Midway’s Take: Riot and the future of esports
This is a guest blog by head of the NESL Trevor “Midway” Schmidt.
Like everyone I was engrossed in the past week’s Riot Season 2 Championship. By any measure it will blow away the past records for broadcasting numbers and have a massive impact on future eSports events in many ways. I found myself contemplating something else while I watched, what does Riot’s event mean for the future of eSports?
I don’t mean this in a look at their broadcasters or even the issues with cheating. I mean this as a developer running large scale eSports for its own game. By now most everyone knows that this is only the start for Riot, Season 3 is announced and the ramifications are massive. Still the trend of Game Developers running eSports events for their games is not new. Blizzard has been active in the eSports game for a while with Blizzcon and more recently Blizzard’s Starcraft World Championship. Activision similarly has been involved with pushing Call of Duty eSports and becoming more aggressive in pushing eSports for the different CoD releases.
Riot’s Season 2 and even more so Season 3 is the next step. But what does it mean? What do Game Developer’s eSport events really impact for the future of eSports? Let me present a possible answer by giving you two scenarios both from a hypothetical five years in the future.
Say two amazing games come along, let’s call them CS5 and QuakeX – I know this will give Carmac a heart attack so it sounds fun!
CS5 and QuakeX both have the EXACT same fan base, millions and millions of players Worldwide. Now the two games are created by developers passionate about making their games rival the current best games in eSports. Like the games before, these games start to grow larger than the previous successful games such as League of Legends, World of Warcraft, Counter-Strike, Quake etc. Remember this scenario is five years in the future.
So which game with the exact same size of fan base will be a bigger eSports?
How about the game that earns more money. The quality of a game along with many other factors determines the success of an individual eSports game. The reason is simple, the more revenue and profit the developer makes from the game the more money it has to put back into the game for marketing and development. Riot has said about League of Legends that eSports will push the engagement and longevity of the game, that’s why they are spending millions of dollars on Season 2 and Season 3. Other developers will take note and the future is clear – eSports eSports eSports. I wouldn’t be surprised five years from now that we see less massive launch parties for new games and instead more massive eSports tournaments for the new games, see Valve and DotA2 with “The International” and the recent Ubisoft Shootmania launch tournaments.
For the second scenario let’s consider we have two new games, one is LoL2 and CoD150. Both are released to the public with LoL2 being free to the public and CoD150 costing you a pretty $80 upfront (inflation sucks!). Let’s say both have exactly 10 Million players. CoD150 then makes $80 x 10 million copies sold while LoL2 makes money in game off its 10 Million players. CoD150 without expansions will never make more than that initial $80 but LoL2 can keep making money off its players until those players stop playing. The developer of LoL2 will only care about one thing, keeping those people playing as long and as much as they can because that’s more chances they will spend money on their game.
Of those two games which would rather spend money on eSports? LoL2 NEEDS eSports while CoD150 really just wants to get as many people as possible to buy their product initially. One word of caution though, it’s not about Free 2 Play versus buying up front. It goes back to the first example; it’s about the amount of revenue per user. The more revenue a developer can make off of one user, the more likely they are to support eSports.
So what will the future eSports games look like? My suggestion would be to look at how the games make money off of you! The game developers who do a better job of taking your money will also be more likely to turn around and use that money to keep you coming back. And eSports is a GREAT way to do it.