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E-Sports: Did They Miss An Opportunity?


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Curious what others may think-

While the world of sports was put on hold with COVID, did E-Sports miss an opportunity to take a bigger piece of the pie? 

Many people were so starved for sports they found themselves watching anything they could that resembled competitive sports

I realize E-Sports and watching gamers isn’t for everyone, but neither is soccer or golf and plenty of people watched that when they could. 
 

I feel like there was a potential opportunity missed to thrust E-Sports into the spotlight and gain some more viewers/fans. I’m certainly not an avid E-Sports guy; I’ve never watched a “game” or whatever it’s called, but I would have during this sports shut down. What say you? 

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Just now, FreeBaGeL said:

It's not like they didn't try. It just didn't catch on so i guess people weren't starved enough for it. 

I guess I missed them trying. With a void in major tv sports coverage, I would have thought they would have struck a temporary deal and gotten on some major networks. At the same time I can’t remember the last time I looked at what was on ESPN so it’s possible I missed it because of that.

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I just dont think there's enough interest.

Actually watching people SERIOUSLY playing video games just isn't interesting to the general public. Most of the most popular streamers aren't super popular because they're great at the game. (although many of them are)  They're popular because they have some personality and (when they're streaming) try to play the game in entertaining ways. (rather than just taking the most efficient/safest path to victory)
 

The most popular E-sports titles really just aren't viable as live entertainment products, IMO. Something like overwatch or League of Legends is too convoluted and fast paced for the average person with no prior knowledge to get interested.  To someone who hasn't played those games, a high level match is just a bunch of random nonsense.  And at the highest level, the more serious shooter games become way too campy and slow paced to be good TV (nobody wants to watch 12 super nerds try to head glitch eachother for 30 minutes)

Sports games dont really work either, because at the highest level, it really just turns into who can exploit flaws in the game the best. (money plays in Madden, exploiting a certain OP move in 2K, etc.) Dont get me wrong, there's skill involved, but it doesn't really resemble the real sport.

E-Sports will always have their niche, but I just don't see the potential for widespread appeal right now.  If "Video games" ever become something like Ready Player One....ok. But a bunch of dorks with controllers?  95% of people are never even going to consider watching that.

Edited by TLEF316
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31 minutes ago, FreeBaGeL said:

It's not like they didn't try. It just didn't catch on so i guess people weren't starved enough for it. 

I thought eSports were going to be a much bigger deal than they ended up being during all of this, just like the OP said. I thought the virtual Tour De France was pretty cool, but certain networks already had rights to it so it's not like it could just easily slide into a MLB time slot(even if the time difference was less of an obstacle).

They would have better luck if they had some sort of parallel contest of amateurs that could virtually compete with the pro's.... think "Pro's vs Joe's" but on a world wide digital platform. Zwift is already pretty prominent internationally so I don't know why that would be difficult. Same goes for Nascar. Those sims are very cool and it would have been pretty cool to see a contest where you could virtually drive against some real pro drivers. There even could be a tie-in with the new gaming consoles about to be released. It could still catch on in very specific sports imo where the input devices are fairly sophisticated. I have seen some golfing simulators that could have some of the same appeal as well. 

The main problem I see it is fans of eSports really aren't the same audience that were fans of sports in general. That's why you have to target very specific sports. Just watching a guy that is 7ft with a great vertical leap doesn't mean he's any better than your cousin twitching a controller. To me the potential audience for that is somewhat limited. But if MLB(and I'm guessing NFL) does eventually get shut down there is going to be even more pent up demand in the fall than there is at this time of year to watch SOMETHING new in the fall. Keep in mind most entertainment production has been closed for awhile. E-Sports might have a second chance at this but they need to make it easier to follow even if it's just on YouTube or something. That marble racing was pretty popular so there is pent up demand if it's easy enough to find and watch.

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2 hours ago, TLEF316 said:

I just dont think there's enough interest.

Actually watching people SERIOUSLY playing video games just isn't interesting to the general public. Most of the most popular streamers aren't super popular because they're great at the game. (although many of them are)  They're popular because they have some personality and (when they're streaming) try to play the game in entertaining ways. (rather than just taking the most efficient/safest path to victory)
 

The most popular E-sports titles really just aren't viable as live entertainment products, IMO. Something like overwatch or League of Legends is too convoluted and fast paced for the average person with no prior knowledge to get interested.  To someone who hasn't played those games, a high level match is just a bunch of random nonsense.  And at the highest level, the more serious shooter games become way too campy and slow paced to be good TV (nobody wants to watch 12 super nerds try to head glitch eachother for 30 minutes)

Sports games dont really work either, because at the highest level, it really just turns into who can exploit flaws in the game the best. (money plays in Madden, exploiting a certain OP move in 2K, etc.) Dont get me wrong, there's skill involved, but it doesn't really resemble the real sport.

E-Sports will always have their niche, but I just don't see the potential for widespread appeal right now.  If "Video games" ever become something like Ready Player One....ok. But a bunch of dorks with controllers?  95% of people are never even going to consider watching that.

E sports is crap to you and I but we didn’t grow up getting our jollies watching people unboxing toys. 

It’s big now but it’s gonna be YUGE. 

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7 hours ago, STEADYMOBBIN 22 said:

E sports is crap to you and I but we didn’t grow up getting our jollies watching people unboxing toys. 

It’s big now but it’s gonna be YUGE. 

Maybe they'll find the right combination of game and broadcast format one day. But at this point, they haven't.

I'm not sure a live broadcast will ever work for the mainstream audience. They just wont be able to follow along with any game that's not super simple/slow paced.(I played Overwatch when it first came out and still play a decent amount of games. Even to me, an Overwatch match is just complete chaos) It will have to be a delayed showing so that they can edit to the best/most relevant parts and then explain everything.

But yeah, I guess the people who watch Toy Unboxings will someday consume slightly more sophisticated content. So maybe :shrug:

To me, something similar to Gears of War (I haven't played the last few, but I can't imagine too much has changes since like gears 3) would make the most sense. Its fast enough to be interesting but small scale and strategic enough to not look like complete cluster #### to an uniformed viewer.  You can follow one or 2 players' perspectives and still get the picture of the entire match. 

I

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23 minutes ago, TLEF316 said:

Maybe they'll find the right combination of game and broadcast format one day. But at this point, they haven't.

I'm not sure a live broadcast will ever work for the mainstream audience. They just wont be able to follow along with any game that's not super simple/slow paced.(I played Overwatch when it first came out and still play a decent amount of games. Even to me, an Overwatch match is just complete chaos) It will have to be a delayed showing so that they can edit to the best/most relevant parts and then explain everything.

But yeah, I guess the people who watch Toy Unboxings will someday consume slightly more sophisticated content. So maybe :shrug:

To me, something similar to Gears of War (I haven't played the last few, but I can't imagine too much has changes since like gears 3) would make the most sense. Its fast enough to be interesting but small scale and strategic enough to not look like complete cluster #### to an uniformed viewer.  You can follow one or 2 players' perspectives and still get the picture of the entire match. 

 

Agree on all counts. I have no interest in watching other people play each other competitively but I will occasionally ally watch somebody play a game I’m interested in just to see if I might like the game.

 

So in theory I agree and I just can’t fathom why people would be interested in this but again, we’re old and like love playing and watching live sports.

With that said I think we are wrong and will be in the minority in the next 10 years. 

Forbes take on egaming a few months ago.
 

Quote

Esports has continued its rapid global growth with revenues exceeding $1 billion and audiences of more than 443 million across the globe, according to research by Green Man Gaming. 

That following is already greater than American Football and rugby combined—and is predicted to reach 645 million by 2020.

The numbers suggest that esports is fast on its way to becoming the most financially lucrative market on the planet, thanks to huge exposure and interest in major tournaments.
 

Esports is global. It’s going to be nuts. 

(Can’t delete the text right above this in the quote block) 


Esports is global, it’s gonna be nuts. 

Edited by STEADYMOBBIN 22
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Yeah, not really sure what "The Following is already greater than American Football and Rugby Combined" means. 

What constitutes "following" e-sports? I honestly have no idea. 

If you want to argue that it might get (or already is)  really HUGE in Asia and parts of Europe, I might buy that.   But in the US? Not sure I believe that.

I'm certainly old in the video games sense (36). So its fair to say that I dont really get everything kids are into today. So yeah, Maybe 15 years from now, people in their 20's will be much more into watching League of Legends (or whatever the next huge game is) than the NCAA tournament. Viewing habits change.

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I too thought this might be different. Still have esportsguys.com ready to go. 

The other thing is the reality that it IS bigger than most of the relatively older people here (like me) think. It's just more scattered. Twitch and live streaming on other platforms is big. It's just not as centralized in the channels more familiar to older people. 

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The moba streams consistently draw 7 figures.   The big tournaments I need to check but I thought they were touching on 40million.  I don't get the appeal of watching moba as it's hard for me to follow their decisions in real time but that genre is undeniably massive.  

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8 minutes ago, Ilov80s said:

The only moderately interesting e-sports I have seen was the Pardon My Take guys and their NCAA '14 run with Coach Duggs on Twitch

Thanks @Ilov80s That's what I mean when I say it was fractured. For sure, part of it was BigCat had a stint as the UT coach and that drew tons of local love where I live. I saw college kids wearing the Coach Duggs / UT shirts. But stuff like that is more fractured. 

Edited by Joe Bryant
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I think one problem is that you need to be familiar with a game to gain anything from watching it, and most games individually don't have a large audience compared to major sports. People who don't know the rules about baseball don't tend to watch much baseball.

Edited by huthut
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11 minutes ago, culdeus said:

The moba streams consistently draw 7 figures.   The big tournaments I need to check but I thought they were touching on 40million.  I don't get the appeal of watching moba as it's hard for me to follow their decisions in real time but that genre is undeniably massive.  

Again....how much of this is Asia?

Not saying Asian viewers dont matter, but the culture there is so different that E-sports have a much greater appeal.

You can't just project exponential growth based on the current viewership because (I think) there's a good chance that the most interested market is already fully on-board.

 

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I just don't know if e-sports would appeal to the non-cordcutting crowd.    I think a lot of sports fans have at least had some experience playing a sport as a child recreationally---so there is some sort of relatablity there.   I just don't know if people that have little to no exposure to playing video games would really be quick to adopting e-sports.   With that said-- its pretty clear that there are enough gamers out there to keep the e-sports market vibrant and growing.  

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22 minutes ago, Joe Bryant said:

Thanks @Ilov80s That's what I mean when I say it was fractured. For sure, part of it was BigCat had a stint as the UT coach and that drew tons of local love where I live. I saw college kids wearing the Coach Duggs / UT shirts. But stuff like that is more fractured. 

I found it a fun distraction but after 5 or 10 minutes of watching, I generally lost interest. Great idea and well executed but watching other people play video games just doesn’t hold my attention. The kids I teach seem to love it though.

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It is a good opportunity for esports for the same reason as it is a good opportunity for "adult websites" - people are home with nothing to do.

But the people that are big consumers of live sports are not the same people that would watch esports regularly. Live sports fans are usually fans of a team or player. Alot of times their fathers and grandfathers were/are also fans of the same teams, so it is an emotional/generational connection that they will never have with esports (until young gamers start having kids)

 

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Just watching someone else play a video game.. meh.. BUT when it is a personality playing a game. That is different. If they gave you a reason to root for or against an individual or a team, that is where the sauce is. Yes, they missed an opportunity, but they needed to change the approach. 

ETA: I will watch Ninja play fortnight, or Stipe Miocic, or my kids... I have no desire to watch joe shmo play a video game. 

Edited by Angry Beavers
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41 minutes ago, Angry Beavers said:

Just watching someone else play a video game.. meh.. BUT when it is a personality playing a game. That is different. If they gave you a reason to root for or against an individual or a team, that is where the sauce is. Yes, they missed an opportunity, but they needed to change the approach. 

ETA: I will watch Ninja play fortnight, or Stipe Miocic, or my kids... I have no desire to watch joe shmo play a video game. 

 

This. For E-sports to hold mass appeal in the US, the guys playing it have to be recognizable and interesting. People will turn in to watch a Ninja (he's basically a character that he created to appeal to kids, as he plays a game designed for kids) or a Dr. Disrespect (although who knows what the hell is going on with him?) play games. Whether you like their characters or not, they're at least unique.  They're not going to tune in to watch these guys  play these guys

 

Edited by TLEF316
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1 hour ago, TLEF316 said:

Again....how much of this is Asia?

Not saying Asian viewers dont matter, but the culture there is so different that E-sports have a much greater appeal.

You can't just project exponential growth based on the current viewership because (I think) there's a good chance that the most interested market is already fully on-board.

 

Asian viewers matter :shrug:

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Can you wager on it?

I agree that some games are hard to watch because of the chaos and being hard to follow.  Some people don't like watching hockey because it is hard for them to follow the puck.  I think a game like Rocket League (cars playing soccer) can be kind of fun, but even that looks like pee-wee soccer with everyone just running around and not a lot of strategy.

Maybe robot sports has missed an opportunity or just isn't ready yet.

Edited by WDIK2
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2 hours ago, TLEF316 said:

To me, something similar to Gears of War (I haven't played the last few, but I can't imagine too much has changes since like gears 3) would make the most sense. Its fast enough to be interesting but small scale and strategic enough to not look like complete cluster #### to an uniformed viewer.  You can follow one or 2 players' perspectives and still get the picture of the entire match. 

The North America and Latin America major finals is this coming weekend.  I watched most of the European finals last weekend.  Gears esports is relatively dead, it's at-best a C-tier esport.  The gameplay has not changed a ton, but the actual competitive game mode Escalation is a far cry from your classic Execution game mode that used to be an MLG staple.  The European grand finals drew I think something like 9,000 concurrent viewers.  Paltry numbers.  Gears 4 events used to draw 30-40k.

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I'll preface this by saying that I would hazard a guess that I watch more esports than most anyone on this forum (whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I'm not sure).

I think the initial premise of this thread, while conceptually it makes sense, is a bit flawed.  Esports are not the NFL or MLB or <insert pro sports league here>.  It's a very disjointed, somewhat haphazard landscape of game developer giants, independent communities, etc.  There is no one major governing body to promote esports, in general.

There is an incredible amount of esports at your fingertips on a given day.  This week I'll probably watch some Overwatch League on Fri - Sun and check out the Gears 5 major finals on Fri - Sun.  Sometimes there are community events or lower-tier events midweek.  This is a quiet weekend for Counter-Strike, but in August alone there are 4 bigtime tournaments featuring a who's who of all of the world's best teams.  Not my thing, but LoL schedule is in full-swing with games all day.  Content overload.

I am assuming that the overall gist is that esports missed an opportunity by not getting these games on television.  But as has been pointed out a couple times already upthread, your traditional sports viewing audience isn't really your traditional esports viewing audience.  It's boring, I don't understand what I'm watching, etc (all valid points).  Would there be a handful of converts if they were airing Counter-Strike on television (which TBS has done in the past)?  Maybe, but are those people going to become diehard Twitch viewers once things are back to normal?  Probably not.

There's also, again, the factor of it being very disjointed.  I tend to gravitate toward games that I've played and that I understand (Overwatch, Gears of War).  There are much bigger games out there like LoL or Dota 2, that I can barely watch because I have no idea what's happening.  There isn't that 1 game that you can throw on ESPN that will draw everyone in, that 1 game that everyone can immediately understand what they're watching.  It may draw in the people who've played those games for years.....but if you've been playing those games for years, you're probably watching on Twitch anyway, and don't need it to be on ESPN.  

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