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The SOPA Box: The E-sports Fallacy


Another of me yelling at the industry this week

With the growth of the E-sports scene and industry from a group of clans on clan battles to a huge multi million dollar scene that's even seeing ESPN broadcast evens sometimes it's hard to deny E-sports has had an impact on the games industry. The E-sports events can work as great adverts for the game and seeing this has given some companies ideas.

Now before I carry on it's important to point out I have nothing especially against E-sports. In terms of competitive gaming I've been in that scene in the past. I was part of the 3rd best clan in the world at Tribes 2 when Clan Battle was still a thing. My involvement these days isn't really much other than the half arsed stumbling of the DOTA 2 team I'm on which sometimes actually manages to play a game (at this point we're at about 2 games a year if that and have a 100% record of losing every even close to entry level pro game we've played).

The idea of showcasing your game to plenty of people world-wide and having a competitive event series to do it sound like a really good idea to companies. The problem is for some companies they're seeing the E-sports scene as the only thing that matters. Throwing all in to hope their game sells because it has an E-sports event.

Now the biggest offender presently in the games industry is actually Capcom with the poor sales of Street Fighter 5 initially and poor reception due to missing pretty much all features besides vs and online play. More recently this was also seen with Marvel Vs Capcom Infinite which featured a greatly reduced roster compared to previous entries and has some people a big shocked at the DLC pricing for the extra fighters. So let's use some Steam Spy numbers to look into things far Marvel Vs Capcom Infinite has an estimated 29,000 to 41,000 owners on PC. Street Fighter 5 on PC has between 303,000 copies sold and 338,000. Those numbers might seem good but compared to other games it shows a very different picture: Skullgirls has between 960,000 and 1,021,000 copies sold; Mortal Kombat X has between 1,069,000 and 1,134,000 copies sold on Steam alone.

The issue is Capcom and other companies seeing these huge numbers of viewers for tournaments and confusing them for potential for customers all after that pro gaming feel. That finely tuned game that's very clear to see what's happening in the game. This is the fallacy. Plenty of people watch sports but that doesn't mean they're going to go out and all try said sports or that they'd only care for the super competitive competition rules only version of the sport.

Capcom and others are looking at let's say League of Legends, Dota 2, CSGO, Hearthstone and even Clash Royale (yes it has an E-sports scene). Companies are seeing them making lots of money and that they have an E-sports scene and seemingly believe that said scene is the reason they're making that money.

Capcom seemingly aren't the only company doing this though as another company is also doing that. That other company is Blizzard who are seemingly trying to make Overwatch be an Esport that will last till at least 2020. They also tried and mostly failed to get Heroes of the Storms to take off as an E-sport too.

What most companies trying to do that are missing is it's not so much the Esport that helped the game sell and bring in the money. It's the games being entertaining to watch and not that hard to understand. The commentators in some E-sports events often add an additional level of explanation as to what's going on to help viewers understand it. Hell the DOTA 2 International has in previous years had the newbie stream where the commentary team explain more in depths about how the game is played and the mechanics of what is being seen in game. It being exciting to watch and people understanding fairly easily what's going on is kind of the reason I'd cite for Hearthstone just dominating when compared to (what I'd called the superior game) Scrolls, which wasn't overly exciting to watch and was a game that was fairly tough to grasp within 5 minutes watching a stream. If you look at Twitch at present some of the top watched games that don't have E-sports scenes are Player Unknown Battlegrounds , Destiny 2 (I'm pretty sure it's not got a major E-sports scene), Fortnite Battle Royale and World of Warcraft.

Capcom and others are chasing after a crowd that isn't as big as they seem to believe and are hoping to play on peoples dedication to said games. It's why the DLC characters are said to be price a bit high for MVC: I because Capcom was hoping those who want to stay competitive in said games will buy the characters for fear of not being competitive if the meta shifts to a DLC character. It's why Hearthstone keeps having new card packs while eliminating old sets from "competitive" play. It's hoping to keep those into competitive play spending. The two other games Blizzard seems to want an Esports scene for don't have quite that potential to target the hardcore competitive scene though both Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch do have lootboxes. Additionally Heroes of the Storm does sell champions and seems to release them fairly regularly.

From what we're seeing in the industry it's very possible more AAA companies are going to blindly follow the trend of trying to turn their game into E-sports and discover what Capcom is. That focusing just on the pro competitive scene aspect of their titles has diminishing returns. Or worse learn that it's a big gamble and if your fail to make it an E-sport or it fails to catch on and it's a full price retail title well, we all know what happened to Battleborn.

See you next time.

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About Dwavenhobbleone of us since 8:33 AM on 06.19.2012

A qualified Environmental Chemist who happens to live in a fairly dense city with no real environment or chemistry industry.

I review indie games on another blog and you'll see them pop up here if I think the review is a good or interesting one (along with a shameless bit of self promotion)

I also operate another blog reviewing films and I mean t pick that back up when I can.

I've been gaming since the SNES days. I've been in the pro scene before for tribes 2 but hate the present pro scenes and have no interest in going back into it.

I tend to get into quite a few Betas and love ones without NDA as it means I can write about them. I have even beta tested an xbox 360 game in my time (and no not a normal public Beta one )

In gaming I'm normally the guy looking at the shelf below the AAA titles first to see if there are any great hidden gems.

My gaming drug of choice: Timesplitters in any flavour (Why won't you make Timesplitters 4 Crytek, why ????? I need my fix of insanity )
Xbox LIVE:hobblejp
Steam ID:dwavenhobble


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