One of the best parts of Bro Seriously being a group effort is having different people to bounce ideas off of. And by bounce ideas I mean steal topics when I don’t like any of the things I’ve made notes on to potentially wrote about. Lots of people did lots of dumb shit but it’s the same dumb shit they keep doing and I’m trying to not use up all my creative ways of calling someone a terrible person that quickly.
On this week’s edition of audio perfection, The Bro Seriously Gaming Podcast, Dustin and Evan talked about Atlanta joining the Overwatch League and touched on e-sports in general. I thought it was interesting so I’m going to be a bit of a leach today and talk about the ever evolving world of e-sports and what it means for the gaming industry.
One of the most debated points of the subject I have seen people argue since the earliest days is the validity of competitive video game competiton as a “sport” or an entertainment product/service/medium/whatever. I think we have to answer that before we can have a discussion about anything else. Luckily the answer is clear: yes it is valid. If you disagree you are patently worng. Period. It’s not a vaild point of contention and I’ll explain why. If people want to play these games and other people want to watch them it is a valid thingamajig, whatever term you want to use. If you don’t have any interest in watching that’s okay. If you think people could be making better use of their time, we can agree to disagree. It’s a fairly subjective matter. The fact remains, however, that there is a large and growing market for e-sports. The success of streaming platforms and professional gaming competitions has proven that. All that’s left to determine is how it will affect the industry moving forward. While only time will tell, we can make a few predictions.
The type of games that lend themselves well to e-sports are already having an impact what publishers will put money into. A lot has been said on The Revolution about why multiplayer games have been pushed so hard in recent years. All those reasons aside, it can’t be ignored that the psychological impact of competition keeps players engaged and actively playing. Having an option to play in ranked modes drives this to an even higher level. This is why we continue to see games that don’t have a need for any sort of multiplayer have those modes tacked on. The success of certain competitive games will also drive the fad chasing we’ve seen become more prevalent as time goes on. Fortnite is set to become a billion dollar game and the deluge of clones is neither surprising nor likely to end anytime soon.
Some of the less obvious implications may have more far reaching effects over time. Sequels to successful competitive games, while assured, will be much longer in coming. Overwatch, for example, will have a much longer lifespan and see continued support due to it’s popularity and all of the financial success. Even if Blizzard had a sequel ready to begin development the sponsors and investors would likely pressure them to continue investing in the existing product as long as it continues to be profitable. That has it’s obvious positives with good games continuing to receive updates. There is always the possibility, however, that it will stifle innovations that can’t be plugged into the existing game.
Another interesting aspect that I expect to be talked about more in coming years is regulation from the government. While politicians aren’t usually the most tech savvy and don’t fit the demographic of those likely to follow e sports, the recent issues regarding loot boxes and the growing visibility of this side of the industry will put e-sports on their radar eventually. So far the industry has done a solid enough job in handling things but there will be those that want to either impose restrictions on competitive gaming or levy taxes to find new revenue streams for government. Unfortunately the people leading these efforts will likely be grossly unqualified to make sound decisions and those in gaming with the most sway will use their influence to tips the scales in their favor with little consideration for the community, competitors, and other (namely independent) creators.
Commercialization and monetization will be another slippery slope. Sponsors and investors will look for a return on their money, as they should, but that can lead to negative impacts for consumers such as increased costs for viewing. Im not saying that it will all be inherently bad but the more money is tied into these developing entertainment platforms the more likely it is that greed will influence decision making.
There are a lot of positives that will come of it as well. Gaming is more acceptable in mainstream society than ever. Celebrities playing online games with well known streamers and garnering hundreds of thousands of viewers is an amazing example of just how much the medium has grown. As more e-sports leagues and competitive gaming venues are formed the reach of games will continue to expand.
The expansion of broadband internet means more people can connect with like-minded people around the world and gaming is a fantastic medium to enable these relationships to start and develop.
Services working in tandem with games will also continue to grow as a separate industry. Discord, Twitch, and countless others will grow alongside competitive gaming to allow people to do more and become more involved in the communities around their favorite games.
There are so many other possibilities that I don’t have the time to mention here. The biggest take away that anyone should have from this is that we are in the early stages of what may be one of the most pivotal periods of evolution that gaming has ever seen. As cliche as it may sound, this is a very exciting time to be involved in this community. The future has many pitfalls to avoid but the potential for some amazing innovations is something worth hoping for.
Keep the faith,