Written by Colter Hawks 07 January 2019 It’s a long standing question that is being asked more frequently now as the industry grows larger. What is esports? I think to each person there will be minor variations of how they would explain it, but everyone can agree on the core fundamentals of what esports is. I’m asked this question much more now and it forces me to think about what is esports and what makes a game a successful esport? What is esports? First, the basics, esports is electronic sports; A structured competition for video games that are played on a competitive level, usually for some kind of prize. According to Medium, esports found it’s start at Stanford University in 1972, where students competed in the game, Spacewar. The grand prize for such an event? A one year subscription to Rolling Stone Magazine. How times have changed, although i’m sure in the early ‘70s, that was a hot item. It was in 1980 when we saw the first big-time esports event. Space Invaders held a tournament which hosted over 10,000 players. The whole ordeal gained massive media attention and the rest is history. These days, esports is much more than going to a LAN and playing a game for a few hours and hoping to win something out of it. Now it’s a full fledge phenomenon. Esports is now a career path; one that is gaining just as much prestige as players in traditional sports. Let’s take South Korea for instance. Their League of Legends Teams are some of the most famous individuals in the entire country. South Korea started to support esports early and can be given a lot of credit for helping turn esports into what it is today. There are huge esports events for various video games. Now we are starting to get dedicated arenas for esports and entire media production setups that are comparable to the NFL and NBA. These players aren’t just guys and girls playing video games for fun. They train every day, honing their skills, finding new tactics and throw all their focus on their play. What they may lack in physical strength compared to traditional athletes, they make up for in mental prowess and quick hand-eye coordination. Now that you know what esports is, let’s look at the other question. What Makes a Game a Successful Esport? This is a hotly debated topic amongst gamers around the world and that’s mostly due to preference of game type. It’s the same thing like when I say, I like soccer more than basketball or vice versa. Not every viewer likes to watch every esport. Typically we watch the game we play and occasionally watch tournaments for games that interest us. But with the growing demand for esports and with practically every major developer trying to make their new game an esport, the question does become more prominent.... What makes a game a successful esport? We need to identify the basics of what a game needs for it to be a successful esport. First, the game must bring in profit. More than anything a developer needs to make profit on their game to continue to support it and grow. Blizzard Entertainment for instance has Overwatch; a very successful title, selling millions of copies and bringing in a lot of esports dollars. They also have Heroes of the Storm, their MOBA title that was supposed to rival League of Legends and Dota 2. Unfortunately Heroes of the Storm wasn’t bringing in the money that they were hoping for, despite their efforts to promote the game, and this forced Blizzard to have to axe their major tournaments and leagues that they supported for Heroes of the Storm. In other words, Blizzard will no longer put money towards Heroes esports. Second, the game needs a good following. Having a passionate community surrounding a game helps push the title to the front of esports. All the hype that is generated around that game will bring in more followers; players and viewers alike. A strong community sets the game and it’s esport scene up for the long haul. Lastly the game needs to be spectator friendly. This is where it’s a bit more deliberated amongst the viewers. As I stated before, not everyone will watch the same esport, so this is all a matter of opinion. What’s fun to watch for one viewer, may be dreadfully dull for another. I mean have you watched cricket? (Sorry cricket fans) Building back the other direction. If a game is very spectator friendly, meaning that it’s easy to follow everything that’s going on (even for those who don’t play the game or video games at all), that helps the casters out. Having that spectator friendly type of play will bring in a larger audience and in turn will grow the game’s follower base. And of course the more people watching your game, the more revenue you are going to generate. Keep in mind these games don’t always need the developers support, however that is always a huge help especially if you’re looking to create an event that equals Worlds for League of Legends. Super Smash Bros. for instance has gained very little support from Nintendo and Smash Bros. continues to be a very active esport. We all have our opinions on what esports is and what games make good esports. There are plenty of games out there that have a decent following and the players would love to see it grow as an esport, but it doesn’t receive the treatment the players cry for. However, I feel that it almost always boils down to economics and which game will generate the most revenue and profit for those companies, shareholders and investors.