Three reasons why esports succeed
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October 4, 2019

Three reasons why esports succeed

Esports are on the rise. Games like League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Overwatch, and many others draw in hundreds of thousands of viewers for professional events. Players all over the world aspire to go pro in their respective games, not unlike traditional sports. So, what is it that makes esports so successful?

2018 World Championship Finals at the Incheon Munhak Stadium in South Korea, on 3 November 2018. Image via lolesports Flickr.

Fun and easy to watch

There are plenty of fun and competitive multiplayer games that will never make it onto the esports scene. It’s because they aren’t good spectator games. When esports started trending, it was games like Halo, Call of Duty, and Starcraft that gained popularity. These games were easy for players to watch and follow, so they quickly gained popularity as esports. The same can be said for modern esports, such as League of Legends and Counter-Strike. Overwatch faced initial difficulties but eventually overcame them. Looking at that struggle is a great way to see the importance of how easy and fun a game is to watch.

Back in 2016, Overwatch’s debut as a game and esports was problematic. Viewers complained the games were confusing due to the same heroes being played on each team. Blizzard listened to the community and identified the problems, working to make solutions. When Overwatch League launched its inaugural season, teams had “jerseys” making it easy to tell who was who. A viewer-friendly interface was implemented, making it easy to tell players’ heroes, their health and their ultimate status. Simply making the esport easier to watch did wonders for its success.

Games are worth devoting time to

While it may seem obvious, if no one wants to play the game, there is no chance it will become an esport. It is important for game developers to focus on making a good game before making a successful esport. If the game isn’t fun for players, they will not be motivated to pour countless hours into practicing the game. On the other hand, if players love playing it, it’s enjoyable to play and improve.

When Hal Laboratories developed the original Super Smash Bros in the 1990s, they never envisioned it becoming the competitive fighter that it is today. They wanted to make a great game providing entertainment and selling copies. In doing this, they created a masterpiece inspiring players to compete and play for higher stakes. The same can be said for other games. Even Overwatch, which likely had esports in its sights from the beginning, needed to become a hit before becoming a successful esport. Players were dedicated to learning and improving, and there was money to be made, so it became successful.

Image via Super Mario Wiki.

Incentive to compete

Money is the one language that everyone speaks. If there is a monetary reward, people will be interested in it. When it comes to modern esports, there are plenty of rewards for most major titles. Fortnite recently had its World Cup with 30 million dollars worth of prizes. With that much money up for grabs, it’s no surprise that so many people tried getting involved. In many esports, players can make money by signing contracts. These opportunities for financial gain give players a heavy incentive to become a professional in an esport.

Money isn’t the only incentive to play, however. League of Legends, Overwatch, and other games offer various rewards to players for just playing the game. At the end of each season in League, players are awarded a special skin for ranking high enough, a special border, and other rewards. Players get involved and find goals to work towards. By getting more people involved in the game, they naturally gain a larger esports following. Some of these players will undoubtedly go on to discover that they enjoy watching the competitive play as well. It’s difficult to invest in a game and that game’s esport without having the incentive to do so.

Plenty of other factors go into determining whether an esport will succeed or not. Accessibility, professional personalities, and production value are big examples. But without the three factors listed above, the game won’t stand a chance. By making a good game that is fun and easy to follow with good incentives to play, future developers stand a good chance at creating the next successful esport.

What the Overwatch World Cup looked like in 2016.

That it looked like in 2018.

Written by Nathaniel Searl

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