When you think of SC2 tournaments, NASL isn’t the first that comes to mind. Historically they haven’t enjoyed anywhere near the success of tournaments like the GSL, MLG, and DreamHack, and I doubt they ever will given the huge growth of these tournaments both in terms of viewership and funding (note that MLG has to this date secured approximately $56 million in funding, almost doubled its tournament viewership since Columbus in June, and continuously gets mentioned in high profile media outlets like Forbes, Huffington Post, and PC Gamer).
The reasons for this are obviously worthy of discussion, and while let downs like having no Koreans or poor stream quality are part of it, I believe their key failures to date have been this:
1) If there was a prize for running the most boring Starcraft tournament ever, the NASL would be the uncontested winners. This has largely been due to their casting lineup. It’s casters, while not necessarily hated or disliked, aren’t particularly well liked either.
This is one of their biggest failures. Casters can literally make or break a tournament, and it looks like they’ve finally realized you absolutely NEED to have at least some popular casters like Day9, Tastosis, Husky, etc as part of the casting lineup in order to tap into the large fanbases these casters have.
I’m not suggesting the NASL or any other tournament depend on these personalities for viewership, but it would be silly not to seize the opportunity of a large winnable fanbase these popular figures bring to their event/show. Don’t tell me Day9 casting a high level game on nasl.tv wouldn’t get at least twice as many viewers as they already do. And you can make the ‘little’ guys more popular by associating them with the ‘big’ guys. Look at Mr Bitter’s run in DreamHack for example. While Bitter is by no means an unknown and has already casted with a big tournament like the ESL, I dare anyone to say his funny stint with Day9 during the Tod vs Happy game and casting appearance in MLG hasn’t made him a more popular and likeable figure in esports than before.
2) The NASL have done a poor job of ‘hyping up’ their tournament and living up to that hype. While things started off promisingly with iNcontrol as part of the team and lots of big players posting their applications on Youtube, the buzz faded as they failed to retain their viewers over the long term. A big part of this is that they air too often, and provide too little entertainment and quality. Don’t keep airing if you’re not getting results.
First impressions are everything – it’s the reason why 5,000 people will gladly watch TLOs face accidentally put on fullscreen for an entire match or Catz choking on a Taco Bell, over a potentially great game of Starcraft let down by a show that’s failed to build a rapport with its viewers. Focus on quality over quantity. Reduce the number of times you put on a show but when you do air make it into an ‘event’. If you can get people excited about your ‘event’ and you live up to the hype you’ve created, you’re set for success. The MLG does this best – for me MLG Columbus was the first time I truly felt excited about an SC2 event, and the reason I continued to follow MLG every season until the finals. They hyped it up well, executed it well and they’re reaping the rewards.
3) They haven’t won over the crowd. By repeatedly delivering mediocre shows they’ve hurt their brand and reduced their chances of getting people to tune in again. This ties in a lot with the 2 previous points but it’s worth repeating. Any tournament/event needs to put on a good show. If you can’t entertain people and give them what they want, they will not come back.
Given the recent buzz about NASL’s mediocre performance to date and with the finals literally a day away I think they have a real opportunity to make things right.
There are a ton of great players and great casters scheduled for this event – their decision to bring in the likes of Day9 and Husky is huge, and we have some seriously good players in the finals (Hero, Puma, DeMuslim, Idra, Huk, Thorzain, Dimaga and Sheth to name a few). It would take a miracle (or a bad stream) to screw this one up.