Does eSports in South Africa belong on TV?

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This is an opinion I’ve been wrestling with for a long time. The question of whether eSports does belong on TV, when we’re already spending hours in front of our computers anyway. In the spirit of fair arguments I’ll once again highlight both the pros and cons of what having eSports on TV could do for South Africa, but I must admit I’m not all for it.

Jubilant family watching television as they cheer on their home side in a sporting competition; Shutterstock ID 112822024; PO: aol; Job: production; Client: drone

Who even watches TV these days?

Ironically the only time I actually watch TV is for sport; football and Manchester United (Sorry Gavin) more specifically. Other than that the majority of my time is spent in front of my computer screen either playing, or watching competitive tournaments. TV is actually very expensive as well. DSTV Premium is over R800 per month, where you’re bored to death with repeated content and the Kardashians. The Sport is probably one of the only drawing aspects of DSTV, but again all of that can be watched online. R800 can get you decent internet, at least a 4MB line which is sufficient for streaming online content. The added bonus of internet? Everything else is available at the click of a button.

There really is no need to own a subscription to DSTV or anything of that sort these days, especially with Netflix and the newly-advertised Showmax.

Should eSports be on TV?

This seems to be a hot topic today, both locally and internationally. Gareth Cliff and Cliffcentral invited Desmond Kurz once again to chat about eSports and more importantly “What is eSports?” Kurz answered perfectly, but I recall discussions where eSports on TV could be a thing of the future and then I saw this.

For a while I thought I was one of the few who felt it’s not really necessary, but it turns out I’m one of many. While I agree showing major tournaments on TV would be great, there are a few points which need to be addressed.

Firstly, the world is not ready to see eSports on TV. We all remember when ESPN showed Heroes of The Dorm (Heroes of the Storm tournament) on ESPN and Colin Cowherd threatened to quit his job if he ever had to broadcast it. This may seem like an isolated case, but after the International was showed on ESPN as well Twitter exploded with ignorant people berating the network for including gaming. Jimmy Kimmel also had his stab at people who watch eSports and these are two respected figures in the world of television. In Europe and North America eSports has been around for a while, so you’d think that the general public are familiar with the concept? Wrong, they still feel it’s a bunch of kids wasting their time, when in fact these gamers are earning more money in a weekend than most people will make in a year.

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Secondly, those who watch eSports via Twitch TV have almost a cult mentality when it comes to viewing eSports. The BIGGEST draw to online viewing is the chat mechanism. Twitch TV chat will always be the biggest plus point for online viewing and when I say it’s a cult mentality I really mean it. People flock in the tens of thousands to chat (usually spam nonsense) and participate in these viewing parties. Television will never come close to what Twitch can offer and of course it’s a much more personal interaction with the streamer or major tournament, even if they’re not paying attention to the chat.

Thirdly, viewership. Currently our major tournaments, without the help of CSGO Lounge and Dota 2 Lounge, are scraping at maximum 100 viewers, often around the 30s. This is just not enough to warrant a television channel. Sure, the exposure is great but if people continue to push for TV and it fails, we will lose out on a few opportunities which I’ve stated below.

Where I begin to consider why television would be good for eSports, the benefits are only prevalent in South Africa. We’re in a good space at the moment with regard to eSports. Bigger people are starting to pay attention and the government hasn’t really began to sniff the economic potential, since it’s a number so large our president won’t even dare verbally conquer it.

What we do need is exposure and that’s something we can get from television. While I still maintain that not many people would watch it on TV, if the media begin to pay more attention the companies with bigger pockets will pay more attention. Kurz mentioned the economic predictions of eSports in his chat with Gareth Cliff, and the growth is there. I’m not saying we need to sell out, but eSports is like a well tuned clock. If we want it to work, every single piece needs to tick together.

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Television would put a spring in the step of many gaming organizations in South Africa and there would be pressure from the top on many tournament hosts in South Africa. While prize pools for many conventional sports aren’t up for public display, there would be a large amount of pressure to up the ante. TVs involvement would mean these guys would receive endorsements from sponsors not necessarily involved with gaming, and with TV comes ad revenue which could be factored in. If channels are serious about including eSports all we have to do is strongarm them into proper payouts for the athletes involved. If everyone played ball we could take competitive gaming to a whole new level.

In closing

eSports is a ticking time bomb in South Africa, which is set to explode very soon. Whether television is the right step for eSports will always be debated in my mind, but where are right now I submit that it wouldn’t harm us in any way. The major upside, which didn’t really tie in to my argument above, is that it would force our broadcasters to be a lot more professional if they were to appear on TV. I guess I’m just afraid that when they try to get it going that it fails miserably and those who have been working hard in the broadcasting field (myself included) will lose out on an opportunity to really aid the growth of eSports. There are very few people in South Africa who actually have a clue as to what’s going on in eSports. Luckily Desmond Kurz knows what he’s talking about, but even he alone could lose out to someone who moves forward with the idea and messes it up completely.

Tomorrow some big network head could decided we need gaming on TV and without consulting those who know what’s going on, instead asks his cousin to show eSports and we’re now watching PewDiePie YouTube reruns tagged as competitive gaming. This is an extreme exaggeration, but to be honest it does sound likely knowing how this country works. Do you feel South African TV is ready for eSports?

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Last Updated: October 22, 2015

Kyle Wolmarans

Critical Hit’s esports guy. I talk about esports and drink whiskey. I also write and cast for elsewhere – but my work here is independent of that.

  • Grand Admiral Chief

    I think so, yes.

    However, only certain games though. Rocket League and some shooter types, I don’t believe “sports” games will be popular, or even Mehbas or Strategy games, at least not in SA

    • Starcraft, a strategy game, was one of the first televised eSports in Korea. Millions of people tuned in and the players were, and some still are, celebrities.

      League of Legends, a MOBA, was watched by 27 million people at last year’s Worlds. A large majority were on TV.

      Rocket League is way too casual to be considered a competitive eSport, but I see understand your reference as it is kinda a “sport” since it’s football with cars.

      • Grand Admiral Chief

        I’m just thinking about the South African audience

  • As long as it’s not on a sports channel, yes?

    • So you’d be okay with it being something similar to like the old horse racing channel?

      I don’t see why it shouldn’t be a sports channel. There are more correlations between eSports and sports compared to any other channel out there.

      Please elaborate 😀

      • Read my long TL:DR above 🙂 Nothing wrong with having it on a gaming channel, which doesn’t exist on DSTV at the moment, at least not a dedicated one.

  • z1n

    I would just like to add that >4MB + Kodi.tv = <3

    Never looked back at DSTV. Now to get rid of this Telkom crap.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    I’ll change the channel. 😛

    Why the hell will regular TV viewers care about a random group of gits playing a computer game against another group of gits? Unless I’m watching my tribe beat up another tribe, why should I care? OR are we talking about an MSSA-sponsored test match. 😉

    Moving a mouse and clicking to make a character on a screen do something does not for compelling viewing make. I tried watching The International last year & I just don’t get it. Maybe in 10 years when all the old fucks like me have died off, then you kids and your alternative sports can play on my lawn.

    • z1n

      Hey we can’t be mean to MSSA now. They’ve done so much good for gaming in this country…

      Board gaming that is.

    • Well, it isn’t a sport. Maybe that’s why? Here’s a nice reason as to why it ISN’T a fucking sport! ESPN President John Skipper seems to have put it the best, “It’s not a
      sport — it’s a competition. Chess is a competition. Checkers is a
      competition.”
      I, myself, am an avid gamer. I have been playing
      video games my whole life, and I know firsthand the difference between a
      good and a bad player.

      A good game takes time to learn. It requires practice, timing and strategy to get good at it. This is also true of any sport.

      The
      major difference with video games and sports is of course the
      physicality of sports. A sport requires a person to be in a particular
      physical condition to excel, video games do not.

      Consistently
      playing a sport builds endurance, strength, mind body coordination and
      more depending on the sport, whereas video games might really only
      enhance strategic ability and hand eye coordination (which sports do as
      well).

      Competitive video games do share a lot of the same great features as regular sports.

      Competitive video games require an incredible amount of dedication and concentration, as sports do.

      Many video games teach teamwork and can create life long bonds of friendship, as sports do.

      Video games for some are extremely entertaining to watch, as sports are.

      So why is the physicality so important?

      Simple, to be truly great at a sport, the dedication doesn’t stop by clicking an off switch.

      Both
      gamers and athletes have to practice and perform their skill, but once
      they are done playing or practicing, that’s where it stops.

      To be truly great at a sport, it requires dedication on and off the field. It requires exercise, proper diet and safety.

      There
      are physical risks to sports. Something as simple as a twisted ankle
      could take a person out of a game! This is simply not the case with
      video games.

      Video games require time to master. Somebody who can
      truly compete in a video game should absolutely be recognized for their
      talents, but this is true of any other competition. A sport is
      something that requires physicality.

      A sport is a competition
      that has risks, and requires commitment beyond honing the skills to play
      the sport itself. This is the biggest difference in sports and eSports.

      Although great examples of true and vibrant competitions, eSports
      in their current state can never be considered real sports without the
      same level of physical commitment and risk that athletes have to
      undergo.

      Now, if you excuse me, I’m going to go play more “Destiny.”

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        Why do you think I called it alternative sports? 😉

        • Competitions!

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

          • HAHAHA 🙂

        • Also, I suppose you could break you mouse clicking too hard, is that a risk?

          • z1n

            Fear from EG is a good example how a physical problem can stop him from playing a sport (TI4 for reference).

      • z1n

        How else to get the APMs up?

        Just because one competition is ‘fought’ on the physical plane and one on the metaphysical doesn’t change the fact that BOTH require a balance of mental and physical skill (to whichever degree).

        Carpal tunnel is one clear physical risk to training 12h+ a day. I dare say a round or two of Golf is less taxing to the body.

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        Although to be fair, I was aiming more at whether it’s actually interesting for the general public to watch than quibble over definitions.

      • z1n

        Perhaps the birth of the VR industry might blur the lines some perceive between the two as well 😀 Can’t wait.

        To the point of showing eSports on TV. No, it’s not ready. The money isn’t on TV (like it is on web already) and really all these decisions will come down to whether it’s capable of making money or not.

    • 27 million people who watched League of Legends World Championships in 2014 strongly disagree with you.

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        27 million gamers, interested in LoL, watched their online game online, from everywhere in the world because of online access. You actually didn’t address my point.

  • Purple_Dragon

    For me I would love a channel. I like watching twitch but don’t have enough data to watch as much as I would like.

    • To be honest, if you’re willing to pay the amount of money for DSTV, then you should reconsider and upgrade you line with a nice uncapped package, unless the decision is not in your hands.

      A channel would be great, but at the same time I don’t think it would get near the viewership.

      • Purple_Dragon

        Unfortunately circumstances don’t allow me to have ADSL, I am renting a place. I do have mobile data but that runs out quickly and is pricey.

        But yes I agree, channel wouldn’t get good viewership.

  • Brady miaau

    So, how do you watch English Premier League soccer online, then?

    Sky wants 20 pounds a day, or 100 pounds a month. What???????

    • z1n

      If you know someone with a DVR decoder (DSTV) you can ask to use their smart card number or the account for Supersport. Full HD streaming thank you come again.

      I have 5/6 people using one account to watch various sports. The only limitations start if you’re using that account on tablets etc (the dstv now app only lets you connect 2).

      The other option is to see if you can find a consistent live stream through Kodi.tv or something along those lines.

      • Brady miaau

        Trying both the links, thanks.

        And the DSTV option was out. I was the guy with the premium account.

        • z1n

          Send me an email or something to contact you on and I will hook you up.

          • Brady miaau

            just as soon as I figure out how to do it privately…….

          • z1n

            I have a spare reddit account. p00nw0unD3r

            PM me there.

          • z1n

            fuckit. this threads old. who else will read this?? email me at laelenator at gmail dot com.

      • Brady miaau

        Ha ha, actually extremely funny thanks.

        Problem is, I have tried. I have found some dodgy sites, some legit, but all point back to SuperSport and DSTV wants the R800+ amount to stream. UNLESS I get a Walka, which they are trying, it seems, to phase out.

        If I wanted other sport, ok, but I want English Premier League soccer and that seems to be difficult to get and Sky and ITV are just priced so ridiculously it is not funny. Do not mind paying, but there are limits.

        • Bagel

          let me help you sir.

          sportstream.tv

        • Heh sorry I couldn’t resist. I did find a spot for the EPL but it was some dodge Russian site with crappy quality.

  • I think so since our internet sucks big time and alot of people who play comp want to watch but twitch doesnt work so well for people with slow lines

    • There are ways around Twitch not working. I’d recommend Tards Playa, and other external streaming programs.

      https://tards.net/

  • Trip

    How is this a question? The answer is yes. If golf is considered a sport and gets entire days dedicated to it along with marathons, swimming and badminton (all non contact, but wouldn’t they all make great full contact sports?) then why not games? Why is it a question? Does it not take skill? Does it not take commitment? Do certain individuals not also, as in other sports, rise above the rest to become great? Is it because the contestants sit down while participating? If so you have just upset a whole lot of people in the Paralympics. SHAME ON YOU! Could it be that you are simply too arrogant and elite to let other peoples opinions of what sport they prefer count? Stuff ESPN let’s have an entire channel devoted to E sports.

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