The Daily Grind: Are e-sports worth the effort for MMO developers?

    
54
No, be a dude.

I spend a lot of time thinking about e-sports. This is, of course, through the eyes of someone who doesn’t much like e-sports as a pursuit or a concept. We’ve seen a couple of games take off in that arena (League of Legends and SMITE, primarily), but while looking at the latest reports suggesting that Overwatch is struggling to get its footing in that field, I can’t help but think of all the other games which have tried and failed to register as being anything significant.

Guild Wars 2 pushed hard for an e-sports presence, and that fell flat. Infinite Crisis definitely wanted to be a big e-sport, but it didn’t go anywhere. Heroes of the Storm was also clearly positioned as an e-sport game, but the community never materialized; ditto the competitive side of World of Warcraft. In fact, I’m pretty sure the game which have pushed to be e-sports mainstays have universally faltered, and the ones that succeeded did so almost by themselves.

But perhaps I’m looking at this through dark-tinted goggles. What do you think, readers? Are e-sports worth the effort for MMO developers? Should resources be poured into making games viable for e-sports venues, and if so, how much effort is too much?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Xylant Exodus

Investors see the eSports world mostly through the rose tinted goggles of LoL. But you can’t design a game to do that intentionally. LoL evolved from some of the original WC3 modders that made DotA deciding to fix what they saw as broken or flawed mechanics. The eSports avenue developed because there was a large number of players that enjoyed the competitiveness and persistence offered by the game. The devs adapted the game for eSports – they didn’t design it for that purpose.

Any game developers that want an eSports scene need to: 1. allow for competitive play 2. publish leaderboards or an equivalent so that players get to see who’s the best and try to beat them 3. allow for cooperative competition 4. watch for a demand for paid tournaments or other eSports-like events and then cater to that crowd. Also, game producers need to acknowledge that an eSports scene might not develop, and that’s okay.

What I’m saying is don’t sink money into features for something that might not happen. What for it to evolve naturally. WC3 didn’t create DotA. eSports weren’t really a thing when Starcraft was being made. Plan for it? Maybe. But you don’t always know how your players will want to compete in your game.

Celestia
Reader
Loyal Patron
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Celestia

When I hear the word, E-Sports, I just hear “Gretchen, stop trying to make E-Sports happen. It’s not going to happen.”

qysns.jpg
Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

There like 3 MMos that suit for esports imo. WoW, Blade & Soul, Guild Wars 2. Maybe also Age of Wushu. MMORPGs isnt the right genre for this

Reader
A Dad Supreme

E-sports are not my thing, not by a mile but I do believe there is a large enough demand for devs to pursue it.

I always am amazed at the amounts of kids and young adults that will either buy tickets (or get them free) and take the time out to go sit in a building to watch other people play video games.

That shows there is interest and when you figure in licensing deals and the like, it’s really a market primed for exploitation, potentially bringing in millions so yeah, it’s worth it.

The only thing is N.I.M.B.Y… I don’t want MMOs that I am interested in to pursue it. I’d rather MMOs that feature PvP prominently take up that mantle instead.

Reader
Sally Bowls

Yes, but not in their MMO(s).

I certainly can’t see why you would want to do your eSports push in an MMO. eSports are about a smallish by MMO standards number of players on the screen and being fair sports. MMOs are about being unfair (someone with 12 boss kills and 200 hours of rep farming has a gear/level/skill advantage over someone with 6/100. Trying to level the playing field results in strident “giving in to the casuals” and “kids today don’t want to work” posts in social media.) It’s just too much baggage to put your eSports efforts into a MMO.

P.S. To me, it seems like an open question as to whether the game dev should be overinvesting in mobile vs eSports. Mobile is more here atm and will ultimately be bigger. But eSports seems like there is more of a chance for a first-mover advantage. TBD. Of course, and alas, both tend to warrant more investment priority than MMOs.

Reader
fanggwj

If it is a subscription MMO I’d rather see my money elsewhere spent.
If it is a F2P mmo there are pitfalls, but in theory it can relieve the pressure of lockboxes, grind, p2w and cash shops.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Ashfyn Ninegold

No.

Esports is a nice handy name. But it’s really team-based PvP. While there undoubtedly have been some MMOs with well-balanced PvP, there aren’t many who actually bring that off. PvP in most MMOs is flawed because the developers have to decide whether to balance classes around PvE content or around PvP.

If an MMO decides to pursue esports, then they will necessarily have to make their design decisions around what’s best for PvP, which will negatively impact the PvE experience.

Niche MMOs designed for PvP have difficulty maintaining a significant player base. Unless it was designed from the ground up as an esports PvP MMO with an already massive fan base, such as, oh, I dunno, the Diablo IP.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Little Bugbear

I think it’s hard for MMO’s to get into e-sports because MMO’s normally require some kind of character progression which takes time. While most games that have successful e-sports have a low barrier to entry to help keep the playing field even. So for a MMO to be successful at e-sports it would need to focus on low barriers to entry, keeping classes balanced and making fair PvP maps.
Also the game has to clearly show what is going on in game (fancy spell effect can sometimes be to much keep it simply). Lastly the game needs to be fun to watch.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

For the most part, not at all. I’m still waiting for the esports bubble to pop, though. I’m nowhere near as bullish on that scene as I was years ago when it was still organically growing without marketing teams looking at it and deciding, “We don’t need a marketing strategy, just dump all our money into esports!” and artificially and unsustainably “growing” the scene.

wandris
Reader
wandris

The entire concept of Esports was doomed from the start. There is one major difference between sports and Esports. In Esports or more so gaming in general, everyone is or at least thinks he is a champion player. So why bother watching someone else when you can and should be playing yourself? I get sports though, watching a team of exceptional athletes of skill and physical prowess that is beyond most people, that can be entertaining. But games? Being able to click a button a bit quicker than the next guy is not all that impressive, and mental prowess does not always translate into top tier entertainment. Perhaps in the future games will change and there will be something more that fits as better entertainment. Something like twitch though, that seems more potential, because it is just as much about the broadcaster as the game itself. More potential for entertainment.

I just can’t ever see myself sacrificing my own time watching other people play games and compete when I could be playing them myself and having a hell of alot more fun.

Edit: I will add this. I could get starcraft. It was a niche, and an example of mental prowess that could translate well on screen. Sort of like chess. Interesting, to watch sort of like chess. But it’s interest was limited and finite I think. Even then its popularity was more a cultural phenomenon than proof of a future in esports. I do not know what the entertainment situation was like in Korea back when SC was taking off but even in the west good entertainment was not as readily available then as it is today. There are simply better options all around. Netflix, youtube, twitch, games etc. but E-sports? no thanks.