ESPN has a big piece out this week on e-sports in MMOs, chronicling the many (failed) attempts of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft to break into e-sports and arguing, as so many MMO players have done, that MMOs are “fun to play, but they’re not always fun to watch.”
Author Chris Gates maintains that where WoW has struggled, NCsoft’s newer titles are doing well because they equalize stats and gear and make themselves accessible.
“Like Blade and Soul, Guild Wars 2 equalizes players’ stats. Equipment doesn’t give competitors advantages, and every class is self-reliant. Character builds are extremely flexible, allowing players to customize their characters to their own play styles, but Guild Wars [2’s] combat is fairly simple. Many MMORPGs load characters down with skills and abilities. In Guild Wars 2, players only have a few options. That makes PvP less about memorization, and more about using skills correctly.”
ArenaNet in particular had a leg up, Gates says, because it built Guild Wars 2’s e-sports scene on top of a pre-existing fandom with community-led tourneys. “Since ArenaNet started hosting official tournaments, the number of people playing competitive Guild Wars 2 has more than doubled, and PvP is currently the game’s fastest-growing segment,” he writes. “The launch of ArenaNet and ESL’s Guild Wars 2 Pro League (a quarterly competition with a $100,000 prize pool) should accelerate that expansion. During the Pro League’s first season, which ended in late February, players spent twice as much time as in PvP combat. Season 2 just started, and so far, the amount of time that players are spending in the game is at an all-time high.”