Thursday, March 28, 2013

E-Sports' Hurdles

Competitive gaming keeps growing in popularity. If you visit you can see almost any time of day that tens of thousands of people are watching their favorite professional gamers play in tournaments or on their personal streams.
I've often wondered if e-sports will ever make the transition to television so that instead of relying on a constant internet connection to watch these, will you ever be able to flip to the e-sports channel on your television to watch Starcraft 2 or League of Legends?
Protoss v. Zerg, for that were were wondering
There are many problems that the e-sports industry would have to overcome in order to gain access to that wider audience. In he recently released documentary The Game We Love, Na`Vi leader Clement “Puppey” Ivanov spoke about the possible future of games like DotA 2 on television.
"It will [take a] different approach of communities and people so I’m not really sure if it will ever exist to a normal TV like tennis," he said. He also remarked on another problem, the barrier to entry. A game like soccer is easy to understand immediately - the ball needs to go to the goal. Same with football and basketball, to some extent.
Pretty easy to understand at first glance.
But understanding a game as complex as Starcraft 2 for instance, takes quite a bit of commitment. How are people going to understand the difference between Protoss and Zerg? MOBAs such as League of Legends hold an even greater challenge, with hundreds of heroes, all with at least 4 unique abilities, all moving and killing and dying at the same time.
Another problem would be broadcast time. Tournaments are commonplace yes, but there isn't always one on, and even if there is, there can be multiple games and inconsistent times with how long the games are going to last. What do you fill fifteen minutes with all a match that was supposed to take twenty minutes ends early with a zerg rush?
Context is so important.
Which channel would broadcast it would also be another question to act. G4 seems like an obvious choice, but with their cancellation of X-Play and Attack of the Show, their priorities seem to lie not in gaming. Having it as a pay-per-view event is appealing, and a low risk getting-their-feet-wet way to test the water.
I think the best way to ease the general community onto television would be to hold a tournament as a special, perhaps on one of the smaller, more indie channels such as the IFC or during adult swim on Cartoon Network. That way, the success of the broadcast can be evaluated and perhaps scaled up to a more conventional channel, or perhaps even its own.
Or perhaps e-sports doesn't need to migrate to television. With more and more people cancelling their subscriptions for services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, maybe e-sports should count itself ahead of the curve and focus on cultivating the environment it is currently in.
I certainly don't have all the answers, maybe they're aren't any. What do you think? Should e-sports make a gamble and throw all their chips in for broadcast television, or should they count their blessings and stay where they are? Let me know in the comments below.
News Editor
John Schwartz


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