Nerdvana: My 3 Point Plan for Esports World Domination

For those who don’t know, esports is professional gaming, and its popularity has been growing year on year. The 2015 League of Legends World Championship Final pulled in  14 million people, all watching at the same time, a record for esports, which is made even more impressive by the fact it was an all Korean final. But will it ever become mainstream? My guess. Not without some changes. When you look at viewing figures for the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) 2016 Spring Split finals EU managed only 575,168 at its peak, while NA drew in the slightly larger 650,002 these numbers go down for the Mid-Season Invitational which peaked at 432,871. Probably not helped by the early games times due to it being held in China.

Whilst League of Legends dominates the esports scene it is impossible to talk of events and viewers without mentioning CS:GO (Counter Strike: Global Offensive), the first person shooter (FPS) beats off competition from Call of Duty (CoD) to be the most popular in its class. In 2015 CS:GO hosted 4 big torments and the figures are astounding. ESL One Cologne 2015 had 27 million unique viewers (how many people in total watched the event), DreamHack Cluj 2015 had almost 26 million, then a massive drop off for ESL One Katowice 2015 which managed  8.7 million and Gfinity Championship Series 2015 which had slightly fewer viewers. These numbers are the second, third, fourth and fifth highest numbers for esport events only behind the League of Legends World Championship in the same year, which had 36 million views. However what is worrying for CS:GO is that when you look at peak viewers the highest  event was ESL One Cologne 2015 which out of the 27 million viewers the views only peak at 1.3 million views at the same time.

Now whilst these numbers are amazing for what is essentially people sitting at a computer, it pales in comparison to the 2015 UEFA Champions League Final which average TV audience was 145 million. Now whilst I’m not saying that I have all the answers, that if ESL (who run CS:GO) and Riot follow my advice then esports is going to overtake football as the world’s favourite sport, I’m just trying to be the voice of solutions rather than problems.

  1. Regionalised teams. From what I can see a big problem for esports is that on the whole fans have no ownership over their teams.  Big established teams like Fnatic and TSM hoover up fans with their history, success and S tire players such as Febiven or Doublelift. Other teams attempt to make year one mega teams, such as Immortals or Vitality, which will attract the bandwagoners. However you only need to look at Formula One to see how quickly people will change allegiances. This leaves the smaller teams to make up the numbers and leads to usual damp squibs of games between the top and middle to bottom tire teams as the fan vote is overwhelmingly in favour of the larger team (Unless you are like Elements “Steve”, who gets his own crowd chant). What Riot and ESL need to do is have each team give its allegiance to a country. For instance the EU LCS’s Giants Gaming are seen as a team from Spain, what I think needs to happen is for them to be a team representing Spain. I’m not saying that there has to be only one team per country, far from it. I believe it would be beneficial to have several teams from the same country to create a derby atmosphere. What forcing teams to represent a country would do would give the smaller teams a chance at gathering a fan base. Sticking to the LCS my system would mean that Splyce  v Elements would be far more interesting as it could essentially be Denmark v Germany, and dare I say, people may actually watch.
  1. Tour the LCS. Now this is more directly aimed at Riot, as ESL spread out their competitions at the big gaming conventions. For those who don’t know, Riot have based the EU LCS in Berlin. However Riot should look at moving the tournament around week by week, I understand that for some poor sod that would involve a lot of work but I  think that work would be paid back in extra revenue and extra fans. During the 2015 World Championships Riot showed they could sell out 10,000+ arenas in Europe, I’m not brave enough to suggest that they would sell those out on a weekly basis but for instance, the Copper box in London holds 4 thousand and would easily sell out as part of the touring LCS calendar. It would allow more fans to attend the events spending a fortune on merch (trust me I went to worlds last year), give non-German teams home advantage and allow for greater sponsorship opportunities. Whilst the end of season play-offs are moved to different cities I believe the regular season should do the same.
  2. Invest in the people. While there are such thing as esports viewing parties I don’t think enough is being done. During events such as the Football or Rugby world cup, fan parks are erected around the globe. This brings people who wouldn’t normally sit down and watch the match at home into the sport. One of the biggest challenges for esports is convincing casual gamers and non-games that it is a genuine sport with genuine competition. Could you imagine how amazing a fan park in central London would be? People in incredible cosplay walking around, craft beer tents with witty gaming related names, a giant screen with some ex-pros casting and signing sessions. Living in London I have seen how excited people get for Comic-con. It’s not hard to see people who religiously watch esports at home dragging their friends to an esports fan park, not to mention those who would just wander in and discover it. I would also recommend further investing in esports bars. I have been to three around the world and have to say the greatest atmosphere is at London’s Meltdown bar (address and website will be at the bottom of the page if interested), now does London need another one? Probably not but investment should be made in these bars from the companies to increase enthusiasm and to establish new ones. As a football fan I love watching the game at the pub, meeting my friends and the banter with opposition fans. Pushing this would help people who are interested in traditional sports but don’t really understand esports get a foothold.

Whilst I don’t think that I have all the answers and that I have the magic equation to build a esports empire where we all wear those amazing pink CLG jerseys and own our very own Kasing necklace I believe these steps would help move esports fan out from behind their computers and into more social environment, this would make it less intimidating for newcomers to join and with a luck make a world where people aren’t looked down on as sad or loners for watching esports.

 

Meltdown London:

342 Caledonian Rd, London N1 1BB

020 7697 0697

http://www.meltdown.bar/london

 

References:

 

TheEnigmaBlade (2016) Spring split finals – viewer count(new record) • /r/leagueoflegends. Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/leagueoflegends/comments/4faurn/spring_split_finals_viewer_countnew_record/ (Accessed: 18 May 2016).In-line Citation:(TheEnigmaBlade, 2016)

 

TheEnigmaBlade (2016) MSI 2016(finals & Semi-Finals) – viewer statistics • /r/leagueoflegends. Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/leagueoflegends/comments/4jfi5i/msi_2016finals_semifinals_viewer_statistics/ (Accessed: 18 May 2016).In-line Citation:(TheEnigmaBlade, 2016)

 

De Guzman, J.N. (2015) The world’s biggest and best eSports arenas. Available at: http://www.redbull.com/uk/en/esports/stories/1331708454458/the-biggest-and-best-esports-stadiums-in-the-world (Accessed: 18 May 2016).In-line Citation:(De Guzman, 2015)

 

LoL Esports (no date) Available at: http://www.lolesports.com/en_US/articles/worlds-2015-viewership (Accessed: 18 May 2016).In-line Citation:(LoL Esports, no date)

Kresse, +c. (2016) ESports in 2015 by the numbers: Attendance figures, investments and prize money. Available at: http://esports-marketing-blog.com/esports-in-2015-attendance-figures-investments-prize-money/#.Vzw69PkrKM9 (Accessed: 18 May 2016).In-line Citation:(Kresse, 2016)

CLG the team I love to hate

How can someone hate Counter Logic Gaming (CLG), the plucky League of Legends North American  (NA) underdogs who have fought against the adversity of dropping  their star players came back against all odd to win the North American LCS Spring split. Having been written off  before the split had even started after controversially dropping  Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Eugene “Pobelter” Park, the team went on to finish second overall in the regular split and go on to beat Team Liquid and Team Solo Mid (TSM) to win the split.  Having done this they then went on to what would turn out to be one of the greatest League of Ledges tournaments ever, and firmly put to bed (for now at least) the notion that NA teams could not compete on the international stage, beating every team in the competition and reaching a final where admittedly they did get blown away by an SKT team who certainly had something to prove. What is even more remarkable about all this is that it was done with two rookies, Huhi in the mid lane and Stixxay who could not have been more unfancied if he were an Urgot main.

Now I must admit even I have got to admire this truly amazing underdog story, which certainly shadows if not mirrors the success of Leicester City in the English Premier League. A victory forged through teamwork and a rock of a captain in Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black  who just oozes inspiration and confidence. However I feel like someone needs to crash the CLG lovefest, and quite frankly I would love to be the person to do that.

Now it’s certainly difficult to say that a team which has won the NA LCS and reached the final of MSI made the wrong decision dropping players. However,  I believe that it is simply not possible to say that Huhi and Stixxay are as talented then the players they have replaced. The reasons for dropping these players certainly seem odd. Doublelift had been at CLG since 2011 and was dropped in 2015 for being toxic and disruptive. Now, if he were as toxic as numerous people at CLG have made him out to be, including the other half of his Rush Hour partnership  Aphromoo, would he have been able to arguably be the most gifted ADC in the EU or NA LCS? Furthermore, if this awful toxicity had been true would HotShotGG (the owner of CLG) have kept him for such a long time? Now I’m not trying to paint LiftLift (a fan name given to Doublelift) as a saint. It is clear that his attitude at times was not acceptable, that is of his own admission. Yet after having won the NA LCS in the 2015 Summer split what could have happened between then and the end of the world championship which created this rift? It seems we’ll never know as despite both half’s of Rush Hour coming out and giving “their side” of the story. They stayed remarkably tight lipped, as I imagine this was more of a stunt to pull in Twitch donations and Youtube views.

For the case of Pobelter, one of three elite NA mid laners , a reputation which has only been cemented by his Split at NA mega team Immortals (IMT) the reason to drop him is simply ludicrous for a professional sports organisation. Both Huhi and Pobelter were brought in for the 2015 Summer split, CLG decided to start Pobelter with Huhi as sub, so to CLG as an organisation it seemed only fair that Huhi got to start this season and Pobelter would sub. Now that is a great idea if you are a team made out of your mates but for a professorial organisation that is simply ridiculous. Could you imagine Arsenal benching their first choice keeper all season because the back up’s been nice and patient?

What I find most astounding about CLG is that for a team who are reformed perennial chokers, never have I seen such a bunch of bad winners. This is where my problems with CLG really come from. The rest I can live with but I find them an unbelievably dislikeable group of winners. After an extremely convincing win over TSM in the 2015 Summer Split final, overjoyed that they were going to worlds they arrogantly declared that they were going to win. They finished exiting the competition in the group stage with a record of 2-4 in a group many fancied them to get out of.

The 2016 Spring Split Final again against TSM was a much closer affair, a fantastic series of games that we cannot be sure will ever be bettered in North America. Games where the momentum changed more like a hurried metronome than the pendulum of a grandfather clock. Again CLG won but this time now in a blow out 3-0 but a very tight 3-2 relying on TSM misplays and bad decisions to win fights and ultimately the series. In fact the very last teamfight of the series  in a game which TSM had dominated was lost by the misplay of the attempted super team who had never really been on the same page all season, and only really beat Immortals due to a lack of respect from the number 1 seeds and a real tilt after a the pick of a top lane Lucian.

In an interview with Doublelift straight after the series, he came out and said that CLG were better and that he would have done many things differently if he had had the chance to replay the series. To me this sounded like a humble and dignified response straight after having lost a closely contested series. However after this fantastic victory which was certainly deserved I was surprised to see such a lack of respect from CLG, for how close TSM had pushed them and most of all that after winning the Split CLG and Aphromoo in particular seemed more interested in trash talking TSM and his “friend” Doublelift then celebrating their achievement and congratulating TSM, a team which after all did finish the regular split in sixth place, on pushing them all the way. Darshan the top laner jumping on the fact that Doublelift admitted that CLG were better and Aphromoo so eager to put down Doublelift making his whole post match interview the worst hidden “subtweet” about how things are better without Doublelift.

Whilst undoubtedly CLG have had an amazing split by all accounts, they will be underdogs to retain their title again. With the supposedly gelled TSM who have picked up a new support who will almost certainly be Biofrost potentially  challenging at the top, along with the always there or there about Team Liquid, Cloud 9 who at the moment seem to have a very talented roster whatever shape that takes and some very angry Immortals who shall be looking to bounce back and surely won’t ever show a lack of respect to opponents again. I for one just hope that next time they win, and they will as you could not ask for a more inspiring captain then Aphromoo, they have a bit more class about them, otherwise they will be part of the toxic problem that they resent so strongly.