The Future of eSports

For years now gaming companies have been trying to get their product into the eSport scene with little luck. Then again, eSports in general have not had a great start either. It has been difficult to find a game that people enjoy playing long term, let alone watching; however thanks to the recent Dota 2 championship that is no longer the case. They were able to set new viewership records over the short five-day tournament. The championship held over 2.8 million dollars in prizes for participants, which was also a new record. While some of this money was funded by the company itself the rest was funded by the viewers who had the option to donate money with a portion of it going to the participants of the championship. That same week StarCraft 2 had its tournament as well and it too was quite successful. This is great news for the gaming community and even better news for the gamers, but what does it mean?

To start this off there is a problem with eSports. The problem is generational and what I mean is that video games are pretty young in the human evolution of things. As gamers get older they will be more likely to watch gaming tournaments because it reminds them of what they used to play growing up, though the games will be different. This is one of the primary reasons sports are so widely broadcast because there are millions of people who can no longer participate in them, but they still enjoy watching them. There is an issue with this line of thinking though, because games are always evolving they are nothing like sports, and the games that I grew up with won’t ever make it to the eSport field. There are so many different types of games available from Real Time Strategy to First Person Shooters, and then each category has thousands of games that could potentially be an eSport. So what makes a game a successful eSport?

 That question is not easily answered but here are some of the most obvious reasons:

  1. Stability – If the game is crashing or buggy no one will be interested in participating let alone watching it.
  2. Balance –There cannot be clear imbalances that cause players to stick with one way of playing. In the original StarCraft you never saw certain units used in PvP matches because there was little incentive to spend resources on units that didn’t do terribly much in combat.
  3. Variety – Games need to have variety in classes, units, weapons, armor, etc. The more variety a player has the more the game challenges players to find new ways to beat it. This forces the game to have strategic elements because variety provides the ability to counter another player’s strategy. It also helps players think outside the box and theory craft new ideas to beat an opponent.
  4. Goals – Games need a goal for victory and that goal cannot just be death-match. The problem with death-match is that players don’t find it interesting to watch a guy camp in a building across the map. Game modes such as: Capture the Flag, Kill of the Hill, and others encourage teamwork and make it exciting for viewers to watch.
  5. Teams – As mentioned before the game needs to support teams working together. This not only gives viewers someone to root for but it also makes the gameplay more interesting to watch because the strategies will constantly develop and change as the game unfolds.
  6. Short games – The longer the matches take the fewer players will be willing to watch them unfold and before anyone mentions it; Yes players did watch the recent Dota 2 Tournament for hours on end but those were many matches not just one. Having matches that last less than 30minutes will attract more viewers than matches that last more than an hour.

ESports are going to become very big in the next few years and with their recent success in Dota 2 Valve will likely become the company to lead the way. This is a logical step for Valve as they have already cornered the digital video game sales market fairly well with their third party software known as Steam. Their platform will allow them to advertise new eSports to all of their users which is sure to boost the viewership. They have already begun working to link players twitch and steam accounts together. I suspect that we will begin to see specific applications added to Steam that allow live twitch streams to be easily accessed with more stability than ever before.

Why would the development companies want their game to become an eSport? Well most importantly there is no better way to show gamers how good your game is then to have a tournament to show off everything that makes it great. Advertising is everywhere but even today the PC video game market struggles to get a decent market share. Once eSports become more main stream you will see them on consoles but the majority will be on the PC. PC’s are able to offer a more versatile platform for a variety of games which gives them an edge over consoles when eSports start to take off. Companies can also make additional money via advertisements and sponsors. Not only will these sponsors donate prizes for the players but they will pay to have their ad’s shown to all the viewers watching. Yes, right now maybe an eSport gets a million viewers and while that’s good, it’s not as good as normal sports. However, eSports are quickly becoming popular and once they start attracting tens of millions of viewers advertising will lead to a major boost in income for game development companies.

What does all this mean for you? Well its good news, games are going to be more stable and get more recognition than they currently do. Gamers should start to see video game companies build better games that have fewer bugs, are better optimized, and allow for a competitive and balanced environment. As it is now most games are developed for only one or two CPU cores and the PC market is already looking at the possibility of a 16 core processor so game developers need to step it up. With any luck companies will recognize their ability to make more money long term by creating a great product that works well with newer computers. Their goal should be to make a game that is built for computers with more than two cores to encourage gamers to participate in any eSports they offer. If they can offer a game that fully utilizes a computers systems then players will flock to it which gives it a decent chance at become an eSport.

I am very excited to see what eSports will look like in a few years’ time, but I am even more interested to see game companies start to develop their software for the hardware that is currently available today. All gamer’s, eSport participants or not, will benefit from the changes we will likely see from the gaming industry and I can’t wait to see what is around the corner.

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