eSports, or competitive online gaming, has become a booming industry. Similar to the NFL, MLB, NBA, and other professional sport leagues, eSport leagues pay its most valuable players, draw sponsors, thrill fans, and provide a platform for gambling. People participate in eSports for a variety of reasons, and studying how to maximize profits in the new industry is the focus of many consumer reports, case studies, and conferences. However, some are in it simply for the love of gaming.
Types of eSports games
eSports take many forms, such as multiplayer online battle arena, real-time strategy, first person shooter, fighting, traditional sports, and fantasy. Some of the most popular eSports games are World of Tanks, Counter Strike, Hearthstone, League of Legends, and World of Warcraft (Esportsbettingelite.com). Each of these games have their own structure of followers, competitions, and rewards. In this sample case study on eSports we’ll explore some of the different genres of current eSports games.
MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena)
League of Legends, and DOTA 2 are two of the most widely played MOBA’s in the world. MOBA is a relatively new genre in video gaming, and is already the fastest growing genre in eSports.
A MOBA involves a player controlling a single character in a team that must destroy the opposing team’s main base while protecting their own. In addition to the player controlled characters, there will be non-player controlled units. These units are spawned in each team’s base and will travel along set paths towards the enemy base in order to support the player controlled characters. This brings together action elements, along with real-time strategy, to create a fun, fast-paced but strategic video game experience. (Esportsbettingelite.com)
Real time strategy
Real-Time Strategy(RTS) games have been a foundational genre of competitive online gaming since the explosion of the internet. RTS games have become big business in the age of the eSports, especially when internet gambling is concerned. However, due to the real-time nature of this type of game, it has lost some followers who are in need of time flexibility with their eSports or enjoy a more hectic pace.
RTS games involve the player building an army by constructing buildings, and developing units in order to gain dominance over a map and defeat the armies of opposing players. In order to achieve this, the player will normally need to gather the limited resources available on the map which are required to construct buildings and develop units. There may also be elements of technological advancement involved in order to progress through the game. The “Real-Time” part of RTS games is that each player performs their actions at the same time, as opposed to turn-based strategy games which are more like board games; i.e. a player completing a set number of actions before the next player takes a turn. (Esportsbettingelite.com)
eSports and first person shooter
For many years, First Person Shooter (FPS) games have been linked to violent behavior in children. Today, FPS is the largest genre of video games being produced. FPS games usually simulate a war, in which a terrain is being taken. When played in eSports tournaments, FPS games are played in teams with complex strategies to outwit and outmaneuver other teams. As of late, FPS games are rapidly replacing RTS games in tournaments. “These are very popular due to the frenetic action, as well as the ease of understanding and picking up the game, which is comparatively simple when compared to RTS and MOBA games” (Esportsbettingelite.com). Call of Duty, and Counter Strike are two of the most widely played FPS games in the world.
Fighting games and eSports
Fighting games focus more on one to one combat in which each player’s health is attacked with various techniques, tools, and magic. The first player to lose all their health loses the round. Games usually consist of a best-of-3-rounds format. Games such as the Street Fighter, or Mortal Kombat series have been on the competitive scene since before one officially existed. These games were the subject of many private bets in seedy arcades and pool halls before online play was ever possible. Today, EVO is a large annual tournament focused strictly on fighting games with large cash prizes for the winners. Analysts point out that this genre currently does not have a strong betting market, “However we fully expect these to expand in the years to come as eSports start incorporating what some would view as more mainstream and popular video games” (Esportsbettingelite.com). One of the ways this is achieved is through expanding brand loyalty. Fighting games often feature characters that can transcend the genre itself. Placing these characters into a larger gaming realm attracts many new fans into the industry. Along with the fun of the gaming, the possibilities for consumerism, merchandising, and market growth are huge. The explosion of Pokemon:GO is a shining example of how video games can turn into tremendous merchandising opportunities.
Know thy eSports gamer
When considering the power and draw of eSports, the market perspective is helpful for establishing context. As in the case of 2015,
Valve Corporation, a premier video game development company, organized a tournament labeled “The International 5” for one of its most popular PC games, DOTA 2. The tournament, which featured sixteen teams from around the world, had a prize pool of nearly $18.5 million. The first place team, which starred a 15-year-old from Illinois, walked away with a grand total of over $6.6 million. (Desai)
Understanding the nature and consumer behavior of those drawn into the world of eSports is essential to investing in the opportunities within. Knowing why a gamer plays and enjoys the games they do, will also help improve the nature of the games as well. Investigating this, The Nielsen Company found the top five reasons for engaging in eSports are:
- To learn tips and tricks from the pros.
- To become a better gamer.
- To experience the competition aspects.
- To pass time/out of boredom.
- To experience games/gaming in a new and different way. (The Nielsen Company)
These reasons are much like why many people who participate in something which could be done in isolation chose to do so in a group. Research has found, “When they practice, most teams prefer to meet physically and play matches against other teams over the Internet. Only teams whose members live far from each other and/or cannot afford to travel practice online” (Rambusch, Jakobsson, and Pargman 157). Celebration, and the thrill of the chase are powerful instinctual aspects of human community. Finding ways to maximize this in the digital arena is already underway.
Taking eSports to the next level
The thrill of eSports is only heightened the more advanced the technology used to engage with it. Wanting to shed the image of being unphysically fit, and generally unhealthy, gamers are impatiently awaiting the widespread proliferation of virtual reality gear to spice up their favorite pastime. Virtual reality has the potential to add greater athleticism to the eSports context, as
Virtuix is hosting the first-ever eSports tournament in VR. The company connected four HTC Vive headsets to four of its Omni-multidirectional treadmills, allowing players to pick up a replica gun and run through a virtual arena in a competitive multiplayer first-person shooter game called Omni Arena. (Gaudiosi).
All those who utilize technology consistently realize the need for incorporating greater physical activity in the technology realm. This is one reason for the widespread success of the Wii system with its engaging controller and body monitoring. The CEO of Virtuix, Jan Goetgeluk, emphasizes,
Now players will need to be physically fit and trained in addition to being a strong gamer…We feel that bringing eSports and VR gaming out of the chair and adding an active physical component creates an extra layer of excitement for both competitors and spectators. The faster you run on the Omni, the faster you will move in the game. (Gaudiosi)
While technology is ever expanding and offering new opportunities to engage fans, any industry with large income potential also has the capacity to be abused.
The dark side of eSports
As with any sport with large sums of cash prizes involved, there can be a dark side. While eSports is still a new industry, there have been reports of e-athletes being slandered, excommunicated, and wrapped up in fixing scandals similar to larger established leagues such as FIFA, which have lead to violence and attempted suicide (Vice). Trying to track down the routes in which corruption and greed breed, investigators point out,
eSports is very quickly turning into a huge moneymaker, but it’s also a field that’s going through some serious growing pains: bad contracts for players, shady team managers and sponsors, cheating and rigged game scandals… basically, all of the problems that plague more physical sports, but with additional internet drama attached due to the online-connected nature of many of these titles (and the online presence of the players and companies). (Kemps)
So far the relative anonymity of the Internet has brought out the worst in some people, and this has led to systematic bullying, stalking, and exclusion tactics which many players find debilitating enough to kill themselves over (McCabe). Researchers point out that the vitriol and unprofessionalism of such name calling and bashing is the single biggest deterrent from eSports gaining a wider and more diverse fan base. Online eSports commentator Johnny McCabe comments,
If eSports in general are to be taken seriously in any degree, teams and players must move towards the professional and regulated elements of traditional sports, not those of pettiness and controversy. If they fail to do so, they will never rise above the stereotype of socially inept geeks getting upset over computer games. (McCabe)
One aspect to this process of disentangling controversy and emphasizing the game like nature of the venture is the relationship between the game creators and the gamers. While League of Legends has more players than there are people living in France, this is due in part to the fierce loyalty of the gamers who appreciate the investment of the game creators (Segal). In this case the feeling of belonging is strong enough to eclipse many other games which could draw away eSports fans and gamers. To celebrate the winners of their mega competition Riot Games created a huge trophy, called the Summoner’s Cup, which weighs over seventy pounds. The huge silver plated chalice symbolizes the epic flows of celebratory wine the winners can expect, and is a highly coveted item (Segal). The fantasy aspects of League of Legends, and culture of loyalty of the company could be emulated by other eSports entrepreneurs to overcome the dark side of the gaming force.
eSports offer many worlds of play, a brand new vista of opportunity for players, fans, and the industry which feeds their need. The fun of the game is balanced with competition, just as the need to balance inactivity of the devices is being supported through virtual reality gear. Expanding from the center of the desire for living a dream, the havoc of eSports has just begun.
Desai, Ajay. “A booming eSports industry.” Duke Chronicle, 1 Mar. 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.dukechronicle.com/article/2016/03/a-booming-esports-industry
Esportsbettingelite.com. “What types of games does esports include?” Esportsbettingelite.com, n.d. http://www.esportsbettingelite.com/learn-esports/what-types-of-games-does-esports-include/
Gaudiosi, John. “Virtuix Hosts First Virtual Reality ESports Tournament at CES.” Fortune, 8 Jan. 2016. http://fortune.com/2016/01/08/virtuix-vr-esports-tournament-ces/
Kemps, Heidi. “The growing paints of eSports, case study of magical Stone.” 8 may 2016. http://gaming.moe/?p=1610
McCabe, Johnny. “Post-tournament player shuffling reveals the dark side of professional eSports.” DailyCollegian.com, 9 Sep. 2015. https://dailycollegian.com/2015/09/post-tournament-player-shuffling-reveals-the-dark-side-of-professional-esports/
The Nielsen Company. “Engaging the U.S. Esports fan.” Nielsen.com, 19 Nov. 2015. https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/engaging-the-us-esports-fan.html
Rambushch, Jana, Peter Jakobsson, and Daniel Pargman. “Exploring E-sports: A case study of gameplay in counter-strike.” Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Conference. http://homes.lmc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/DiGRA07/Proceedings/021.pdf
Segal, David. “Behind League of Legends, E-sports’s main attraction.” The New York Times, 10 Oct. 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/12/technology/riot-games-league-of-legends-main-attraction-esports.html?_r=0
Vice. “e-Sports.” Vice.com, 2016. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/3b7xav/esports-part-four