posted by NanaKrustofski,
The first tournament of the upcoming DPC season comes closer and closer. So far, fans only had the chance to see the newly assembled teams in qualifiers and smaller non DPC events. However, the ESL One Hamburg 2019 could still attract over 225,000 viewers. What makes a tournament popular and how did the ESL manage to increase their viewer count?

Difficult conditions

Several of the participants were regarded as tier 2 teams. The big names were missing: last years champion Team Secret waive their title defence to focus on practicing, two time TI winner OG took a break and the former Team Liquid basically vanished into thin air. On top of that, the ESL One Hamburg has not officially been a Major anymore since 2017. No DPC points were at stake and the prize pool of 300,000$ was rather small for Dota 2. It even got overshadowed by the Clash of Clans opening tournament. With a prize pool of $1,000,000, it was three times higher than the headliner's. But none of this did damage to the viewer ratings

The viewer numbers

ESL One Hamburg 2017 still had the status of a Major and featured the biggest tier 1 teams. With all these privileges, it managed to attract a peak of 264,000 viewers. In the following year, the number declined to 205,000 - despite having big names on board and the highlight of Team Secret fighting Vici Gaming in the finals. Now the number have climbed back up: 225,000 viewer peak and a slight increase in hours watched. For comparison: the recent DreamLeague Season 12 only pulled in 85,767 viewers at its peak. But how did ESL One Hamburg stay so popular?

The fans

Just because a team can celebrate more victories, it does not mean they can amass a bigger following of fans. Southeast-Asian fans are known for their enthusiasm in the Dota 2 community and that showed in their support for TNC Predator. The Filippino squad was the first SEA-team to win an ESL tournament and therefore a lot of eyes were on them. They became a highly favored contender, especially after crushing the group stage by dropping only a single map.

Russia did its part as well: over 112,000 viewers tuned in from the Russian region. With AS Monaco Gambit and, there were two teams with promising newcomers at the event. 17-year old Egor 'Nightfall' Grigorenko got added only recently to replace VP’s former star player Roman 'RAMZEs' Kushnarev. The expectations were high and surely made people tune in to see VP's performance.

Gambit was an even bigger viewer magnet. The squad surrounding famous captain Artem 'fng' Barshack assembled only a month ago and yet they are already successful. Placing first at the MDL Chengdu Major CIS qualifiers, they secured their first Major spot with ease. After such an impressive run, they got the attention of more than just the CIS region.

Production value

ESL has a reputation for good production value. Its plans with facebook backfired, but since it has been airing its tournaments on Twitch again the criticism has died down. The main flaws of this year’s broadcast were rather insignificant, such as wrong hero banners or typos. Apart from the tournament itself, there are always additional side events that make for more interesting content compared to other tournaments. The cosplay contests, skits with partners like DHL or the first offline Dota Underlords tournament result in a more varied viewing experience. Also, the tournament featured the top talents such as Capitalist, Blitz, Redeye and TobiWan, which also draws in more viewers

Cult status

ESL simply has cult status. Founded 19 years ago and having hosted countless tournaments and leagues in all kinds of esports titles, the organization has played a big role in the rise of esports. ESL One Cologne in Counter-Strike counts as one of the most prestigious tournaments, competing in popularity with CS:GO Majors. Despite a smaller prize pool and not contributing to the run to The International, the ESL One is still an important tournament. With side events, top talents, newcomers and fan favorites, a majority of 225,000 will probably follow the next ESL One as well.

What do you think makes a good tournament?

Source: All numbers by escharts
Image: ESL, Bart Oerbekke