TF2 Event Tiers

what distinguishes one event as being better than another


As we wound down the first day of the new year I made the following observation:

About a week ago I also made the observation that based on current information we wouldn’t even hit the amount we did last year, mainly thanks to the loss of one ESEA season. With all this in mind, it brings up the question: how do you separate events in TF2, given that it’s not comparable to other games?

Liquipedia uses a three-tier system:

  • Premier Tournaments offer an outstanding prize pool, are played on LAN, and feature the best teams from around the world. They are commonly held by well-established franchises and are considered especially prestigious amongst the community.
  • Major Tournaments feature a large prize pool and a good amount of top-tier teams. These are often events which take place online, but this also includes single region LANs.
  • Minor Tournaments offer a smaller prize pool and less prestige than Major Tournaments but still draw a high level of competition.

The problem is, of course, that these definitions aren’t really that great when it comes to TF2, where there aren’t many publishers or prize pools to speak of. As such, I’d propose the following modified version:

  • Premier: are played on LAN, feature the best teams from around the world, are considered especially prestigious amongst the community
  • Major: feature a good amount of top-tier teams, often take place online, but also include single region LANs
  • Minor: offer less prestige than Major tournaments but still draw a high level of competition

These looser definitions allow us to focus more on the prestige and level of the tournament, which are really the most important aspects of TF2 tournaments.

Now that we have definitions, we can go about generally classifying such tournaments. It’s fairly obvious that Insomnia events are the only Premier tournaments in TF2, given that it’s the only time each year top teams in the world congregate to compete for the most prestigious title. ESEA Invite and ETF2L Premiership are both Majors with our definition—if we considered prize pool as well, however, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see them as part of two different tiers given the historically weak prizes in Europe. The interesting part comes down to determining if other tournaments could fit into the Major category, since there are quite a few others which top teams compete at. This question comes more down to prestige than anything else—winning an online cup is certainly noteworthy, but it doesn’t confer status nearly as much as winning ESEA or ETF2L does. That leaves the regional LANs, namely GXL and DreamHack. GXL is easier to classify as a Minor, as while it does attract top teams they are more mixed rosters than full teams. DreamHack Winter was actually an invitational, but many top teams did not attend and others pulled out, so it wasn’t enough representative of top competition to achieve Major status.

Thus, we can look at the tournaments over the past year as follows:

  • Premier
    • Insomnia
  • Major
    • ESEA Invite
    • ETF2L Premiership
  • Minor
    • Challengers Cup
    • The Fall Classic
    • ZOWIE 16 Cup
    • GXL
    • DreamHack Winter

Now comes the question: why is this important? Well, it gives us a perspective on where tournament expansions would be most beneficial to the overall health of the scene. Many people would like to see more Premier tournaments in which the best teams of the world (from all regions) face off on LAN. Unfortunately, the current reality of the scene is that without many major organizations fully sponsoring teams or tournaments, travel support is drawn from the community, and as such a tournament (unless it provided travel support, which would entail a significant amount of money) would attempt to draw even more money which the scene doesn’t really have. That leaves Major and Minor tournaments to be the targets of expansion. While both tiers could definitely stand to see some growth, Minor tournaments arguably need growth more, as there just aren’t very many opportunities for teams to play and improve outside of the Major leagues. That becomes a problem because Major leagues take a very long time to complete, so a team not currently playing in a Major league has no real opportunities to practice in a highly competitive environment until the next edition rolls around. Having more Major tournaments would help, but given the resources required to run a Major tournament are comparable to simply running several Minor tournaments, the only benefit to running a Major tournament is the increased prestige associated.

Of course, this reality is only current, and one can hope that the future opportunities for TF2 include many more tournaments with generally higher prize pools so that we no longer have to worry about having our own event tiers, but that is something we will have to wait and see over the next year.