S3WC vs. TI3: Which was better and why?
With some time having passed since the most colossal eSports events of the year, we take an objective analysis into what made each event so incredible and which one did a superior job presenting it.
From rock stars showing up and professional sports athletes commending what it takes to be an eSports athlete to official news reports dipping their toes into a mysterious competitive environment, one cannot deny the current overwhelming scope of eSports. Each year we move forward, a new milestone is reached in the exposure of the games we know and love being taken a step further, climbing into the spotlight of the mainstream media.
The two most noteworthy events of the year were the Season 3 World Championships for League of Legends and The International 3 for Dota 2. Millions of viewers tuned in to see their favorite stars go at it to compete for prizes trumping 1 million dollars. Below, we judge the two events in various categories in attempt to see which proved their merit.
HYPE & BUILD-UP
Before The International 3, Valve brought up the idea of the Compendium, which doubled as a community effort and a means of hyping up the tournament. This genius move by Valve allowed for less pressure on Valve's own end without the disposition of begging from the community. Each milestone labeled as "goals" for money raised by the compendium helped raise the prize pool and gave fans awesome perks.
The heavily lauded 1v1 competition, which allowed Compendium owners to vote which of their players are to participate - a tournament which had its LoL counterpart during the All-Stars event in China - was just one of those perks. Additionally, the money raised by the Compendium brought the hype of the biggest prize pool in eSports, trumping the prize pool for both the Season 2 and Season 3 World Championships for League of Legends.
So how did Riot succeed in beating the Compendium-raised over $1,000,000 in additional to the already established prize pool you might ask? While it was a great way for Dota 2 players to see a visible change as a result of their efforts, Riot Games had the built-up stories of LCS to assist their hype train. All LCS, LPL, and OGN participants had paved a road for fans to follow which means when they would finally clash, the excitement would be overwhelming.
Furthermore, due to the sheer lack of international competition for League of Legends comparatively to Dota 2, the build-up for the world championship was much higher. The All-Stars event in China was of the few exceptions and although it was not indicative of regions’ strengths by any means it showed how much excitement a clash of such sort can generate. S3WC further established which region was strongest, a revelation long awaited by the community.
On top of the story-building, Riot took a more artistic and personal approach to their pre-hype build up, favoring profiles of uprising and competing teams that were gaining popularity in the west and an anime style short resembling the artstyle of "The Boondocks" to compliment the epic struggle to the Summoner's Cup.
Where Valve struck the bell of innovation, Riot's execution itself was better here. Though the fans found their own methods to get themselves excited about their game, Riot went through the effort to explain the details behind the teams attending and the format applied to knowledgeable eSports veterans hungry for more information and those who have never set eyes on a competitive internet game in their life.
TI3 was held at the Benaroya Hall in Seattle Washington, a place notable for hosting, well, TI2. The venue is important mostly to the Dota 2 community itself so even if it gets jam-packed, it won't exactly catch the public eye. Despite that, team flags decorated the building and the feel of Dota's exclusivity in ties with the venues made it feel like home for all those attending.
Compare it to the League of Legends Season Three World Championships, which was held at the emblematic Staples Center. Every NBA player has played there. The biggest musicians in the world have played there. It is one of Los Angeles' most famous buildings, and when a video game manages to sell out all the seats, then you are sure that it will get the attention.
If you look at it from the prestige angle, Riot Games clearly have the advantage here. The very notion of an eSports event being held at a historical landmark in basketball is something gaming communities are still having difficulty processing. While Valve’s Benaroya Hall might have the distinction of being their own place, its fame not being shared with any other entity, the Staples Center acts as a symbol of “making it” not only in eSports but in the mainstream. This is something that every competitive gaming community works towards to and Riot Games did just that.
The interior however, is a different story. Since the Benaroya Hall is smaller, the place in general looks more intimate, and while there are screen scattered around, the soft lighting set up by the crew gave out a more somber tone, which made it feel like something epic was going to go down. As for S3WC, the Staples Center was riddled with flashing lights everywhere. with a whole spectrum of colors there for the eyes to see. Riot Games really made the inside look like a grand spectacle, as it should, but it didn’t look like a battle for the Summoner’s Cup was going to take place.
Still, even with that opinion, we would tip our hat off to Riot for choosing an amazing venue to showcase its event. It served not only as a sign that eSports is getting bigger by the day, but it also showed that it can go toe-to-toe, even be better with some of the mainstream sports events out there, in terms of audience number.
For League of Legends, the World Championship was split into two phases: A group stage and a bracket stage. The group stage, wherein ten teams were split into two groups allowed them to have a taste of each region. Some of the teams, the top in their respective region to be exact, were given “byes,” i.e. free passes directly into playoffs. While we could see how each part of the world fares against the others, viewers would have to wait a while before they could see the top teams square off. Sure, there was the hype for SKT1, but that's the exception. Honestly, would Group A be as hyped as it was if it was a less popular Korean team?
After that came the single elimination bracket stage. If we look at a storyline perspective, it's great for the group stage winner to come out guns blazing through the rest of the competition. But what about the teams that qualified first in their region, thus skipping the group stage process? Cloud 9 was considered by many to be the best team in North America, and everybody expected them to go far, maybe even reach the finals, only to see them eliminated just like that after three games with Europe’s Fnatic. One can think of their playoffs seed as a reward for their efforts during the season, but it felt like their existence just blinked in the final event and the momentum felt like it stuttered. There wasn’t any other opportunity for Cloud 9 and the rest of these “bye” teams to test their mettle with other regions, which was something they, and everybody else who watched, were waiting for throughout the entire season.
For Dota 2, there was the double elimination bracket, preceded by a group stage. Said group stage split sixteen teams into two groups, with the top four of each going to the winner’s bracket. No team could skip it. With this structure, the event proceeded at a steadily rising pace, with the pool of teams getting thinner and thinner until the final two face off in the grand finals. Since every team that qualified for TI3 had to go through the group stage, each of them already got a firsthand feel as to how the other teams fared. This kind of experience is vital to the success or the team, as well as giving us the viewers a taste of what’s to come as the tournament goes on.
As for a storyline perspective, it feels that the double elimination format generates more excitement to the viewers, as well as gives teams a chance to prove to their fans that they are better than what the previous match showed. Also, double elimination means that teams will have more games to play, and with some of them traveling half the globe just to compete, this makes their travel as worthwhile as possible. Finally, the format allows the opportunity that someone who has been defeated could run it all back to the finals, possibly even facing the very person who defeated him! That is exciting for eSports, and when we saw Na'Vi rampaging through the losers bracket to face Alliance, we knew that it was going to be amazing.
Both companies have taken excellent strides here to demonstrate that they really want to look like a real sport and be taken seriously. Both The International 3 and the Season 3 World Championships championed a strong desks of analysts to complement the games that were taking place, discussing several variables and how each game came to its conclusion.
Riot did a better job than usual in this respect due to the involvement of representatives from outside of Riot Games to carry the entertainment to the audience. The likes of professional players Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels and Peter “Doublelift” Peng joined the analyst desk to bring a high level of insight to the games with their afterthoughts. In addition, they were topped off by Christopher “Montecristo” Mykles, who generally resides in Korea to broadcast Korean League of Legends, offering a high level of analysis as a both a commentator and a coach. The mix of participants granted flavor from each regional scene, with just the slightest bias from each individual at the desk adding spice and entertainment value to the event.
On the other hand, The International 3 was heralded completely by those who did it out of passion and were, primarily, not heavily affiliated with Valve, which made it feel a little more "by fans, for fans." The likes of "Statsman" Bruno and Maelk accomplished adding flavor inbetween games.
This wasn't the only thing not represented by the companies themselves, though, as TI3's hostess was none other than local Fox News anchor Kaci Aitchison, who helped exposure by being a professional in her field in the outside world. Though some were puzzled with her inexperience in the gaming realm, her charm soon took hold as she opened her mind and familiarized herself with the faces of Dota eSports.
Overall, both games followed a recipe to success for a live eSports event, breaking records as well as astonishing their audience. There's just one issue that swings an otherwise even race into the hungry hands of the Dota community.
The awards ceremony was far more glorious in The International 3 than the awkward one where the Champions Cup was handed over to SKT T1 but never actually handed over. It was short, non-translated, and didn't feel professional whatsoever, completely distancing itself from the well prepared atmosphere of everything else that happened in the tournament. TI3, on the other hand, was where Na'Vi ceremoniously congratulated the other team and also was awarded a second place mention. The team was steadfast in acknowledging the strength of their opposition and exemplified comradery with their superiors at the time, Alliance.
While the breadth of games may have been massive leading up to this epic conclusory event for both sides, we can determine which tournament had the better game by the value of its placement as well as the stories behind it. Although the tournaments' hosts are not directly to blame for the quality of games, one could argue the aforementioned double elimination bracket indirectly lead to better games overall for the International 3.
While a lot of people could hold onto the finale of most major presentations as the beacon representing the event as a whole, one must not forget that there were some fascinating games to watch from the Season 3 World Championships. Seeing Royal Club's exploding success, Fnatic's triumphs against the Chinese and Koreans up until the Semi Finals, and the dark horse NaJin Black Sword nearly taking out the team that went on to win the World Championships were all exciting storylines.
On the other hand, there were a lot of games that simply weren't exciting that didn't live up to the hype. Cloud 9 failed to reflect their North American dominance onto the world stage, the underdogs of Mineski, GamingGear.Eu, and Gamania Bears didn't stand a chance against the opposition, and last but not least, the grand finals were the ultimate let-down.
In a final set where League of Legends had an absolute stomp and the final set of Dota 2 had an epic 5th game showdown decided by just the perfect use of an ability, it'd be a sin not to hand the credit to The International 3 here. Even outside of the finals, The International 3 had the voted 1v1 competitions and the all-star matchup, as well as BuLba's emotional outburst as Team Liquid beat LGD.cn or Na'Vi clinging to their tournament lives by relying on a very niche strategy.
Another exciting story was for Orange. The team battled against all odds and against all expectations, kicking off with a terrible start in the playoffs. That didn't stop them, however, as they defeated many teams to claw up through the loser bracket and secure third, nearly taking out the 2nd place team Na'Vi in addition. Season 3 World Championship games were fun to watch, but The International 3 games took my breath away.
Every competition has a clear winner, and for us, that has to be The International 3. When all is said and done, The International 3 has won in more categories and has also given off a more "fresh" feel.
Riot Games' Season 3 World Championship was nothing short of amazing, but there was better execution without renting out basketball stadiums and filling up a colossal amount of seats. Where TI3 took a dramatic leap since last year's TI2, the S3WC stagnated in the eyes of many LoL fans because we've seen it all before in the S2WC, albeit with way fewer issues this time around.
We've already seen the orchestras, the epic arenas, the looped dubstep that, once hated, now became oddly memorable in relation to the event. How much was truly fresh outside of the "enhanced LCS" experience of the tournament? Not as much as what Valve had to offer, featuring better games, crisper execution, "fun" games such as an all-star match and a 1v1 tournament, and more. To top it all off, it had the higher prize purse this time around.
The interactivity provided by Compendium rewards and the in-game client viewership of The International 3 was only icing on the cake, both of which Riot does not yet support. Make no mistake though, both events were fantastic and have shined a positive light on the growing world of eSports. However, Valve’s TI3, with its more intimate venue, astounding community involvement, smoother presentation and event structure, and simply more exciting games, takes the cake and comes out as the best eSports event between the two.
OVERALL WINNER: TI3