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Variety: suicide or salvation for esports?

By Lawrence Benedict 'Malystryx' Phillips
Mar 24, 2008 22:07


ImageIf I’m hungry I buy my favourite sandwich, I do not want to experiment, I do not want change. E-Sports is no different, stubborn to the point of stupidity. Is traditional E-Sports itself becoming an old gentleman's club?

Several times a week I pop into a local sandwich shop "Taste Buds", every time I will order the same sandwich. The people serving me know what I will order as I want the same thing every time, it serves its purpose, I feel satiated and full.

E-Sports fans seems to follow a similar path, like me they do not want variety, they just want what they know they like with no care for whatever else the "shop" has to offer.

The World Cyber games announced their games for 2008, a cheer from the dedicated E-Sports fans as Starcraft, Warcraft 3 and Counter-Strike 1.6 will once again grace the WCG stage.

The hardcore E-Sports fans are now satisfied, this tournament is considered "good" and demands respect simply because it has picked the same three games as as it has for the last 5 years aside from a brief cameo from Counter-Strike Source: and Condition Zero.

We naively believe we are experiencing progress, that everything is right in the E-Sports world because Counter-Strike 1.6 nudged Source out of the way, Call of Duty 4 once again gets a reminder it is not an E-Sports Game and FIFA will always be "better" than Pro Evolution Soccer.

"I quiz them on which games they play to hear "Gears of War." I scoff, pah, that is not a real E-Sports game."
We as E-Sports fans are particularly stubborn, myself included, when someone plays games online and I quiz them on which games they play to hear "Gears of War." I scoff, pah, that is not a real E-Sports game.

Have I played it? No. Do I know about its competitive scene? No. Do I feel I can make a judgement on it simply because I am in the E-Sports scene and it is not? Yes.

This fact slowly dawned on me and I realised I am probably not that different to any other E-Sports fanatic. Our stubborness to accept change and rebel against it should not be accepted as the norm. Is it some disease of the mind that takes over us once we step into the E-Sports sphere?

"We are clinging too hard to the past attempting to safeguard our precious E-Sports from infection by inferior titles."
The E-Sports mentality slowly kills our motivation for change, we become fanatics to to our games of choice and blindly believe that they are the only games worthy of prize money, coverage or news. We are clinging too hard to the past attempting to safeguard our precious E-Sports from infection by inferior titles. “Traditional E-Sports” itself is becoming an old gentleman's club, we're so set in our ways we will eventually die out

However, are they really so inferior? Is there really no audience for games such as Call of Duty 4 or Counter-Strike: Source? In February 2008 there were 15,822 Counter-Strike 1.6 matches compared to 13,364 matches of Call of Duty 4 on ClanBase.

On ESL for the same month there were 35,674 Counter-Strike: Source matches played compared to 35,920 Counter-Strike 1.6 matches. Now for games that are supposedly so far apart in terms of an audience these numbers are exceptionally close.

"The door to the E-Sports kingdom stays closed to such games, they are not worthy, we say, good riddance to bad rubbish."
Despite their large audiences these games are shunned by us, the door to the E-Sports kingdom stays closed to such games, they are not worthy, we say, good riddance to bad rubbish.

However, the impact of such narrow-minded thinking is that these games are slowly becoming self-sufficient in a kingdom of their own. The CGS picked up Counter-Strike: Source, and players of a so called inferior game are finding themselves laughing all the way to the bank. Call of Duty 4 is also starting to cash in with tournaments such as Crossfire Devotti Challenge and the I-series welcoming it with open arms.

It is sometimes rewarding to give a game a chance, I forever condemned those who played the custom game or MOD for Warcraft 3 called Defence of the Ancients but recently found myself pleasantly surprised after giving it a proper go and by mistake actually started to like it. I soon realized that this was not just Warcraft3 for people who were incapable of microing more than one unit but in fact was a game with an excellent team dynamic.

How many other games out there are we not giving a go before passing judgement? How many games could potentially be E-Sports titles if we put aside our eternal quest to keep CS 1.6 and Warcraft 3 in every single game list?

"This should be warning enough that these so called "inferior" games now have the tools to instigate their own success."
With CGS in our midst & XBOXLive gaining shape this should be warning enough that these so called "inferior" games now have the tools to instigate their own success.

E-Sports organisations have of course a motivation to add new titles with WCG / SEC hosting tournaments for titles such as Dead or Alive 4 and Command & Conquer 3 but they also have ample reason to tread lightly with the introduction of new games.

An audience does not necessarily mean the game would be a huge E-Sports hit, an audience is the second hurdle the first one being simply how easy it to play multiplayer straight out of the box?

Now Quake 4 fell straight on its face trying to get over this one, I bought the game with high hopes but a great engine, nice graphics and smooth gameplay mean nothing if like me, you gave it 30 minutes, couldn’t get multiplayer to work then you put the game back on your shelf never to be opened again.

Then there is coverage, how many websites are following the events in your scene? Call of Duty 4 has a huge following in terms of players but there are only a handful of websites to satisfy the needs of so many players. 13,364 is an immense number of matches but superfluous unless someone knows they took place.

"Both WSVG and the CPL bit the dust after a decision to accept the cheque and follow the sponsors instead of the audience."
Games can not be picked just for the sake of adding some fresh faces to an otherwise stagnant roster, both WSVG and the CPL bit the dust after a decision to accept the cheque and follow the sponsors instead of the audience.

The WSVG’s choice of Fight Night Round 3 clearly sponsor-motivated, along with Guitar Hero II and World of Warcraft as main circuit games ended up being the nail in the coffin. However it is fair to say that the slow death of the CPL was not purely down to game choice but it inevitably played a role in its decisions regarding sponsors.

Variety in E-Sports is a double-edged sword. On the one hand we have a handful of finely tuned games that have been perfected for our scene through years of competition, feedback and patches. On the other hand you have the fact that E-Sports is not seeing anything new and slowly becoming stale with an inevitable decline in the influx of new players, new maps and new competitions.

Nevertheless we need to expand our horizons, otherwise as the influx of new players for our golden games inevitably dries up, we will watch our old gentleman’s club crumble to the new, the hip and the popular. It is up to organizations such as the CGS to try to tread new ground to see if there is an untapped goldmine, however rushing in will only see organizations go the same way as the CPL and the WSVG.

Variety is the spice of life, remember. Perhaps tomorrow I will try a different sandwich and see how it goes.


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