Thoughts on the new IEM with StarCraft II

In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve announced the new season of the Intel Extreme Masters. And with it, some significant changes to how our StarCraft II tournaments are going to run.

For those of you unaware of the changes, here’s a quick rundown:

IEM stops will have 24 players: 16 will qualify online and 8 will come from an open tournament on Day 1.

We are very proud of the fact that you need to qualify for every Intel Extreme Masters tournament and that we don’t do invitations. We’ve given a chance to great many players and some of them have made a mark in StarCraft II (Feast went through five qualifiers to get to our Kiev event and went on to take 4th place at our World Championship event).

This philosophy of ours got a lot of people complaining about the lineup of players attending our events. I find those complaints offensive to the players that won spots at our events. Let’s use our 2011 Intel Extreme Masters Cologne event as an example:

IEM Cologne: HayPro, bratOK, Strelok, Grubby, MorroW, SjoW, TLO, elfittaja, Goody, NightEnd, Dimaga, White Ra, Slivko, DemusliM, BlinG, Darkforce;

That’s quite the list of players that attempted to qualify but did not manage to get there. The “did not qualify” list was similarly stacked for almost every Intel Extreme Masters event. I repeat: it’s ignorant and insulting to complain about someone that goes through a player field like that to get to an event.

It’s a sports competition, not a beauty contest. Everyone has to get the same chance.

We did see reasons to improve the system, though. Since you could only get into Intel Extreme Masters through a qualifier, we had a difficult time replacing players that dropped out a short while before the event took place. Many players also weren’t able to attend our qualifiers due to an overloaded event schedule.

We removed both problems by adding the open tournament.

The open tournament will have 32 players in it. 8 of them will advance to the main tournament to make it a 24-player competition. If a player that qualified online drops out 3 days before the event, we will simply have 9 players join from the open tournament.

16 of the open tournament slots will be available for online booking to known pros and the other 16 will be available to local players on a first come, first serve basis (we’ll set up a signup desk in Cologne one day before the tournament). All spots will come at a fee in order to make the number of signups manageable. A small monetary commitment makes players more reliable attendees.

The open tournament will run in 4 separate DE brackets.  The winner of the upper bracket automatically qualifies for the main event with a high seed and the winner of the lower bracket qualifies for the main event with a low seed.  Each group will then have 4 players qualified online, one high seed from a DE bracket and one low seed from a different DE bracket.

So if you show up in person, you only play in an 8-person bracket for 2 slots into the main event.  The one thing we do not want is to have players play marathons in an event like that.

As a result of all this, we have:
- No player dropout problem.
- A better chance for local talent (very important to us).
- A chance to compete if you missed our qualifiers.
- A bigger and cooler tournament!

Qualifiers in Korea, bigger prize money pot, tiered travel support for players

We regretted being unable to run qualifiers in Korea last season (we hand-picked players that wanted to go and had sponsors to pay for their travel). We will have qualifiers for Koreans for the 2012/13 season.

We will also raise prize money. Not for the top 3, but to make sure that everyone that qualifies gets paid the so-called “travel support” (everyone that qualified automatically got $600). Asian and American players that qualify to an event in Europe will get more travel support than Europeans, probably around $900. If the event takes place in Asia, then Americans and Europeans will get the bigger check.

It is important that you can afford to come to the event after you qualify.

Best of seven, finally

I think 24 player tournaments will be a big dose of epicness. Bigger groups means more matches to follow and a bigger playoffs bracket (best of 5). Group 2nds and 3rds will play in the first round of playoffs and group winners will get a BYE in the first round.

Take a look here to see how that worked at the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship:

And to finish off… no Intel Extreme Masters tournament (except the World Championship) will have a 3rd place match. But every tournament will have a best of 7 final.

All this, I hope, warrants a big dose of epicness coming your way in the new Intel Extreme Masters season!

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