The State of eSports 2013
Everyone has their passions for something in life. Some people really enjoy television shows, other people enjoy watching football or other sports and some enjoy collecting and playing with Magic: The Gathering cards. For me, one of the things I enjoy most is watching eSports, or electronic sports. eSports are competitions where professional video game players play their video game of choice in tournaments for cash and prizes. It’s just like any other sport in that there is a competition between players in a controlled environment playing their single game of choice. Years ago, eSports were just a budding adventure with a limited amount of tournaments and a small but growing fanbase. Now, eSports has become a dedicated staple, bringing in hundreds of thousands of fans to watch their favorite players play their favorite games. As with everything, though, when there is popularity, there is drama and eSports are not exception.
First of all, let’s step back and look at the explosive growth of eSports in the first place. A few years ago, streaming video games to the Internet was a difficult business, as was the business of putting on a major tournament in a physical location. But some organizations, such as MLG, or Major League Gaming, were putting on around four big tournaments a year, making for milestone events that people would be excited to get together with their friends to watch. However, with the growth in viewership came the need to expand. Some organizations attempted to make a unique format to their tournaments while others brought up the production value, such as DreamHack. Soon, smaller tournaments with small sponsors were getting players to play matches online instead of in person and the growth of eSports into the business it is today was formed.
Around the end of 2012, one who wanted to find an eSports tournament online would be able to find one almost every weekend. While that creates a lot of content for those who love watching these tournaments, it also creates an overload for those who are looking to see quality content. A lot of these tournaments put on a good show, but with the overabundance of tournament providers, watching the big, spectacular performances became more and more difficult. eSports tournaments aren’t just one day events; they usually last for at least three days as many players battle in a bracket format to be able to play a Best of 5, also shown as Bo5, or more games to determine the grand champion. This makes for a lot of content and a lot of dedication and time spent watching these tournaments if you were truly invested in the community, potentially causing a burnout for those who love the events, but don’t want to sit at home every weekend watching them.
With all of this growth comes the growth of the business itself. If you look at any sport on television, you will see that almost every piece of content is sponsored by another company. This has broken into the eSports realm as well, although a little less obtrusive than what you would see in traditional media. But in the case of NASCAR, where each team is sponsored by someone different and is shown in their cars, eSports players and teams have become the same way. Businesses spend money to have their brand shown on the jerseys of the players or, in some cases, shown in the username of the player in the game itself. And where there’s business, there’s demands. Due to this, if a team doesn’t do terribly well in a series of tournaments, funding will get cut which, in turn, has caused many large gaming teams to have to close in 2012 due to a lack of available funding. Such are the dangers of any business, but it’s much more pronounced in eSports where the number of major teams vying for the top positions are few.
And of course, where there is a business, there is drama. As with any major public organization, the media follows them to be able to report on the news and rumors coming from the teams and events about players, games and more. One such person who has been dubbed one of the leaders in this journalism goes by the username Slasher and has been the source of hate and mistrust for a long time now. However, as with any media, the blame shouldn’t go onto them if the word has been given out to them on a sensitive matter, unless it has been signed and agreed that it won’t be written about or if it’s about a rumor, as rumor journalism is the worst kind of journalism. This is prevalent in all types of journalistic media, but if an announcement is leaked to the press ahead of time, it is the responsibility of the leak and not the journalists, for allowed the content to be leaked ahead of time altogether.
Taking the journalism aspect and adding in the business aspect creates a tense situation between businesses and teams. In a recent case that has surfaced, a sponsor who put money into having advertising for an announcement of a new player has apparently gotten angry at the team because the announcement was leaked ahead of time and therefore, the promise that the team made on the increase of traffic to their site was lower than predicted. This caused the team to have a major backlash onto the media source who published the leak, causing an unnecessary amount of drama to unearth. This is where the business side and the entertainment side of eSports collides, causing drama that, frankly, detracts from the point of the industry at all: to create entertaining content in the form of competitive video gaming. While the frustration of the business unit is understandable in a sense, as they expected to get an increased return on their contribution, the distaste that trickles down the industry causes a bad appearance to be shown, especially when they are continuously looking for new fans to participate.
In general, the eSports community has a lot of work to do in 2013 and there are a good handful of organizations that are working towards it. For example, in order to unify some of the incredible multitude of tournaments, hosts MLG, DreamHack and the ESL are creating a points system which will work throughout each of their tournaments, making these not just one-offs, but rather important for the entire season of play. Other organizations are changing what games they are supporting due to funding or sometimes a lack thereof. In general, though, the eSports industry is on it’s way to have the biggest year of growth they’ve ever seen, but keeping a cool head on their shoulders and working towards making the industry itself better in the long haul is something that should be kept at the forefront. To find more information about eSports, type it in to Google to see news and information.