Any opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of compLexity Gaming or its parent company.
It is not very often that I step out from behind the curtain but with the sentiments I see running amok in our community, I felt it was time to weigh in on some of the things I see and perhaps shed a little positive news amongst all of the negative. A couple of months ago some prominent members of the community were talking about the decline in StarCraft 2. This is a trend I have been noticing for a long time. It was pretty obvious that the viewership was declining and my personal opinion was that it was due to several factors but the most important being content saturation. The fact of the matter is that you can watch a different SC2 event several times a day. They, of course, vary in size and importance but basically anyone can run an event, regardless of quality, whenever they want. This creates a situation of white noise. Nothing seems important anymore. There is no continuing story for fans to invest in. I, for one, have gotten tired of seeing the same people play over and over and over again in virtually the same format. The only thing that changes is the name of the event. I remember the early days of eSports where important events only came two times a year and there was a significant level of excitement associated with that fact. The events back then were special and very meaningful. Before people scream, I am not suggesting that we should only have 2 events a year. StarCraft 2 is not that way at all. Every single day there are events with major events happening 2-3 times a month. Can you imagine if the Dallas Cowboys played the Houston Texans 3 times a week? How long would you tune in? More is not always better, especially in a spectator sport.
So wait, I thought you said this was going to be some positive news? I first wanted to discuss the situation and provide my take on one of the biggest culprits of the problem. Now I want to point out a couple of trends that I have seen since all of the negative press came out with the first being the partnership between MLG, Dreamhack and ESL. First of all, I do wish this was a more inclusive partnership that could have united more of the scene, e.g., put IPL and NASL into the mix. Now I don’t have any secret knowledge about what this really means for the scene but if they are smart (and since I know the people in charge and can confirm that they are smart people), they will address the storyline issue that I mentioned above. Instead of just one event after the next where the results are the end of it, it should build from event to event. Players are then incentivized to attend all of the events and we can truly have a story line. We need some meaningful events where the player results carry from event to event and can allow the fans to have something more than a weekend to invest in. Drama can build and fans will enjoy that. I know I will. We need a Super Bowl, a World Series, something bigger that both new and current fans can understand and sink their teeth into. This would allow us to still have more events but one or 2 of them a year are the big deal, with high prize money, that the stars have earned their way into.
The next thing would be for Blizzard to put more control on who can and can’t run an SC2 event. We need a pro and amateur circuit. I am not advocating killing off all of the small events, but we do need some controls in place to make sure some baseline level of criteria is met before Blizzard gives a tournament license. They could have a calendar of sorts and make sure that events are not overlapping in a significant way. I’d also like to see a certain expectation of prize money. Perhaps there should be different tiers of criteria to still keep the aspirational aspect of organizations, casters and players going because this is an important factor to our growth and sustainability. There has to be a farm system and an openness for us to remain successful. I am not advocating only having majors, but we have to trim the fat and clear the white noise.
Finally, Blizzard seems to really be taking feedback from both pros and fans on changes to the game. There is a new found buzz and excitement surrounding Heart of the Swarm. If this trend continues after release then it is my belief that we will not only get a burst of viewership with the new game, but will also be able to sustain it with Blizzard providing the needed changes to continue to make the game evolve and better for the players and the fans.
I have not really left you with anything concrete but I can say that it is my belief that everything I have said above will happen in the near future in one way or another. I am not saying it will happen because I said it should, but it is my belief that there are some very smart people in this space and I am not saying anything they don’t already know. If anything, maybe my words will make them feel better about the choices they have to make.
Now, I want to shift to another aspect of the sustainability of SC2 in the world. Last night many prominent folks came out and talked about how adblock is hurting the industry as a whole. This is honestly a much larger topic centered around the need for our industry to be able to monetize the fans that consume the content. Ads are an easy and fairly painless way to help this process and the fact that so many fans block these ads is sad. I am sure most don’t realize the pain it causes but the fact of the matter is that ads can help players, casters, and organizations sustain the content that fans love to watch. I will conceded that there should be some changes made to how ads are done today. The intro ad for every stream is problematic especially with the need to refresh being common place. At the very least companies like Twitch could perhaps disable pre-roll by default and let the streamer make a conscious choice of turning it on, instead of the other way around. That is one criticism I would concede as an issue as it stands today. I would also like to see the fans subscribe to their favorite content and not revolt against pay-per-view content. This content, that is generated for your entertainment, is not cheap or easy to do. I think that if you, as a fan, love what you see and want to continue to see it then you should be willing to contribute through ads, tickets, subscriptions, branded merchandise and support for the sponsors of these organizations. I am not suggesting the fans should go broke and pour all of their money into this concept but just say thanks every once in awhile. Subscribe to your favorites. When you make a purchase try to purchase a brand that supports eSports. Buy a piece of merchandise every once in a while and the simplest and easiest way is just turn adblock off.
It is my intention to post one of these periodically, so please let me know what you would like to hear about. Hit me up on twitter @jasonbass.
Some ideas are:
Jason Bass has been intricately involved in eSports for the last 15 years. He started as a Counter-Strike player and then moved to management side of competitive gaming in his role as VP Operations at GotFrag.com. Upon the sale of GotFrag to MLG, Jason Bass became the Director of Marketing at the Championship Gaming Series. He is currently COO of compLexity Gaming and President of NextGen Tech (compLexity’s parent company).