As was recently reported by INN’s Gulford Australis, CCP Falcon announced that the 2019 edition of the Alliance Tournament is officially cancelled…er…”taking a hiatus”. Not happening this year. Whichever way you want to put it, something that has been going on annually since 2005 will not be happening this year. Many are upset. Is it really such a big deal, though?
Certainly, for those whose main focus in EVE Online is the Alliance Tournaments, this comes as quite a shock. Some are even going so far as to unsub their accounts. Others argue that some of the AT-focused folks stay unsubbed for most of the year anyway. In that light, they say, it’s not much of a loss.
Only a devoted and somewhat small group of players reap the benefits of the Alliance Tournaments. Perhaps as a result, many called for changes even before CCP announced the AT’s hiatus. Though those complaining about the hiatus are quite vocal, only 238 posts on the AT hiatus announcement forum thread shows their numbers to be quite small. Many see the AT as a waste of CCP’s allegedly dwindling resources. That flipside of the coin seems to be larger, and concerned about other things, such as the Guardian’s Gala Event Feedback thread with 811 posts. Many seem to have a mostly “good riddance” attitude about the whole thing.
Why did this really happen though? CCP Falcon’s announcement of the AT being cancelled to “…make sure we’re fully focused on improving quality of life in New Eden, working on balance concerns that have been highlighted by the community and delivering awesome new content for capsuleers across the cluster to enjoy” certainly plays well in a press release, but doesn’t actually explain anything. Their focus has always been on QoL, balance concerns, and new content, but that doesn’t really offer a proper explanation for cancelling a tournament that has run mostly without a hitch for 13 years.
So, what’s the story? What’s the big deal? Let’s take a closer look.
Petri Dishes Grow Culture, Not Community
At a recent Fireside Chat, Mittens recently referred to the Alliance Tournament as fights essentially taking place in a petri dish. Definitely an apt description of the Alliance Tournament format, but you can potentially read into that descriptor even more deeply.
The Alliance Tournament was first run in 2005, and has run every year since then until now. Each year, a new champion is crowned…well, some years anyway. A look at the list of AT Champions over the years says otherwise. Groups like Band of Brothers, HYDRA RELOADED/VYDRA RELOLDED, or Pandemic Legion each had multiple AT wins. Of the 16 ATs, 5 of them went to one-time winners.
A recent interview on Talking In Stations with Elise Randolph brought up that Pandemic Legion actually relied on the income from the Alliance Tournaments quite a bit. It played a large role in their diplomatic decisions, as well. It “frees up the ability to welp for a little while if we have to”. Put simply, they could choose not to play the game from time to time because they had such a huge influx of ISK.
Over the years, CCP added many rules to what essentially amounts to a gladiator-style fight to the death. The additions came for the sake of “greater entertainment value”, but may have also deterred some from even trying out in the tournament. More importantly however, along with more rules came more reports of cheating, or match throwing. Engadget reported on a controversial end to ATIX, and of course most EVE players probably still remember the ATXIII collusion conspiracy.
Putting Fans in the Stands
All of these things certainly help to grow a culture surrounding the Alliance Tournaments, and maybe spark some viewership, discussion, and intrigue. It doesn’t seem to have a great positive effect on the community as a whole, though. Even worse, viewership and participation for the Alliance Tournaments has been reported to be declining over the years, and CCP distancing themselves from it likely hasn’t done much to help that.
This may be one of the most telling things here, actually. The culture surrounding the AT continues to be strong: the people who still watch and still participate are vehemently angry about the cancellation. They believe that this is a horrible move by CCP, and that the AT should’ve gone on regardless. Yet by CCP’s own reports, the actual numbers are getting smaller and smaller. Some argue that this is a devastating blow to the community, but is it really? The Alliance Tournament appeals to many hardcore fans, but is it actually good to watch? Could you sit somebody with no knowledge of EVE in front of the Alliance Tournament, and have them be entertained? That is the kind of thing that builds community, but maybe not culture. Right now, it seems like EVE is in need of both.
… Something Completely Different?
That said, maybe just putting a band-aid on the AT and sending it limping back out for another year really wouldn’t have been a good idea. As much as the Alliance Tournaments have made for lots of great content over the years, and even opened up opportunities for fresh faced EVE journalists trying to find their way, building something from scratch isn’t going to happen overnight.
Building a new tournament format from scratch is made even more difficult by CCP’s ambitious World Tour plan this year. Taking a look at the World Tour schedule, there’s not exactly a heck of a lot of time for CCP to pack in a full fledged, well planned tournament. April and July are the only months that they aren’t on tour. April doesn’t leave enough time for practice. And July would mean require CCP to have developed a new tournament format already. They may need new content to release or announce at each World Tour stop to keep everybody happy. As a result, their team will be—and very likely already is—stretched thin with all of that. With that consideration, it makes even more sense to take temporary step back from the AT. CCP may need to allow things to cool down a little bit this year.
What Is An Angry Enthusiast To Do?
This is understandably frustrating for a lot of enthusiastic players who were looking forward to the Alliance Tournament. One could unsub accounts, hit the forums and post about it, and be generally angry…or potentially be proactive. Just because the CCP-run Alliance Tournament is gone, doesn’t mean that there aren’t any tournaments to participate in. And who knows, maybe the petri dish environment of the AT is an outdated format. Maybe it needs to better resemble the actual style of PvP used in game?
Goonswarm just announced the reestablishment of their FC Tournament, which may help to curb the appetite for Imperium tournament enthusiasts. It’s also possible that the lack of an AT this year may inspire more small tournaments to start popping up.
What’s next for the Alliance Tournament? Some say that CCP should abolish it altogether. It’s a use of resources that CCP has very little of to spare. In its current form, it serves to distribute unique items and immense wealth to a small set of players. Others say that the tournament should return to the older format, and get rid of the bracket style tournament format. Let us know in the comments what you think CCP should change the format to altogether!
In the end, only CCP knows what the future may hold for the Alliance Tournament. We’ll just have to be patient, and have faith at a time when it is hard to have faith in CCP