Leaderboard: Almost half of e-sports viewers don’t even play the games they’re spectating

It may sound crazy, but a huge number of people who pour eyeball time and money into e-sports don’t even play the games they’re watching. That’s according to gaming analytics firm Newzoo, which last week broke down its stats on the major e-sports franchises and who exactly is watching them in the U.S., Canada, Germany, U.K., France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Sweden. Key takeaways?

  • 70% of viewers stick to one game.
  • 69% of gamers play only League of Legends, CS:GO, or DOTA 2 (the overlap of all three is 8%).
  • 42% of e-sports watchers of the big three games do not play any of them
  • 191 million people will tune in to e-sports “frequently” this year; an additional 194 million will do so “occasionally.”

Howsabout you? Do you watch, play, both, or neither?

Do you watch or play e-sports content?

  • I watch but don't play (17%, 40 Votes)
  • I play but don't watch (11%, 25 Votes)
  • I watch and play (21%, 49 Votes)
  • I don't watch or play (52%, 124 Votes)

Total Voters: 238

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Source: Newzoo via Kotaku
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88 Comments on "Leaderboard: Almost half of e-sports viewers don’t even play the games they’re spectating"

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Edward Duffy

I’ve got better things to do than watching someone else play video games, like playing them myself. For the life of me I don’t understand why anyone would want to watch someone else play a game.

Reader
Ryan

Because I enjoy watching the professional play of a game that I don’t actually enjoy playing myself. I’m sure there are people who would look at the games you play and think ‘I’ve got better things to do than play that game”. People make time for what they enjoy.

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Veldan

Because it can be enjoyable to see someone at work who is very skilled. It’s just like watching actual sports. One could say “why would I want to watch someone play tennis? I’ve got better things to do, and if I didn’t I could play tennis myself”. But people still watch tennis because it’s fun to see a faceoff between players who are better than you’ll ever be. The same applies to games.

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Melissa McDonald

I feel like MMO players are generally too busy playing MMOs to be big fans of eSports, but I admit I simply “don’t get it” when it comes to watching people play video games. I feel like that is something you do at home in the console world when you have friends over. Treating it like a sport, I just don’t get it. There are real sports going on right now like NBA/NHL playoffs (go Preds!)…

Reader
Jeremy

It’s crazy to me that people watch others play video games. The fact most don’t even play the games they are watching is another level of “that guy has too much time on his hands.” And yes, I’m slightly jealous. :)

Reader
Ryan

I find it amusing but slightly frustrating that you see people who watch esports as ‘that guy has too much time on his hands’.

I watch some esports for games that I don’t play because I enjoy watching. I don’t watch soaps on tv like a lot of people. You make time for the things you enjoy, it’s nothing to do with how much time you have.

Reader
David Goodman

I watch esports and games. I do play, but casually. Here’s my perspective:

I could watch someone ‘play a video game’; the people I watch are entertaining to me, I find them funny and engaging (that’s what makes a good online personality, YouTube or Twitch.)

Or I could watch whatever rehashed storyline from a rebooted prequil of a sub-plot is on TV.

i’m 36 – i’m not exactly young; I grew up pre-internet entirely where TV / movies were IT. I find. Television. Insufferably. Boring.

As for “too much time on his hands”? That’s just a little insulting and strange to hear – wouldn’t playing AND watching mean someone has too much time on their hands? How much time do you think it takes to watch someone do something? Do you think that if I tune into a twitch streamer that i’m forced to watch them for the full duration of their 6-hour stream, or do you believe in an adult’s free will to say “Okay, i’ve watched this for half an hour while waiting for the laundry to dry, time to finish the EVERYTHING ELSE I DO with my life now”?

I mean, come on – make an effort here.

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Modrain

I play before watching in all cases. Then, if I’m really interested in the game, I might watch. That’s what I did a few years ago, first with StarCraft II, then with League of Legends. It’s been quite some time since I last watched e-sports, though.

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Sally Bowls

On CNBC, I think it was tech billionaire Cuban, recently discussing Snap’s earnings described them as “opaque to people of a certain age” which struck me as more polite than some tacky and more overtly ageist comment about being too old to get it. (Once when lunching with a friend, her 20 YO daughter sent a Snapchat to her now ex boyfriend and I remarked “ooh, I did not know one could send a Snapchat while clothed.”)
—-
Some commenters are fixated on # of players. When WoW and EVE’s revenue goes up, do they care near as much in the number of players go down? Would a company rather have an additional 100k players or 10000k viewers? eSports seem likely to be part of the monetization of most future large games.
—-

I can no reiterate enough how disinterested I am in eSports or at least its players. However, the ratio of viewed an esport to played a MMO in 2016 has to be approaching 2000%. Far more people who don’t play esports watch esports than play MMOs. I so get disliking and resenting eSports. But the people complaining about companies investing in eSports instead of MMOs just strike me as being bad at math and business.

Reader
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Rottenrotny

Who are all these millions of people who watch this crap? Because I literally don’t know anyone who’s interested in e-sports and remain unconvinced that there are that many.

Reader
David Goodman

You can look up this information in literally a minute. And I mean literally in the actual, literal definition of the word ‘literally’, not in whatever version you’re using.

Reader
Armsbend

It isn’t science. Go on twitch and look at the numbers of people watching each game. Add em’ up. Bingo.

Reader
Utakata

We’re *LOD on this. That is, League of Disinterested. o.O

*Note: Not to get confused with Line of Defence. >.>

Reader
Leiloni

If you compare it to real sports, it’s the same there. A lot of people know the rules of the sports they watch on tv but don’t play it themselves. Just because they enjoy watching, doesn’t necessarily mean they’d enjoy doing. It doesn’t seem all that strange in that light.

Reader
Doubleplusgood

I dont get it. How could you know or understand what is going on in the game if you dont play it? it will look like just a bunch of numbers and graphics.

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Veldan

Eh, have you ever watched anything that could be considered esports? Usually there’s not much numbers, and it’s quite easy to see what’s going on. Games that are very difficult to understand, or with a lot of UI, don’t become esports because noone wants to watch them.

miol
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miol

DotA 2, for instance, has sometimes for bigger events a separate stream channel with moderators breaking it down what’s going on for an audience, who don’t know the game. It’s actually highly popular, as those moderators are quite skilled on keeping explanation very compact, while staying on what’s happening! It really doesn’t feel those explanations are in the way! While the prominent moderated streams get their own fair amount of explanations anyway, as there is always enough time to fill between encounters!

Reader
Diego Lindenmeyer

Just like ppl watching any other sport around xD

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Jack Pipsam

Nope.

Same reason I don’t like watching ‘real’ sports, is the same reason I don’t enjoy E-Sports.
I personally find it boring and I can’t help but end up cynical about those participating.

Reader
Leiloni

Why cynical?

Reader
Haywood Phillips

I watch and play. A few games I watched and didn’t play any longer, but that was a brief transition (sc2, dota2, some fighting games). Doubt you’ll retain viewers for long if you don’t retain players. I think the Starcraft franchise showed that the clearest. I think they kept people watching, but not playing for the longest. But the inevitable happened as the player base shrunk, so did the viewer base.

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Panzerbjorne

I doesn’t sound crazy at all. My dad watches football for hours every week but hasn’t touched a real life football in 30+years. Same same right?

Cyclone Jack
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Cyclone Jack

I play Dota, and I’ll watch the latter half of The International, and I’ll occasionally log on and watch a random game while I eat dinner or something. I guess it is because I am so familiar with Dota (been playing off and on for 10 years) that I can’t get into LoL, playing or watching.

I’ve tried watching FPS games, and I can’t get into them. I require an extremely engaging FPS to hold my interest, as I’ve mostly burned myself out on that genre from the countless years of Wolf3D, Doom, Heretic, Duke 3D, Shadow Warrior, Quake, Unreal, and countless other FPSs in between.

I can watch fighting games, especially the tourney-level play, and I do enjoy watching the occasional speed run. Ironically, I’ve never been able to really sit and watch sports or athletics, except hockey, though I’m OK with a few highlights here and there.

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zoward

I don’t play much football (American or … everybody else’s) either.

Cyclone Jack
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Cyclone Jack

This is a very good point. How many people who watch the Super Bowl / FIFA play football?

Reader
Kawaii Five-O

I like to watch fighting games even I don’t play them. Even without understanding the various counters and frame data, I find them pretty exciting to watch–I usually tune into EVO every year, especially if/when Aris is commentating.

Mobas, on the other hand, are about as exciting to me as watching paint dry. The isometric perspective and relatively simple animations (in comparison) remove any of the intensity of team fights from a spectator’s perspective (for me, anyway) and just don’t look very dynamic. Even when I did play LoL, I didn’t enjoy watching it and only watched videos purely to learn how to play a character better.

Crow
Reader
Crow

Fighting games are so clearly defined and delineated that I love watching their comp tournies. Actually a test of skill.

Reader
Robert Mann

I watch other gaming, but not e-sports. I play other gaming, but not e-sports.

I’m more than happy to play PvE or PvP, and engage in content that is action based… but I absolutely detest the trash talking, foul mouthed crud that is the majority of e-sports based gaming. No thank you!

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Tobasco da Gama

I used to do a weird opposite-land thing where I played League of Legends but didn’t watch the eSports scene and developed a pretty healthy contempt for the skewed perspectives people developed by obsessively copying high-tier streamers and whatever was popular in competition that month. But now I’m in the neither-play-nor-watch camp.

42% of e-sports watchers of the big three games do not play any of them

The folks in this cohort know what’s up. Actually playing these games is not a whole lot of fun unless you can do it for multiple hours a day, every day. Unless you can put in that commitment, your skills will stagnate and you end up just being a stepping stone on somebody else’s route up the ladder. Not a whole lot of fun, IMO.

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agemyth 😩

Casually playing Dota 2 and not worrying about losing is working out well enough for me.

There is room for the type of play similar to a group of people playing a pick up game of basketball in their local gym/park. Nobody is under the delusion that they are working their way into the NBA some day. For the jerks online, you mute them and they usually become a non-issue at least for me.

Reader
donvweel

I watch Smite tournaments and some games on weekend mornings. Since some Smite pros like Suntouch are streaming Player Unknown Battlegrounds I watch that now. I also play both but not Smite as much as I ussed to.

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Ailsa Nordstrom

I love to watch CSGO tournaments but I rarely play it.

Richard de Leon III
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Richard de Leon III

I hate to pvp, so its a given that i dont play any of the esports friendly games. But i do like to watch because i can live vicariously through the pros that are playing.

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squidgod2000

I saw a CS:GO tournament on TV once, but I’d never actually try to play it. Just seems like everyone who plays these big-name competitive games does so because they think they’ll be a video game millionaire someday.

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Ailsa Nordstrom

Hundreds of thousands of people play CSGO with no aspirations to be a pro-player. It’s just a fun, tactical competitive game to most people who play it.

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

I used to play Counter Strike — the original one, based on the first Half Life — like that. A group of friends would bring their computers to a single place and we would play among ourselves, just for fun.

With CSGO I can’t quite enjoy it, though. Mainly because what made playing CS fun was doing it with friends; getting thrown into a team of random strangers, and facing people I don’t know, all with the assumption people will be playing to win rather than to have fun, well, isn’t exactly enjoyable for me.

On the other hand I find TF2 quite enjoyable. In large part because rewards are doled out not for winning, but simply for playing; makes for a more relaxed environment where players aren’t so focused on winning.

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Sorenthaz

Or we just enjoy competitive games off and on.

cambruin
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cambruin

I never understood the whole Twitch etc. crowd. What could possibly be fun about watching other people playing? Back when internet wasn’t that common yet, I couldn’t wait for my friend’s turn to end. Sitting there waiting was A.W.F.U.L.

So sitting there watching streams by others? Nah-ah. Never gonna happen. I will however watch informative youtube videos such as Deltia’s ESO vids or theLazyPeon’s “let’s play” series.

Also, once you grow older and your professional life begins to get take over, you’ll notice there’s enough frustration going ’round already. The last thing I need right now is getting frustrated because player X or Y is affecting my rating in a bad way.

Nah, I’ll just continue my casual stroll through Mor… errrr Tamriel.

Reader
Vunak

I’d rather watch someone on Twitch having fun and engaging with their chat than watching half of the TV shows on tv, especially these reality TV shows that just make me wanna smash my head through a table.

Also I have two monitors so I generally watch twitch, youtube, etc on one and game on the other. Which I expect a lot of people do that are regular twitch viewers.

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Sorenthaz

Older generations rarely understand trends with newer ones.

“What could possibly be fun about watching other people do physical activities?”

“What could possibly be fun about sitting on a couch watching a TV screen? ”

“What could possibly be fun about playing video games? ”

Etc.

Crow
Reader
Crow

Eh, that is super simplistic and not really what is at core here.

But, hell, I’ve been pushing against “sitting on a couch watching a TV screen” myself, lately, when I realized most of my free time went toward… well, not being my own time.

Same goes for games, actually. I stopped grinding for the sake of grinding. Any game I was playing to check off daily ticks got dropped.

Wakefield pitched for the Sox when he was kiddo… and then again when he was in his 40s. Clemens had his best season post-40 and when the whole world thought he was washed up.

I love watching sports and I actually do watch “esports” from time to time. But I’m not a dupe enough to think it is where this should or could go.

Reader
Crowe

The only time I watch the streams/recordings is if I’m struggling with a boss/raid mechanic or if I’m trying to figure out if a game is interesting enough to play myself. I just don’t understand these people who watch “esports” but don’t play the game.

Reader
Lethality

That;s probably the best news the eSports industry could hope for.

Nothing but upside for the game makers, and billions of untapped eyeballs who are into the action for what it is.

Reader
Norlamin

No, I’ve never been a fan of e-sports or regular sports. If I’m interested in a game, or a sport, I’d much rather take the time to learn and play it myself.

Sure, my skill might not be up to par with the pro players, but I’d still rather be enjoying myself than watching others enjoy themselves.

Regardless, if others enjoy it, good for them.

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Schmidt.Capela

I have no interest in videogames as an “sport” because the game is under full control of a single company; for me to ever consider a videogame as worth of being a sport it would first need to be in the public domain, just like all the actual sports are. The only kind of esport video I watch is funny videos of absurd blunders, but then it’s obviously not for the “sport” aspect of it.

I might play esports-grade games if I find them fun, but esports typically prioritize competition over fun, and I’m not exactly a competitive person, so for my PvP I typically gravitate towards games more aimed at being fun than at being competitive.

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Robert Mann

I’d counter that the leagues are essentially the same as that company, and that their rules do not match, nor are enforced, as the game normally would be in most cases. I’m not sure that the rather difference really exists, much less it being big enough to matter.

That said, I agree with most of the rest of your view for most of this (and consider most of the ‘competitive PvP’ stuff to be just another case of FOTM crud.)

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

The difference being that a video-game is controlled by a single company, whereas a sport has no one controlling it.

So, a video-game league more or less needs to be in a partnership with the game maker; there are too many issues, ranging from trademark disputes to customizing the game for training and league play, that would put any league not in a partnership with the game studio at a steep disadvantage.

With a real sport that isn’t the case. No one can trademark baseball, basketball, football, etc; no one can prevent leagues from tweaking the sport’s rules in order to better fit their needs; a league that becomes too draconian can be abandoned, with the teams or players able to create competing leagues.

Think of how the whole Overwatch league issue would be different if anyone could create an Overwatch league, in equal conditions to Blizzard; we would likely have right now a league where the teams displaced by Blizzard’s heft demanded buy-in could be playing. But, because of the way Blizzard has a hold on everything Overwatch, there is no way for a competing league to rise.

So, to put it concisely: a company owning the game creates a natural monopoly. I don’t think monopolies and sports compatible, and I have no interest in watching anything sports-like where such a monopoly exists.

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Sally Bowls

I don’t see it that way. The NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, FIFA, PGA are for profit corporations.
You can choose whatever house rules your pickup game wants to use. But the game and the rules for the pro game are set by the corporation for their own ends. Limiting the team size to save money or speeding up the game to make the game better – and thus more profitable – TV….

In a theoretical sense, the NBA does not control basketball. Practically, to me it feels pretty close.

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Slaasher

I watch games that I play to get tips on getting better. OR I watch games that I might be interested in playing but want to watch some of it first

Crow
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Crow

When your reflex start to degrade at 24 years old to a point where you can’t compete at higher levels, are we surprised?

“e”sports just means another wall between players and professionals to the point where all these “competitive” games will cease to even offer modes for those who aren’t top tier.

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BalsBigBrother

I do watch a few twitch streams over the course of the week but I don’t watch esports simply because I don’t enjoy watching it. The casts are way too shouty for my tastes and the chat is somewhere in the sewers when its on a good day.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

i play street fighter and watch it. that’s it though. i play and then see how amazingly good players are at the highest level and i glean things from them and also jsut appreciate their skill. it’s the same for me with golf. i watch it because they are so insanely good at the game.

back when i used to play gw2 i enjoyed watching pvp a bit. i liked watching the competitive dungeon speed clears even more and they had a really good amount of viewers but arenanet wouldnt support it for whatever reason even though there was a time when the grass roots organizers of those dungeon speed clear tourneys had higher viewership than arenanet’s official pvp stuff. they totally dropped the ball on that.

heck, i think it’s just gonna get more popular. the street fighter e-league stuff is on tbs every friday night.

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Tridus

That doesn’t seem particularly out of line. There are far, far more football viewers than players. The same is true of most sports that have large viewing audiences.

Once you stop buying into the “esports are weird” mentality and instead subscribe to “esports are another form of competitive spectator entertainment” one, it makes perfect sense.

Crow
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Crow

Maybe people are working hard for a big leveler, digital, to not engage in the same kind of value-based judgements that more professional sports clutch to for the sake of profits.

styopa
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styopa

What does that even mean?

Are you implying that you believe that the lack of physicality to the competition will somehow mean people are “more equal”?

If so, I have a bridge to sell you.

Contrary to what you might have heard in college, nobody’s equal. If e-sports mean that you don’t need to be on steroids and lift weights every day of your life to be ‘competitive’, likewise the (presumed) narrower breadth of competition will mean that someone with reflexes 0.05 sec faster will mean all that more in head-to-head competition.

Look at the best of the LoL teams – most of them are fit as hell, eat right, and practice obsessively…and are JUST as much better than Joe Public as Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady are.

I don’t even comprehend WTF you superficially mean by “…value-based judgements that more professional sports clutch to …” much less what you’re actually trying to say.

And if you think the industry is ‘working hard’ to level that gap, I probably can find another bridge. The entertainment industry doesn’t want Joe Public, they want superstars. People won’t watch to see two average teams play anything.

Crow
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Crow

Dear god this is a nasty comment full of personal attacks and awfulness.

If you don’t understand what I say, that doesn’t mean it is “superficial.”

The entertainment industry doesn’t want Joe Public, they want superstars. People won’t watch to see two average teams play anything.

I mean, this is my whole point in a nutshell. Thanks.

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Crowe

I’m not going to *that* extreme but I also have no freaking clue what you were trying to say! :)

Polyanna
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Polyanna

I don’t watch “e-sports” as such, because I can do without the commentary about 99% of the time. But there are several games that I only ever have “played” in spectator mode — DOTA2 and CS:GO among them.

Any “competitive” game that is lacking a full-featured spectator mode is only half a game, because watching others play is an integral part of enjoying these games, and, if you do actually play, getting better at them. (And no, Twitch is not a substitute for actual spectator mode.)

Say what you will about Valve, this is one huge part of their games that they consistently get very, very right.

Crow
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Crow

It is somewhat ironic that MOP keeps running “esports” articles when their readership is clearly not that interested.

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Ailsa Nordstrom

I’m interested in hearing about esports, even if I think most of the games played professionally do not qualify as MMORPGs.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I’m also interested in hearing about esports. Primarily because I think the big developers; for example, Blizzard, have made clear signs that they are moving in this direction with their games.

That impacts game development, both in terms of gameplay and in what gets developed.

Case in point:

Over on the D3 forums, 50% of threads are about the game being nearly abandoned by Blizzard pointing to how development for one of its top IPs lags significantly behind other Blizz titles. My Tin Foil Hatter tells me this is because:

1) Blizzard didn’t know how to design an ARPG and failed pretty spectacularly to do so; and

2) They might have fixed that if Blizz had not made a corporate decision to invest heavily in esports. Since D3 is not esports capable, planned expansion was canceled (see, Necro DLC) and dev team is severely limited; while other Blizz titles with esports capability are heavily developed.

So, yes. While I don’t play or watch esports, the impact on the games that I do play and like can be substantial.

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Schmidt.Capela

Actually, the results up to now are that half the people taking the survey are interested in esports. I bet there are regularly covered MMOs that draw less interest from the MO audience.

Crow
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Crow

So, MoP should strive to be a digital ESPN?

I think the point is that this esports stuff is so far from what MMORPGs promised that we’re all just waiting for a better context that will never come.

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Schmidt.Capela

(To get it out of the way: since my last post the “I don’t watch or play” option has risen to 62%. Still means 38% of the MO audience either play or watch an esport, not as hefty as the previous figure but still quite respectable.)

MO has covered for a long time other games that are somehow related to MMOs without being one. Path of Exile and other online action RPGs, Counter Strike and other online FPS games, DOTA and the whole MOBA scene, Starcraft, the whole multiplayer survival genre, and so on. This goes back to before Massively became Massively OP.

So, it has always covered games that aren’t exactly MMOs, including those genres that are at the core of the esports movement. It’s not about why should MO cover esports, but about what reason MO would have to drop the esports coverage that has been ongoing for years.

Crow
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Crow

comment image/revision/latest?cb=20131107234703
Whatever!

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McGuffn

If the podcast had a bell like Pardon the Interruption that might be cool for a week.

Crow
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Crow

I hear they’re bringing back The Gong Show…

RIP Chuck Barry. I still think you were a CIA assassin.

*sigh* can’t link.

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Nordavind

Uhm, because all who watch sport play it? Didn’t think so.

Crow
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Crow

Wouldn’t it be cool if there were downstream support for non-professional leagues?

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MesaSage

If we applied the same thinking to TV shows there wouldn’t be many viewers, would there? I mean how many Game of Thrones viewers have their own kingdom?

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McGuffn

I don’t always have my own kingdom, but when I do I watch Game of Thrones.
To get leadership tips.

Crow
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Crow

Hell, how many Game of Thrones viewers are even aware it is based on a dense series of books?

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Sally Bowls

All the viewers who had their Red Wedding and Prince Martel moments spoiled by book readers are aware of it. Which are the viewers with the most schadenfreude’over the shows getting ahead of and now spoiling the books

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Veldan

You can’t really spoil the books though, because the series story has diverged quite a lot, and nothing that happens in there is sure to happen in the books.

Crow
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Crow

hahaha! The people who read the books are the spoilers?

This is just so rich.

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Schmidt.Capela

It doesn’t matter what media one got the story from, posting about it without spoiler warnings is going to piss off many people. I don’t particularly care about spoilers, but many people do care.

(Not only I don’t care about spoilers, in the specific case of A Song of Ice and Fire I would have loved to get some beforehand. I found the books started very well, but became such a huge disappointment as the story progressed I’m not sure I will read the next one; I will first find a full explanation of the plot and thoroughly spoil myself before I decide if I’m going to read the next book or not. I’m quite glad right now I borrowed the books rather than purchasing them.)

Crow
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Crow

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