Why eSports isn’t capturing the attention of traditional sports viewers

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I’m a massive traditional sports fan and my true love is football, the real football not that American thing. But in reality I’m like many other people and will watch any sport that I can find on TV. I’ve sat behind the TV watching everything from Football to Cricket to Athletics to Curling and enjoyed all of it. So when I heard that eSports was a thing I just expected to enjoy that as well seeing that I’m an avid gamer and used to compete in Quake 1 tournaments.

However it didn’t take more than 5 minutes of watching a stream to realise I don’t really enjoy watching eSports –  and it’s taken me years to figure out what the problem is.

I sit back and see pictures of massive stadiums filled to breaking point with audiences and hear how tournaments have prize pools larger than most traditional sports and I’ve always wondered why it isn’t exciting me as much as any traditional sport.

esports

And then it dawned on my this last weekend. eSports are simply too fast, too complicated and too precise for easy viewing. The top CS:GO players are targeting people by mere pixels while the premier Starcraft players have reached an APM of over 800, with people stating that this isn’t even impressive. APM, for those of you unaware, is “Actions Per Minute” and describes how many moves or actions a player can complete in an average minute.

Now imagine someone who doesn’t know much about the game trying to see what the competitor sees when you are talking about pixels or how the Starcraft player is keeping track of anything at that pace.

Now eSports organisations have figured this out ages ago and that is why shoutcasting (commentating) has become such a big thing with the shoutcasters now being more famous than the competitors in many instances. But again, they are only targeting followers of the eSport in question, and trying to keep the entertainment levels alive during the frantic pieces.

This is also the reason why League of Legends and DOTA are the dominant eSports; it’s because of their relative simplicity.  Yes, there are metas to consider, but the casting is exciting because games of that sort are easier to explain and movement is a lot slower and easier to keep track of.

Call of Duty is the largest retail game on the planet but when looking at the Twitch stats – Twitch being the most popular online streaming platform – you will rarely see Call of Duty at the top.  Right now the top COD channel has 3200 viewers while the top League of Legends channel is rocking in 16200 viewers.  Neither of these streams interest me in the least.

It’s also interesting to note that the 4th most popular game right now to watch is Hearthstone, a strategic card game that no matter how you spin it is simply a card game and obviously not intensely exciting to watch for most people. The game only becomes interesting to watch once you understand all the cards powers and attributes.

I’d say the only eSports game right now which could be entertaining for the mass market to watch is Rocket League, where you drive around cars and try to score goals in the style of football. The game is simple to explain and can be fun for any traditional sports fan to watch and understand.

So the question for me is whether developers should rethink how they design games to purposefully slow them down and simplify them if they want to capture the mass market viewership?

But then again since none of these games ever involve athletic ability is the entire moniker “eSports” half the problem?

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Last Updated: March 16, 2016

Gavin Mannion

I for one welcome our future robotic overlords

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