ESL, DreamHack announce eight ESL Pro Tour LAN events for 2021 with expanded schedule
The changes will allow the two tournament organisers to focus on storytelling, while also giving teams more time to prepare for the most important matches.
ESL and DreamHack have announced plans to host eight ESL Pro Tour LAN tournaments in 2021 — two fewer than what they had planned for this year before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the globe — with a combined prize pool of $4.5 million. After consulting with teams and players, the two tournament organisers are also introducing significant changes to the way they schedule events in an effort to alleviate player fatigue and improve the quality of the show.
In recent years, the $250,000+ ESL and DreamHack LAN events took place over the course of a single week — normally from Tuesday through Sunday. But starting in 2021, these tournaments will be held over two weeks with a break between the group stage and the arena playoffs.
ESL says that the spread-out format will make it possible to tell stories that were not covered before due to the tight schedule that was in place while also having more matches played on peak viewing days. At the same time, the tournament organiser added, the new model will favor teams, who won't require as many international trips to ESL and DreamHack events and will also have the opportunity to return home as soon as they are eliminated because flights are no longer booked automatically for the day after the event is over. This alone, ESL told HLTV.org, would have given the 13 Louvre Agreement teams an extra 17 days at home on average when looking at their 2019 results at IEM, ESL One and ESL Pro League competitions.
"The new vision of ESL Pro Tour CS:GO is part of our ongoing mission to place players and fans at the centre of the esports experience," Ulrich Schulze, Senior Vice President Product at ESL, said in a statement. "The dynamic double weekend format will maximize excitement and content for fans around the world, while players will benefit from a more balanced competitive schedule.
"The time between the game weekends will now be used to create content specific to the players who make the playoffs meaning, while teams prepare their tactics, ESL will create new trailers, interviews and tactical analysis tailor-made to every match-up at the weekend. With this new format, ESL Pro Tour will bring players and fans alike closer to the action."
In 2021, ESL will unveil a brand new dedicated studio in Europe that will "use the latest advances in technology to optimize the gaming experience for players and viewers around the world". The studio will function as a Covid-compliant central hub, hosting all group stage matches; however, it may even come to stage entire tournaments if the coronavirus pandemic continues to cancel plans for live arena events.
Below you can find the ESL Pro Tour's provisional calendar for 2021 (dates are subject to change):
IEM Katowice - February 16-28 ($1,000,000)
ESL Pro League S13 - March 10-April 18 ($750,000)
DreamHack Masters - June 3-13 ($250,000)
ESL One Cologne - July 6-18 ($1,000,000)
IEM Melbourne - August 17-22 ($250,000)
ESL Pro League S14 - September 1-October 10 ($750,000)
IEM Event - October 14-24 ($250,000)
IEM Event - December 2-12 ($250,000)
The typical event schedule under the new model will look as follows:
Thursday-Sunday - Group stage
Saturday-Sunday - Playoffs
Masters Championship tournament:
Tuesday-Wednesday - Play-in stage
Thursday-Sunday - Group stage
Friday-Sunday - Playoffs
According to ESL, the new format will take up 24 weeks of the calendar, just one more than its original plan for 2020 (without the ESL One: Road to Rio Major). While doing these calculations, ESL didn't differentiate between a team spending an entire week at an event or just travelling on Sunday for a tournament that would start the following week. Both scenarios take an entire week slot in ESL's view as it assumes that a team travelling on Sunday would have no other LAN commitments during that week.
ESL's planning for 2021 plus the scheduled player breaks leave 21 weeks in the calendar open — 17 if there are two Majors. Other tournament organisers are expected to react to the announcement soon, with Flashpoint Creative Director Duncan "Thorin" Shields describing ESL's new schedule as "beyond a joke" in a Twitter post this morning.