What's up boys and girls, its T-Time! Welcome to another Thunder Thursday and I apologize for missing last week. My flight to Miami was on Wednesday so I spent most of my time there and didn't finish writing my article. However, this week I will cover a very sensitive topic. Everyone seems to have the general consensus that YCS tournaments should have greater prize support, whether in the form of cash or additional electronic product. Today I will explore answers as to whether it is feasible and what barriers there are, if any, for that to become a reality. I will also go in depth to discuss the true cost of hosting a Yugioh Championship Series.
The first thing to note is that YCS tournaments and general organized play is supposed to be a promotional tool and not a way to generate funds. As a marketing strategy, they supposed to be a cost for Konami. Most players would assume that Konami makes money off of such tournaments, but they would be mistaken once they consider the costs of the event itself. I will attempt to break down the costing based on the limited information that I could gather. For downtown Cleveland, Ohio, it costs $5,000 per day for a convention hall large enough to support between 700-1500 people (we will assume tables and chairs are free, though they are generally not). Lets assume that Friday is given as a setup day or half day, so it would only cost $12,500 for the venue. That is a good estimated starting cost.
To go along with the venue, security must then be hired. It is common to have 5-6 off duty police officers as security at these events. The cost for each is about $30 per hour. However, that is only for the first 8 hours. With tournament registration starting at 8 am and the tournament lasting until 10 pm on Saturdays on average. Then Sunday from 9 am until 6pm on average, that accounts for 16 hours of regular pay and 7 hours of overtime. If they have 5 security officers working the whole time, they will be paid $2,400 in regular pay and an additional $1,575 in overtime (if it is time and a half). That totals to $3,975 in security, but for arguments sake lets call it $4,000. Remember that doesn't include having 2-3 officers there for preregistration on Friday, which Konami always has for order and safety purposes.
The next thing to consider is food. It costs about $6 per person in order for a convention center to open up its already overpriced concession stands. Thats right, it actually costs the organizer to provide you with this service, though you would think that selling $5 slices of pizza would be enough for the convention center to earn its money back. This means that if there were 1,000 players in attendance, it would be a $6,000 cost to open the concession stand for the day. That is also being rather liberal, since the head count would also include judges, vendors, and staff, but I will not include them for this. I will leave that as the end cost of the venue itself, with a grand total of about $22,500 going into just the building itself.
Next you have to consider travel and lodging of staff. Lets assume that 2 Konami employees are in attendance. That means that they are flying out and for argument sake, lets say that it costs $400 per flight, so $800 total. Then comes the lodging. Their are generally 2 judges or staff members per room and we are going to assume that there will be a total of 30 judges. That means that there need to be 15 hotel rooms booked for 3 nights (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and 1 booked for 4 nights (for the Konami staff which have to setup on Friday). If a hotel costs $150 per night (it is generally more), that is a total of $7,350 just on hotel rooms. Judges are also comped $30 per day to cover food/travel. That is $60 per person with 30 judges, that totals another $1,800. That means that for total lodging and travel of staff and judges, the cost is $9,950. For argument's sake, we can call this $10,000 since I lowballed pretty much everything.
Next, there are miscellaneous expenses. Such expenses go towards shipping and setup of items brought in, which I would assume comes to a minimum of $500. Next is the judge dinner. If it was $15 per plate (including a drink) per person for the judge dinner, that would be $15 multiplied by 32 (considering the Konami employees), totaling another $480, but we can call this $500. Lets also not forget the judge comp, which outside of the $30 consists of 24 packs per day and 3 playmats. So for a 2 day event, it would be 48 packs plus the judge mat, regional mat, and win a mat playmat. I will also discredit the additional product given to team leads (paper team, deck check, etc) and to the head judge as well as additional product given to help cover travel expenses if requested and approved. So if each mat costs $5 to print (probably more considering the cost to ship those bad boys) and each pack costs $1 to print (it is about $2 for distributers per pack roughly), that is $63 per judge, which totals $1,890, but we will call this $1,900. Then there is the fee paid to the tournament organizer which is based on head count and side events ran. Lets assume with our 1000 person event and 50 side events ran (usually there are more), the TO gets $4,000. This creates a total of $6,900 in miscellaneous costs.
Next, we have to consider the cost of the current prizes. The most valuable prizes are the prize cards, which really total to about $15 per card due to a short run on a foil card, so $45 on those and an additional $50 for the trophy. Then there is the trip to nationals for the winner. That includes 3 days of hotel and a flight. Using earlier numbers that adds up to $950. Then there are the electronic prizes given out, which I will give a slight discount on since they are a larger corporation. A PS3 for first for $280, an ipad for 2nd for $550, an ipod touch for 3rd and 4th for $200 each, and an xbox 360 to 5th through 8th for $180 each. That comes to a grand total of $1,950. Then there is the product given out which is 32 top cut game mats and 24 packs to 9th through 16th. That totals an additional $352 in product. In total prizes, we can assume it adds up to roughly $3,350.
Well on the bright side, they will be taking some money in. With 1,000 players paying $20 each, those players also receive 5 packs with their entry. That means with the immediate cost, Konami is really only receiving $15 per person. That totals $15,000 in income from entry fees in the main event. Then there are side events. Win a mats, giant cards, and regional qualifiers generate quite a bit of income at a varying degree, but for argument's sake, I will average it all out at $80 per event. With 50 side events running, that means Konami will recover $4,000 from those. The total income from the tournament will then become $19,000. So now it is time to go back and do a reconnaissance and see the real bottom line here for Konami.
The total raw venue cost is $22,500. The staff cost totals around $10,000. The miscellaneous costs add up to around $6,900. Finally, the current prizes add up to another $3,350 in costs for a total cost of $42,750. With Konami recovering $19,00 from the event, they will average a $23,750 loss on this sort of an event. That is a monster price to lose every single month that a YCS happens. Lets not forget that they are happening all over the world. Then there are World Championship Qualifiers, which are all free and cost even more to operate. Let us also remember that this is based off of costing of an event in Cleveland, Ohio. An event in Los Angeles, Miami, or Philadelphia would be double, even triple the cost.
So should Konami feel obligated to add additional prizes? Perhaps with numbers growing, it would be a good course of action. Unfortunately though, as participate numbers grow so do costs. More judges, more space, more security, etc. However, remember that Konami doesn't charge vendors for additional space at their events, which allows cheaper product to be sold at said events as opposed to MTG events where the vendor cost is roughly $3,000 for Grand Prix events and they have 10+ vendors. That goes to help pay for the cost of the event itself, but they also get more of a Laissez Faire secondary market for them to operate off of. The current prize support for YCS's is highly dependent on said secondary market, since the prize cards and game mats are only worth what a person is willing to pay for them. Vendors tend to buy the vast majority of prize cards won, which means that your prize tends to end up what a vendor is willing to pay, directly related to the secondary market.
Since Konami can't give out cash due to restrictions beyond their control having to due with their target market (younger audience) and decisions made by the owners of the rights to Yu-Gi-Oh! I bet you thought that Konami owned the rights, well wrong again! Yu-Gi-Oh is actually owned by Shueisha, more commonly known to you as the publishers of Shonen Jump. However, I am sure some of you did know that and gave up on sanctioned cash prizes awhile ago. So whats next? Will it really be worth it for you to win more electronics? No! They cost much more and really have less resale value than prize cards. The only real solution would then be to create more and better prize cards for winners/runners up. It would depend entirely on the secondary market.
I really think that in the end, Konami is doing a pretty good job to help promote the game and to support the YCS OP program. Also, with the new tournament style coming in San Diego, it shows that Konami is listening. They have restrictions too and are doing their best to help the players. I am sure I am going to take a lot of heat for supporting them, but if you take a step back and understand the massive losses that they are taking to promote the game through OP, you may begin to support them as well. Hopefully this article has given you some insight as to what goes into putting a large scale tournament on and the feasibility of higher prize support (including the idea of a sanctioned pro circuit). I am sure that you will all have plenty to say about this article and please leave all feedback below. Until next time, play hard or go home!