The Daily Grind: Should AAA companies expect gamers to fund esports prize pools?

You're probably wondering whether this is the April Fools' post. But it's not.

    
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The esports industry is absolutely no stranger to watcher-funded prize pools. I know this. We’ve watched as companies like Riot Games and Hi-Rez have allowed esports fan to run up the prize pools with contributions in exchange for various rewards. I get it. It saves companies from having to pony up so much themselves, and it causes fans to become even more invested in watching and cheering for their favorite teams.

But somehow, when Blizzard began doing the same thing for World of Warcraft’s Arena World Championship and Mythic Dungeon International events, it hasn’t gotten the same free pass. People are downright grumpy about them. Just peek at the comments on the Twitter announcement thread unveiling the toys whose purchase prize will partly fund the pools. Yikes.

Maybe people are just salty about the big Blizzard layoffs, or salty about perceived poor development of World of Warcraft in general, or salty about WoW esports (PvP or PvE), or salty about being asked to help pay for the prize pool, or maybe salty because so little of what players are paying for these toys is going to the pool (it’s only 25%).

Do you think gamers should be funding esports prize pools for billion-dollar companies? And if you’re grumpy about the WoW ask, why specifically?

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!

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Robert Mann

No, but they will.

Actually, my view on this is that e-sports should run as their own thing. Whatever entity runs it, does so based on things like ticket sales. If that is a division of a studio, then so be it. I won’t say that fan donations should then be banned, because there’s really no reason to… but I will say that removing the constant “But we need to make this an e-sport” goes a long way to showing me that your game isn’t just a bunch of flashes with combat.

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Sally Bowls

I suspect the MMO flirting with eSports, on balance, may be a good, albeit fleeting, thing. If game companies erroneously think there is some eSports potential for MMOs, then that should temporarily get more funding in MMOs, which I tend to regard as a Good Thing. IMO, eventually, devs will realize that MMOs have some handicaps in eSports and probably eSports will be dominated by games essentially designed for eSports.

eSports are bigger than MMOs and are growing faster. More money is being spent developing physical stadia for eSports than developing [non-WoW] MMOs. Nike reportedly spent $100M sponsoring a Chinese team; McDonalds Germany switched sponsorship from soccer to esports. etc.

The Toyota Tacoma commercial was back in 2007. MMOs have not been getting a lot of notice recently.

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rafael12104

Expect? As in donations or contributions post point of sale? NOPE!

Please don’t feed that expectation because while I respect anybody’s right to support a game or esports beyond the purchase price with money, a transactional relationship must be maintained. Selling stuff to raise money is ok, but giving money?

We don’t need a new era of Please Fund Me pages so execs can line their pockets while they fire employees as a cost of doing business.

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Daniel Miller

Players should not fund or support esports. The market determines what valuable and not.

Saying that could you imagine the outrage if fans did and winners cheated. For honnor 500k prize cheater, and others on sports teams.

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Sally Bowls

For those of you questioning WoW eSports, I submit there was a course correction with Method live streaming their next-to-last World First Raid attempt. People took notice of the number of views.

Preach’s Youtube “Storytime 5 – Race to World 1st” talks about his involvement in the latest World First Race. They flew/trained the players and casters to the Red Bull Gaming Sphere in London. There were people there to deal with travel and hotels, making sure the players had exactly what they wanted to eat, scheduling, producers, IT, etc.

I do agree that not-as-suitable-as-other-games is a big anchor holding back MMOs and devs wanting to invest in them. But the World First Race did cause a blip on the flatlining EKG.

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Anstalt

I’m not a spectator. I don’t enjoy watching real sports, either in person or on TV. I don’t understand it at all. When it comes to eSports, I’m just flat out confused by the whole thing. Why would you watch other people playing a game when you could be playing it yourself? I understand watching the occasional video to see what the pros are doing so you can improve yourself, that can be very educational. But just pure spectating?!

So, I just don’t care about eSports at all. Asking fans to contribute to the prize pool seems ridiculous to me but fuck it, it’s a free market. If someone wants to piss away money so they can watch someone else play a game, that’s entirely their choice. We’re all free to spend our money however we want, even if how others spend their money seems idiotic to me!

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Jim Bergevin Jr

eSports is just the gaming industry’s and gaming community’s attempt to legitimize gaming in an area where can’t and shouldn’t be legitimized. Gaming is no more a sport than Poker or Ballroom Dancing no matter what ESPN says.

And Don’t give me that crap about conditioning and what not, because that’s exactly what it is – crap.

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zoward

If they want to offer items for sale that will fund a prize pool, and I want to buy those items, I’ll happily buy them. It beats them dipping into the cost of ongoing game development to fund them instead.

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Arktouros

They can expect whatever they want, but I’m only going to buy things that are interesting to me, if they wanna throw away the money from that on eSports that’s their decision. I just wanted the shiny MTX.

smuggler-in-a-yt
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smuggler-in-a-yt

It seems there’s a decision point – is eSports primarily a marketing framework or a digital sport?

In the former, the gaming companies should probably be investing, with the intention being that people will buy more. It’s a standard ROI approach. Pour money in the top, grind the organ, watch people dance, get money out the bottom.

In the latter, it gets more complicated. There’s a reasonable argument that the effort should be profitable and sustainable. So if a player really does care about competition and sport then why shouldn’t they help contribute to the ecosystem? In theory everyone benefits. And this is where it falls apart.

If people are complaining about Blizzard’s eSports approach in WoW, perhaps it is because there’s a difference of opinion on what eSports is: marketing or sport.

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Sally Bowls

I assume you mean a marketing framework for that game. Because I think of all big sport, FIFA, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, et al as marketing frameworks. Fans buying tickets to watch in person in stadia :-) is no longer the driver of success.

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Greaterdivinity

It’s nice, but no. Esports initiatives are marketing initiatives, developers/publishers should fund all prize pools internally. If they’re going to raise money, it should be in ADDITION to existing funds, not make up the funds.