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The Blueprint to Esports


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Junior Supervisor

Junior Supervisor

  • [7] FLAG OFFICER

In lieu of answering a few questions and the Halo Wars 2 team page I thought it would be a good momento to create a thread of the full idea of incorporating otherwise unpopular games into the organizations wings. 

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How does a game become an esport?

If it were an exact science, then we'd already have all the answers and despite every attempt at 343 Industries commodifying Halo into this space, this game was left behind. So we started with that, what does Halo Wars mean to us, and more specifically the core to the question already, What is an esport? concluding with the founders answer.  

When a game is played competitively, and prizes are available to the best players, then it is an esport.

The exact definition of an esport is a contentious topic, but I hold a broad and holistic view. When a game is played competitively, and prizes are available to the best players, then it is an esport.  

Where there is competition in Halo and there is prizes no matter how small, I started this community to support and engage in it. To me, esports is about the celebration of excellence that comes with appreciating people who compete at the highest level available to them at the time. 

With that said, there comes a blueprint to it and leaving out the fiscal financial aspects focusing on the game this is how I see and studied it to be. 

Three key factors lead to an esport's eventual success or demise. Think of it like the Fire Triangle [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_triangle ] Each of these contributes to getting a game to a critical mass point where it is accepted as an esport, and if that point can't be reached, the game will fade into the background like so many before it.

Those three factors are:

  • Playability
  • Spectatability
  • Support

No single factor is more important than the others — each is critical. But a game lacking in one area can still reach its critical mass point if it goes above and beyond in another. Think of it like blowing air onto a campfire to get it to flame on.

Let's break down what each factor involves.

Playability

If a game isn't 'fun', then it's going to struggle to become an esport. Hell, it's going to stumble selling at all in many cases. But fun isn't the only element at play here. For esport success, a game needs to have the sort of compelling play experience that keeps players coming back, over and over again.

This can be achieved in many ways, but the easiest way to chase a long term compelling experience is through complexity. In games like League of Legends and DOTA 2, there's always something new to learn, always something you haven't yet mastered. So playing it for a thousand hours makes absolute sense.

 

Spectatability

Spectatorship, viewability, whatever you want to call it — it's a crucial part of esports success. Obviously being able to view a sport is critical to its success, but in esports it's more than that. Because games are at our fingertips whenever we want — there's no need to book a basketball court or head to a track day — esports serve as an educational tool as well.

While Twitch and Youtube have made it easier than ever to watch competitive games, it's still not as simple as just 'having streams'. There's a great deal that goes into making a game a compelling viewing experience — and getting it right can often be extremely tricky.

But because of the aforementioned 'playability' focus of games, people don't want to play a game where they're not doing anything for large portions of the play experience. The other problem is that if the esport doesn't resemble the general gameplay, spectatability lowers as a result.

 

Support

By support, I mean publisher support. To be utterly clear, a publisher/developer doesn't decide if their game is going to be an esport, and the road to esport success is littered with games like Tribes Ascend, Shootmania and Firefall. Only players can decide if a game will succeed as an esport.

But support from the publishers of these games is still as relevant as either of the other two factors and with the right amount it can save — or kill — an esport.

At the end of the day, esports are tied to the wills of their respective publishers. Where sports fans might read rulebooks to work out how exactly a nail-biting tie could possibly be decided by something as arbitrary as 'boundaries hit', esports fans look instead to the patch notes.

 

Ecosystems

That's not the only kind of support publishers give their games. It comes in many forms, but it's generally seen in two lights — closed and open ecosystems. Closed ecosystems cede all control to the publisher, letting them control every level of the competitive scene. Open ecosystems are hands-off affairs, where the publishers basically let the scene control itself.

 

Why would a game want to become an esport?

The way we consume entertainment has changed. We're no longer bound to the rigid watching schedule dictated to us by the TV Guide. Video on Demand services mean shows are watched when it is convenient to the viewer — except in a few cases, where timeliness matters.

In traditional entertainment, this leads to shows that lean deep into their own discourse. Game of Thrones was a show that you needed to watch as close to its air date as possible, lest your little brother spoil a big reveal for you via a careless Facebook post.

Reality TV competitions are similar — filled with moments that require immediate discussion by those who enjoy them, leading to live threads online and viewing parties where possible.

Outside of blockbuster television moments and shock Bachelor reveals, however, the only entertainment products that 'demand' timely viewing are those where the results are determined 'on the fly'. And this is why sports are thriving more and more — the results aren't pre-determined, anything can happen, and the only way to be genuinely involved as a spectator is to watch it live.

Esports — especially those that can run on cheap hardware, like League of Legends and Rocket League — are poised to fill — and in some cases are already filling — the same space that sports already do. And with that in mind, we'll see more games trying to enter the same space, vying for the same eyeballs, the same limited attention span. They're all heading to the same destination — esports success — but the paths each take will be different. Where TIER 1 takes advantage as an organization is to manage and grow talent in the space to invest into greater players and leaders of the future. 

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