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Aug 24, 2011



I dislike the notion of coming to the west. eSports is already in the west since the late 90ies. We have constantly tournaments attracting a spectator crowd and furthermore at some tournaments there are 100k viewers online.

And especially if you look at the gamescom, where korean players are saying that it is an honor to play in front of such an enthusiastic crowd, it shows that eSports is big.

eSports in Europe is maybe not that big as in Korea, but in the last 6 years it is slowly but steady growing with a diverse tournament landscape.

Okay different case in the U.S. with a period of drought after the downfall of CPL, WSVG and CGS. Europe had some turmoil due to the financial crisis, but ESL and ESWC are still at the market.


Tobias, your comment makes me think that I set up the discussion in
a bad way. By asking whether eSports is 'coming to' the West, I
focused the discussion on what 'coming to' means. Has
soccer/football 'come to' the US? Some would say yes, others would
say no. We can debate all day and night whether a given phenomenon
has 'arrived' or is 'important' and we will never get anywhere.
Instead of having that debate, let's all agree that eSports is a
surging phenomenon, and then discuss its likely future.

Also, why is eSports growing now? Is it because games like SCII and
LoL have perfected a system, or westernized a form of competition?


It is a complex questions. There are several problems in the scene itself. There are problems in the community, in the games, in the business model, in the spectator mode and intercultural borders. I currently have the problem to name all the problems.

If we start at the business models, I had an interesting discussion with the league operators of the ESL. They barely make money and it is highly dependent on sponsors. However ESL is not so highly based on venture capital, contrary to the MLG. Other tournaments have a bad reputation of paying price-moneys. I don't know how the MLG does it, but history is full of no payments. Remember the CPL.

The other thing is incredible interesting, in some fields the community is completely conservative. For example Starcraft 1 in Korea, Warcraft III in China or the complete discussion about Counter-Strike 1.6, Counter-Strike Source and the turmoil through Counter-Strike Go. However the games around Dota and the clones are revealing a contradicting attitude. New is better is interesting and the question is saturated.

The biggest problem are the contracts, they exist and existed for over 10 years but nobody gives a damn about it. Recently two of the biggest clans fought over a player, even though he had a contract. One LoL team signed two contracts in two different clans.

In summary, eSports was often on the brink of a breakthrough. I am skeptical if it changed, as the structural problems in the scene are not solved. I can go on and on with the problems about eSports, but the scene handicaps itself. However contrary to last times, companies like Blizzard, Valve or Riot are not only supporting the scene a little bit, they invest into it. Blizzard has some eSports Manager, talks with players, sends people to help at tournaments and the same is for Riot. Maybe this is a growth factor sufficient to get eSports to a new level.


An e-sport has very specific requirements that a lot of online games don't fulfill. We saw this quite clearly when WoW launched its arena system only to find that having some matches where people hide behind pillars for 40 minutes rather defeats the idea of it as a spectator sport.

Another problem is identity. If l33tdude409 is fighting pk444 it's hard to know anything about them or care. We don't know what they look like, where they're from or anything that allows us to connect with them as people.

Eve has overcome this to some extent with its Alliance Tournament. Goons vs Bob was a very interesting tournament match because of all of the other drama between the two alliances. Still you need to know ship names off by heart (so Kitsune vs Tengu means something to you) and you need to be involved enough with the in-game politics that White Noise vs The Initiative is a match up that has you grinning knowledgeably. In other words it's an e-sport for hardcore Eve players.

I've been following the news of Diablo 3 and the game's designers have been extremely careful to state that they don't want it to be an e-sport or set up those expectations. So that got me thinking maybe Titan, the mystery next gen Blizzard MMO, is an e-sport.

So to sum up an e-sport needs several things to work for spectators:
- recognisable identifiable personalities (eg Russia v Canada).
- no capacity to filibuster (WoW arenas's famous pillar-humping)
- it needs to look good on television (Eve's tiny ships don't really do this).
- either good balance or enough variability that the underdog quite often wins.
- a lot of marketing.
- very good commentators.


Good article, I definitively think e-sports (at least Starcraft 2) has potential in the West. I'm looking forward to MLG raleigh


Headline says it all. "Geeks Beat Jocks as Bar Fight Breaks Out Over Control of the TV" http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904070604576516462736084234.html


ha! I love it. "barcraft."


I'm totally fine with people watching Starcraft rather than football or whatever other spectator sport they watch. But I'm sort of meh (with due respect to those invested in it) about whether or not spectator video games take off. As I see it, part of what's great about video games at present in the US is that there really isn't much of a professional scene that most people care about. It's sort of like the time before recorded music, where most people performed on their own instruments in their own homes or in local venues. When you create rock stars and recording, people spend more time purchasing and listening to professional music producers and less time with those around them. Oddly, this cycles into Ted's post for today: Commercializing spectatorship might make money for those selling spectacles, but it isn't always good for a community. (Especially when you can watch tons of gameplay video on YouTube anyway.)


A good discussion on this may begin with this documentary whenever it comes out. http://www.igotnextmovie.com/

The fighter crowds have been meeting and broadcasting their matches for years.


I'm definitively excited that e-sports is becoming more popular (especially starcraft) in the West. With Barcraft and MLG events, video games are truly becoming more of a community thing.

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