There are many similarities that tie the worlds of competitive gaming and traditional sports together. However, one of the most unmistakable parallels between the two is the presence of an off-season. This really isn’t all that surprising. In any organized sporting league, the off-season marks the end of the competitive stretch of the year.
While some athletes are free to use the off-season for vacation time, those working behind the scenes typically remain in their posts. The off-season is a chance to sign new talent to team rosters or secure the best terms with transfers. For players who have recently found themselves out of contract, the off-season provides the perfect opportunity to network and solicit offers. All of this happens in the esports industry, although professional gamers also have to contend with things like rule adjustments.
Until fairly recently, an off-season wasn’t a guarantee for some teams. Often marketed as a truly global esports competition, events like the Dota Pro Circuit span an entire year. Some teams approached this grueling schedule with gusto, while others reluctantly played along for fear of missing out on a chance to shine at The International. Admittedly, Valve was pretty transparent when it came to progression opportunities. What’s more, the organizer listened to feedback from players and team management, making adjustments accordingly.
However, this alternative to an off-season left Dota 2 players with very little time to recharge or consider their options. More importantly, it took a significant amount of time away from training. Ultimately, Valve relented and Dota 2 adopted an off-season window that was more in line with other esports like Call of Duty, Overwatch, and League of Legends.
Esports used to be a pretty niche career avenue. Prize pools were a fraction of what they are now, while player salaries fell far short of the figures S-Tier athletes command today. In all fairness, esports organizations simply didn’t have access to the level of funding that’s now commonplace. Whether it’s a share of the $40 million prize pool offered at The International 2021, lucrative sponsorship deals, or a steady stream of income from merchandising, modern-day esports organizations have deep pockets.
While this is good news for teams looking to recruit the best talent, it also gives established names plenty of bargaining power when looking for their next posting. Provided they’re not bound by a contract with an existing organization,
players are completely free to pursue other options. Strong negotiation skills can go a long way in ensuring esports athletes secure the best deal possible, but they also need to be realistic about how much they’re worth. Free agents also need to remember that teams are probably talking to multiple players for the same role. Pushing too hard for a more generous salary isn’t always a good idea if someone doesn’t have another option to fall back on.
Although the major tournaments might be drawing to a close, many lower-level leagues continue into the annual off-season. Those teams still relegated to the lower tiers now have a chance to connect with audiences and enjoy some much-deserved exposure.
Pining for the Pacific Championship Series? Feeling blue that the World Championship has named its latest winner? There are plenty of other League of Legends tournaments to follow. Established in 2023, League of Legends Circuit Oceania (LCO) is an online Tier 2 event that’s worth your time. Eager for some more European LoL action? The EMEA Masters brings together semi-professional teams from across the continent. While online viewing figures fall far short of major tournaments, the EMEA Masters have been known to bring in more than 100,000 concurrent viewers.
If you’re dreading the off-season, make sure you’re enjoying every event as it happens. For the latest LPL schedule click here. You’ll also find updated fixtures and tournament details for popular esports like Dota 2, Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and more.