CCP Cancelled The Alliance Tournament – What’s The Big Deal?

Macky Avelli 2019-02-21

Header art by GuyonthecoucH

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

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Comments

  • chimpy

    When Pearl Abyss bought CCP we were told one of the things PA was impressed with was the close relationship between CCP and the players. With Fanfest skipping a year – going on the road sounds a bit shit to me to be honest – also dropping the alliance tournament for the same year seems awfuly close to dismantling some of that close relationship between CCP and the players. In previous years the early rounds of the AT have been handed over to volunteer organisations outside of CCP anyway. CCP only gets involved for the last few weekends i.e the workload was already split.
    I’m a filthy casual Eve player. A no good lurker, miner, manufacturer, and general layabout who’s pretty shit at PvP, but I absolutely love watching the Alliance Tournamnet every year. I don’t care that I will never be in it, that doesn’t reduce my enjoyment from watching it at all. I think it’s a big mistake to assume that only players who are in, or are members of AT alliances care about the AT. I think that’s a very flawed assumption, especially in my case.
    With Fanfest AND AT being AWOL this year that’s two events I really look forwards to gone. Hell I book time off work just to make sure I get to see all of fanfest. They could return, but my gut feeling is if AT is gone this year, the CCP drive to bring it back next year will be much reduced, and there will probably be a semi reason to skip it next year too, and the year after, and the year after. Eve lives not just on what happens in game, but what happens out of game, and the content that Fanfest and AT generate are for me big out of game ( watching outside of the Eve client ) draws and anchors to the Eve community. Even when I’m taking a break from Eve, I always watch them both.
    I fear this is one nail in the coffin. Sure it won’t kill Eve on it’s own, but it is one step closer towards switching out the lights. Very saddened by this decision 🙁

    February 21, 2019 at 3:12 pm
  • Zaand

    I’m firmly in the “who gives a fuck” camp. Even as someone who has been a fairly hardcore PVP player for over a decade now, I find the tournaments are boring as hell to watch. But that’s on me. What really soured me on the AT over the years is how it’s blatantly obvious it is that pretty much every single team to ever win has done so through collusion, gaming the system and/or out right cheating, and the uneven hand used to punish the culprits. Say what you will about CODE in the game, but it was absolute bullshit that they were banned for life just for not showing up – and not informing the officials, while teams that were caught cheating red handed were only banned for a year. It’s also pretty tiring seeing the same people win year after year, and often seeing one team split into two “alliances” just for the AT, circumventing bans, or otherwise gaming the system with no repercussions. To me, the whole establishment is tainted.

    So fuck the alliance tournament. The third party tournaments put on by various alliances and groups are a hell of a lot more fun to watch and participate in anyways, and they don’t hand out game breaking rewards that entice people to cheat.

    Rant over.

    February 21, 2019 at 4:05 pm
  • Zo Fryer

    I’m too new to care. This is like you talking about how great teh old mall was before Sears closed.

    February 21, 2019 at 10:57 pm
  • Gremoxx

    AT is where small scale PVP shines. Its the pinnacle of your ability, your ingenuity and foresight. Yes it has flaws, but then, what part of EVE does not.
    Anyone can be F1 monkey, anyone can train any ship… but not many can turn these into killing machines.
    From AT we have had countless new fleet formats, and ship uses.
    I fear that without this Petri-dish that AT is small scale PVP will take a dive, and EVE will be poorer as results.
    But I guess, this game is now “only” for industrialists and massive fleets that will make headlines in mainstream media.

    February 22, 2019 at 8:47 pm
  • Carvj94

    I’m sure nearly everyone could give a fuck less if CCP hosts a tournament or not. They just need to take a few weeks to slap together a special hosting mode for approved players to use, set up a method to take reservations for Thunderdome regularly, and mearly host a page on eveonline.com that advertises upcoming player tournaments on Thunderdome. With that in place CCP doesn’t have to do fuck all tournament wise and we’d effectively have more “official” tournaments than our AT vets could want. Plus with many tournaments hosted yearly by players we’d see different types (small gang, large gang, and solo) and more people would have the chance to take part in tournament play.

    February 23, 2019 at 6:29 am