FACEIT's Michele Attisani on ECS overhaul: "We wanted to create a format that is more fun and entertaining to watch"
We had a quick chat with FACEIT co-founder and Chief Business Officer (CBO) Michele Attisani to discuss the revamping of the ECS format ahead of Season 7.
FACEIT revealed on Friday the new format for its showpiece league, which will have a much lighter calendar as the UK-based company look to lighten the burden on teams, much in the same way that ESL did by changing the ESL Pro League group stage matches in Europe and North America to a LAN setting.
ECS will continue to feature an online regular season, but it will now consist of five single-elimination tournaments, each one with eight teams and $25,000 in prize money. The winners of the first three tournaments secure direct entry into the LAN finals, while the fourth regional spot will be determined by the amount of prize money accrued over the season.
The teams coming from ECS Season 6 will have priority when it comes to filling the spots in these regular season tournaments. Any open spots will then be taken by the teams coming out of the Challenger Cup, a 16-team competition that will use a Swiss format.
Read below to know more about how FACEIT put together this new format, what it will represent in terms of co-ownership in the league, and the possibility that more fine-tuning will be done to the league's structure in the future.
What has the reception from the teams who were in ECS Season 6 to these changes been like? Did they propose this new format?
We started discussing this format with the teams during Season 6. We had several iterations of the format itself, and all the time we were asking teams and players to give their feedback. At the end of last year, we settled on this particular format, and earlier this year we started discussing the dates with all the teams, confirming the dates on which each team will available. We wanted to create a format that is more fun and entertaining to watch. Obviously, there have complaints about how repetitive online leagues have become, and I can agree to a certain extent that we had got to a point where it was starting to become repetitive. With this format, it is almost like you have a fresh start every week. There is this new story that will start and end in four days, and there will be a winner for each of these tournaments, which, we believe, will make for a much better story for the fans, first of all, and for the teams and the players participating.
Comparisons are inevitable between the ECS and the Pro League, which will focus on a LAN setting. Was this something that you considered as well? If so, why did you go for a format that will also include an online season?
Yes, we considered that as well, we just did not feel that, with the current calendar and saturation of events in Counter-Strike this year, it was possible to have a format that was all played on LAN. What we did was try to find a format that is more sustainable for the scene and for the ecosystem without putting too much additional weight on the teams and players. The teams obviously loved the format because they have to play less and there is more certainty around the schedule. There will be much more interest around the matches, which will all be best-of-three elimination matches. Teams will play fewer matches for the same amount of money. Potentially, one team can qualify for the LAN finals by winning only three best-of-three matches.
How will these changes affect one of the core ideas of the ECS, which is teams having co-ownership in the league and being represented in the governing committee. How will this work now?
All the top eight teams coming from ECS Season 6 will retain their membership for Season 7. For future seasons, the teams who qualify for the LAN finals will secure membership, and the teams ranked 5th-8th will be determined based on prize money and will be offered membership.
Will this make it easier for teams to lose membership?
I do not think it will be easier because the top eight teams have a priority on participating in the tournament so they will have more chances to win prize money. Therefore, if they lose their membership it is because they played less or performed really poorly. It is a more meritocratic system.
This will be the first ECS Finals event in London that will be held over four days. Will you change the format?
We wanted to have a better tournament format and, by having only three days available, you were limited in the number of best-of-three matches that you could have. The idea of an additional day provides for a much better tournament format. It is something we tested at the ECS Season 6 Finals, in Arlington, where we had four days, and it worked out really well. The feedback we had from teams and players was extremely positive, so we decided to carry this change to 2019. The format is the same that we had in Arlington [double-elimination group stage with best-of-one opening matches, followed by single-elimination playoffs].
It seems strange that you will prioritise the first three weeks of the regular season over the last two. Why those three in particular?
This is the feedback we got a lot from teams and players, they wanted to be rewarded for good performances and, therefore, wanted to know in advance if they qualified for the LAN finals to be able to prepare for the tournament in the best possible way to increase their chances. On top of that, I think it is not a bad thing in terms of storylines. If you think about it, you will have very stacked tournaments in the first three weeks, when you will have all the top teams participating and high-level competition and fights to get the three spots. Then, you will have the additional two tournaments still with tier one teams participating but also some up-and-coming teams as well. We think it makes for good storylines. Every tournament will be different. We did not want to have five tournaments that are just the same thing, with just the same teams, happening over and over again. I think that, with this format, we can achieve that.
Many were disappointed that South America and Asia were once again left out. Are you still planning to expand into these regions?
The problem with regions is, as you can imagine, latency. It is really hard to have teams from different regions competing against each other. You could consider the Americas one big region, but if you look at Latin America and North America, the latency is pretty high and it would be hard for let them play at a good competitive level. For this season, we decided to adopt this model, which is in line with what we did in the past, but we are looking for opportunities to integrate more regions into the structure in the future. That is something that is still on the table and that is being discussed.
Are you open to format changes for Season 8, or will this be the final structure for the two seasons for this year?
This is what we are currently planning for Season 8, but we are always listening to feedback from players and the community, and we are always looking for ways that we can improve. If we feel that the feedback that we get would represent good changes for Season 8, then we will most probably implement it.