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I like these “social” columns to be timely, so today we’ll be talking about an interesting issue: attendance caps! Several players, both local and international, did not register for the highly influential European International Championship in time, and as a result will miss out on the chance to win hundreds of Championship Points and thousands of dollars. However, this is an issue that affects big and small tournaments alike, which is why I’d like to address attendance at large.
Attendance is booming, and that’s a good thing! Unfortunately, space is limited, so the number of players who can register is also limited. This is a necessary evil due to laws, venue regulations, and accommodating other games at card shops, but it’s still a problem that can be anticipated by everyone involved.
TL; DR to eveything about I’m about to say: plan ahead.
The Players Themselves
To be blunt, if you know that you will be traveling across a literal ocean just to play a card game, there is almost no reason not to register before doing anything else. This is especially true for anyone in the Top 16 or Top 22 who is getting paid $1,000 or more just to play in the EUIC, “and” has the time off to go play. Different struggles and issues apply depending where you are coming from, and some of you even have to apply for visitor’s visas – I get that. But c’mon…the entry fee is the least of your worries!
If you’re an international player like me and can’t justify the costs or time off? Just don’t go. It’s that simple. This is a year-round hobby now, so you can hop on or off the merry-go-round as you please.
As for local U.K. players with budgetary constraints, I respect and know firsthand the struggle of maintaining a hobby. Your situation is not easy, and sometimes not getting the check in time means you can’t play. That feeling is tough and I have been there. But if you know you will play and know you will spend the money, make for creative arrangements so that you don’t miss out on registration. I’ve sold cards to pay for my entry fees, and I’ve even heard of people transferring collateral in order to borrow money.
The event organizing branch of The Pokemon Company International makes important decisions to event registration, organization, and scheduling. They shoulder a lot of responsibility for the several attendance cap issues we’ve seen this season, particularly the logistics of the International Championships as well as the decision to limit League Cups exclusively to card shops.
Without more complete information, I can’t really criticize the decision to cap the European International Championship. My knee-jerk reaction was to cast some blame on Play! Pokemon for not foreseeing the attendance cap for Masters would be broken – unofficially speculated to be 750. Assuming 750 was the actual number, that’s actually a reasonable forecast for growth, since last year’s EUIC had a little more than 500 Masters.
As for the second issue, we’ve seen some flexibility, but more obvious room for growth. Play! Pokemon actually lets organizers run stores’ League Cups at other venues so long as they remain accessible to the store’s players, although this is the exception and not the norm. There are good legal and logistical reasons why Pokemon wants to designate card shop owners the organizers, but perhaps organizers are in need of more options so that the need to use attendance caps is reduced.
RK9 Labs, run by Carlos and Dana Pero, is the software used by Play! Pokemon for several of the larger events. It’s simple, integrated nicely with the POP ID system, and celebrates our registrations with nifty congratulatory messages!
But what about keeping the player caps hidden on the registration page? Why can’t players be better informed so they know to register before the event fills up? Wouldn’t it help if a player could go onto Facebook and inform everyone that only 100 seats were left?
Dispassionately, numbers are numbers: Either the cap is met, or there are excess spaces and everyone who wants to play gets into the tournament. Yet in keeping up with the ideal of under-promising in order to over-deliver, you need to make at least some kind of promise. As it stands, hiding attendance means that nothing is promised, which will inevitably result in some degree of sour grapes. Why would a normal person think a Pokemon tournament would sell out over two weeks before show time? Communicate an artificially low number of guaranteed seats for each division in the event description, and complainers have no ground to stand on when you accommodate three times the number of people you promised. Play! Pokemon did that to great success for several years, and I think it’d be fine if they returned to that.
Lastly we have the tournament organizers themselves. By far the biggest problem I’ve seen is poor communication with regard to League Cup attendance caps. Although venue space is an even bigger concern for tiny card shops than rented convention halls, you will frequently run across Pokemon.com event listings which are blank! What happens then when it turns out this event had an event cap all along, and starts turning people away at the door?
Angry players, support tickets, and bad feedback – that’s what happens. And all of that can be prevented by doing your best to communicate the attendance cap, as well as when that cap has been met. Unlike Regional Championships, which are usually held at rented venues, a card shop owner should really, really be able to forecast how much space they’ll have in the store.
Guaranteed seating might not be a reasonable thing to do depending on the tournament organizer, although again, under-promising and over-delivering goes a long way. But if and only if it’s coupled with solid communication!
Attendance issues are like income taxes: They stink, but they’re ultimately a good sign because they indicate significant “income” – or life in the game. When all else is equal, isn’t it better to be part of a hobby where people are pounding on the door just to play?
Competitive Pokemon is thriving, and I’m sure that as long as everyone keeps caring about the game and avoids being lazy or content, we’ll sign up when we need to, make more space to meet demand, offer organizers more options, and communicate better.