Friday, but Days 2 and 3 offer a great combination of spectating Melee. Never is there a moment in which you feel that you have to be in the venue to not miss something. You always have something to do. Top players have no problem with having to prepare for a marathon on any day of the event, though they may have to be more selective about which brackets they enter.
Obviously, if it were so easy to run “The Classic,” every major would do it. Clearly, this schedule is the one with the most logistical hurdles. It is incredibly setup intensive and becomes further complicated by the presence of multiple games, not just Melee, at your standard major. “The Classic” is also, by far, the one that’s least convenient to prospective attendees. You basically have to get a three day pass or your time at the event is not worth it, which is a gambit that maybe three or four events in the world have the prestige to run.
Conclusions & Remaining Questions
The summary I’ve given above details the process, pros, and cons behind each of the three scheduling formats. Some events want to be the most pleasant experience for prospective customers. Others, like The Big House, clearly take inspiration from tennis open or collegiate sport-style events with its focus on the average attendee’s convenience. Finally, you have tournaments that value their long-term viability and financial endgame more than others. With that said, examining these schedules a little more in depth leads us to some clear takeaways – or at least some areas that are worth looking into. Lest I be seen as a fence sitter, I’d like to share some of my thoughts and questions.
- We need to re-examine the value we get from dedicating Friday to doubles. I fear that this creates an empty venue problem for Day 1 and rids Day 3 of stream content that supplements singles. More research is needed, though Blur said it was “walking us straight to doom.”
- In general, I am not convinced trying to reach the contingent of “can’t take time off work or school” players is worth making the attendee experience worse for the people who are actually going to be in the venue all three days. I’d need to look into the numbers behind three-day and two-day pass purchases to verify this.
- Are there benefits to potentially remodeling the “Top 8” Sundays into something else without running into the “marathon” problem? How much more prominent will “Top 12” Sundays become moving forward, and is it worth standardizing?
- In terms of logistics, as well as competitive viability, what can we learn from the implementation of things like round-robin pools in place of round one pools? Has the ship sailed on this format?
- If there are any tournaments that can afford to be less convenient to the prospective attendee for the sake of having a more enriching three-day experience, it’s Genesis, Smash Con, and Shine – three of the premier events of every year.
- Moving forward, I hope these tournaments move away from “The Modern,” and return to something closer to “The Classic.” In short: reject modernity and embrace tradition.