The Daily Grind: Is the esports bubble about to burst?

    
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Last week, Kotaku put up a compelling piece about the online gaming industry’s obsession with esports – specifically, how the esports bubble is about to burst. Author Cecilia D’Anastasio lays out the situation deftly: Advertisers suspect esports is an unsustainable Ponzi scheme. Players are paid far too much or far too little. Teams are operating at a loss just to get into leagues. Companies are reporting dodgy and inflated viewership numbers. Sponsors and venture capitalists are pouring money in, hoping it’ll “be the next NBA [or] NFL.”

Now, MMORPG players are already predisposed to be thinking “DUH” right about now, I know. We’ve already watched the esports fad raze parts of our genre to the ground as studios desperately try to mold MMOs for esports and divert money away from online games toward things like esports stadiums. I mean, I can’t be the only one who is thinking about Firefall’s esports bus right now, am I? I hope not since I put it in the header. That was seven years ago. We’ve been watching companies fail at esports for a very long time.

Of course, we’ve never seen an industry-wide bubble pop on the magnitude being discussed here.

Set aside your MMO history bias right now and try to look at esports objectively: Do you likewise agree that esports is a bubble about to burst?

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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Morgan

2010 to current Global Starcraft 2 League on Twitch 18:30 [KST] lez gooooo.

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

touranments and low-level e-sports events? sure, that seems okay.

but E-sports with a capital “E”? ha, fuck no.

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Cypher

E-sports lacks the one thing that makes sport truly popular among people, and that’s Star Power.
No matter what you think of it, there are not nor will there likely be any Star personalities in e sports. There are no David Beckhams, no Michael Schmachers, Valentino Rossi, No Kobe Bryants, Michael Jordans, Carl Lewis, Ian Thorpes, hell not even a Nancy Kerrigan or Anna Kournikova… you’ll never get people putting up posters of esports players on their bedroom walls, or arguing with friends and strangers in the pub over who is better etc… no one cares about them outside of their niche and that’s what any sport needs to truly propel it into people’s lives beyond the sport itself. I’m only really interested in football (what the rest of the world knows as football :p ) but I could tell you a bit about all of the above names due to their celebrity status and more besides.
I couldn’t name a single esports player or team, and I’m a much bigger gamer than sports fan.

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Bruno Brito

I couldn’t name a single esports player or team, and I’m a much bigger gamer than sports fan.

That’s a subjective matter. A lot of people will remember Dendi and Faker, me and you liking them or not.

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Cypher

Still, the point stands… do you follow any of them on social media? Do you buy the things they endorse? Does your mother know who they are? These are the things I’m talking about. My mothers in her 80s and will recognise those names and at least the sport they are associated with… that’s star power and that’s what’s missing from esports, to its detriment.

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Dilly Dolly

Fnatic, and em, cloud9(isn’t it food brand?)…

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Melissa McDonald

I’m hoping it fails, yes. Unashamedly. Watching people play video games is something you do on your couch with your friends. I do think people streaming or posting tutorials online is worthy, though.

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starbuck1771

Actually that would be wrong. Video game championships have been around since the 1980’s and people love to watch them. Current E-sports are just the next step. I don’t see them going anywhere soon. Watching E-sports isn’t that much different then watching a live stream like MOP on twitch. Which before being sold and becoming Twitch live streaming video game tournaments was a staple of Justin.tv 💻

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Jim Bergevin Jr

I guess I need to figure out how to search my posting history so I can go back to that article from a couple of months ago about the health of e-sports “atheletes” and copy paste it here. Until then ….

To equate what this is in any way to a legitimate sport is in itself a joke. In order for a bubble to pop, there has to be a large number if people invested in the bubble in the first place. That’s just not the case. This us just glorified PR for the publishers of each if these games to try to legitimize something that just isn’t worthy of being legitimized.

Name any sport – football, baseball, soccer, tennis, golf, bowling, etc. – and they each have their own governing body that regulates the rules and competition of said sport. That’s not even possible with “e-sports.”

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Anstalt

First, I don’t think the bubble is particularly big. Superdata said esports was worth what, a couple of billion last year? Granted, Superdata are unreliable as hell but its probably the closest we can get to actual data.

A couple of billion is nothing. Almost all of that “value” has come from advertisers on platforms like Twitch, and investors who are trying to build teams. The advertisers are getting their monies worth, so it’s only the investors who are losing at the moment.

Is it about to burst? I would guess so. Esports games aren’t going anywhere, lets face it, they’re mostly quite cheap, shallow PvP games that are easy to make and so they’ll keep getting made. But, the investment that is trying to make it a mainstream sport will dry up because esports are not capable of being mainstream. They just aren’t suited to viewership!

1) If you’re not a gamer, watching esports is a terrible experience

2) Even if you are a gamer, the majority of esports suck to watch unless you yourself play the game.

3) Most of the games are short lived. This means you don’t have the time for stars to emerge, rivalries to form etc. In short, the drama isn’t there that exists in mainstream sports which means you have to rely more on the minute-to-minute action.

4) If you have time to be watching esports, you could just play the game yourself. It’s not like football which requires other real people to play with and some decent organisation, if I wanna play LoL I can just boot it up and jump in instantly. Why the fuck would I want to watch someone else playing a game when I could be playing it myself and having more fun?!

There does exist the possibility that the genre could really take off and become mainstream, but right now I don’t think we have a single game that is capable of taking it there. Even if one arrives, it’s highly unlikely I’ll watch it. I don’t watch any sports (well, F1, but thats mostly just a sunday afternoon mong-out session) because I find them all terribly frustrating and boring to watch.

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Greaterdivinity

H1Z1’s professional league is allegedly struggling in viewers, attendance, and actually paying its players

This was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw this article, because we’ve already seen plenty of the shady shit playing out like this.

But I think that the expectation for continued, uninterrupted growth is going to burst the bubble the same way the MLG bubble was burst decades ago. Esports hit their “saturation point” at a modestly large level, but there was a continued push to keep it growing so we ended up with CS 1.x on ESPN and other huge investments that were never going to pan out well…not panning out.

And I think we’re seeing that repeat itself, especially with the growth of things like OWL. Which is interesting to me because OW seems stagnant, or contracting, in terms of its actual playerbase while the league keeps getting bigger and bigger. I’ve no scientific data to back it up, but anecdotally I feel like generally games grow alongside their esports growth, or vice versa. They have parallel paths, rather than the divergent paths we seem to be seeing with OW.

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Tobasco da Gama

I sure hope it is! So many companies have poured so much money into making esports a thing, but the biggest pull on Twitch is still random dudes hosting hangout streams.

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lostkoss

No. There is one major difference between Esports and sports like the NBA and the NFL.

Esports is being promoted by companies that make billions of dollars selling a product. They can afford to operate as a loss for as long as it makes for good advertising of their products.

Take football away from the NFL and they have nothing. Take leagues away from League of Legends and you still have League of Legends.

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silverlock

It kind of reminds me of Football. I mean you had the AAF, XFL, WFL, and several others besides those. How many failed attempts at making Football a profitable enterprise are needed before people finally realize that theirs no money in it?