Altador Psychology: Winners Curse

Hello there avid readers, anyone who has ever participated in an Altador Cup is aware of an occurrence, referred to simply as “The Winners Curse”. Every year the reigning champions seem to see a collapse in performance, which has ranged from a minimum drop of 6 places, with the biggest drop of 12 places. What makes this phenomenon even more perplexing is that after a year or two these teams seem to return to championship level material. After some extensive research on my part I think I have finally made some head way in figuring out this strange phenomenon, and I believe it can be equated to three separate factors that all culminate into one.

Freeloaders:  A concept that many are familiar with, the idea that the winning team becomes bogged down the next year with many people who simply want a gold trophy, causing that team to see a decrease in performance. Many people peg this as the sole reason for a teams drop and call it a day, and while it is true that people will join a team simply because they won the year before, there are a number of factors that indicate that this is not the only reason. First off the winning teams don’t receive THAT much of a population boost to believe that they all counter-act the progress that the loyal players contribute (Virtupets didn’t even see much of a population boost in general). Secondly after 7 Altador Cups (that realization alone makes me feel SO old) it becomes standard knowledge that the winning team falls next year, meaning the only people who would actually pick the previous champions in hopes of winning a fancy trophy, probably don’t contribute on a daily basis (as TNT has stated that free-loaders do not hurt a team in results).

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: This part comes into play more recently, with the “Winners Curse” becoming so evident players on the winning team will often switch to a different team, in anticipation of the curse, and then rejoin the following season. This has become apparent since ACV when a number of Lost Desert players switched due to their victory (though some claimed to have switched due to SOTAC drama). In an attempt to avoid drama, pressure, and just general unpleasantries, players will just join another team. And when these All-Stars go to other teams it’s no surprise that other teams start to see a rise in performance. However Virtupets has proven to be a thorn in this theory, as their team population did not change much between ACVI and ACVII (in fact it appears to have decreased slightly) and many of their All-Star players returned and made All-Star again, which makes their drop in the standings a mystery.

The DRR: Note this part might not have anymore validity with the loss of this format, never the less it is a trend I have noticed, and I choose to write about it. In a double round robin format (DRR for short) with 18 teams and 4 days for finals, means the cup has to last a minimum of 38 days (assuming they have no off days) making every day as important as the one before it, problem is people can’t really play all 38 days. Throwing into the equation that most returning teams take a dive in their YYB records (which before ACVII had more weight then the side games), and it’s no wonder that many of the previous teams fell into the second tier, and of course we just HAVE to throw in finals, where YYB is pretty much the only thing that matters (does anyone even play side games during the finals?) and it becomes easier to see how the decrease in performance becomes apparent. Even taking Lost Deserts collapse from top tier to fourth tier, the means of their collapse is clearly evident, they either won YYB and a side game, or won a side game or two, with a couple draws scattered about here and there for good measure, the inconsistency of the teams performance coupled with most teams finding a consistent niche in performance often equates to a drop in performance.

So to sum up what we’ve learned so far (props to you if you’ve stayed with me up to this point). The winning team does receive a small boost in numbers, coupled with about an equal number of their active players taking a break and team hop somewhere else in an attempt to keep up a pleasant atmosphere, and the bitterly sweet reality that is the DRR taking a huge chunk of there previous power. All these factors combined (not all equally) is what I believe equates to the “Winners Curse”, but do you believe this, leave a comment below telling me what you think the Winners Curse is really about.