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Predicting the Next Big Esports Games


Predicting the Next Big Esports Games

Monday, December 9, 2019

Some competitive games gain a following and then fizzle out of the spotlight, while others skyrocket into popularity and stay there for years. What exactly gives these games their longevity? Can we use that to predict the future of Esports? Looking at the history of popular games and genres in Esports may actually be able to clue us in on where the industry is headed. Keep reading for discussion on:

  • The most popular Esports genres
  • The games that dominate the genres
  • What this means for the next big games
A Tournament of Overwatch, photo courtesy

First-Person Shooters: The First Choice of Professional Esports

The name is pretty self explanatory. First-person shooters are the games where players see through the eyes of their character and shoot their way to completing tasks or taking out other players. Most of the bigger games in Esports have players working together as a team to overcome the skills of their opponents.

One cannot talk about the FPS genre without mentioning the uber popular Fortnite. Epic Games styled it as a battle royale shooter where players are dropped on a map and gather weapons and resources to fight until one player remains. The bright visuals and fast-paced gameplay attracted players of all ages, and gave rise to a new line of streamers. People flocked to streams featuring Fortnite, launching it into even the mainstream media’s vision. It is arguably one of the current top Esports games with tournament prizes hitting the multi-millions.

Activision-Blizzard’s Overwatch is high on the charts, while Steam’s Team Fortress 2 continues to be an old favorite. In these games, players choose a class from a roster of characters and use the specific skills to aid their team. Everyone has a certain ‘job’ to do to help the team succeed, like the medic character healing the injured. Everyone has to do their part if they want to win. Something about the comradery of the team effort must draw players in. It’s exciting to be a part of a winning team, or even just to watch two face off. The ‘classes’ of characters in Overwatch and Team Fortress 2 also have unique personalities, adding a layer of connection between player and virtual avatar. Plus it’s more fun to hear a snarky comment after a kill.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and the Call of Duty series are other popular picks, with a few different titles being played competitively. These are more tactical shooters with realistic weaponry. They are also more reliant on player skill.  Teddy_RecKs, a Call of Duty Twitch streamer and veteran competitor, says that the sniping and trick shot possibilities is what got him into going pro with the games. He added: ‘’The thing that keeps me staying in COD is the competitive atmosphere and the consistency of always being in combat.’’

The excitement of using your own skills to outclass other players plus the impressive moves pros can pull off seems to be a big part of why COD is so popular.

The future seems to be open for new ideas to innovate the FPS genre. If Fortnite’s building addition is any indication, a unique mechanic is just what a game needs to turn heads. Team Based shooters would also seem to catch the attention of Esports players if they are unique enough and are well polished. Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Siege, although a few years old, is returning to popularity among competitive gamers. It holds both tactical and character elements, and is currently still being updated.

This is where a game’s ‘community’ comes in. Teddy_RecKs says: ‘’For another game to get my attention developers would have to have a lot of backup for the community and the competition would need to have a lot of hype behind them.’’ If a developer shows love for not only the game but the people who play it, it will have more of a chance to thrive. Continual updates keep the game fresh and players coming back. Buzz around the game will grow even larger if the developer pays attention to it’s player base and makes changes for the better. Keep the hype going, keep your game going.

Teddy_ReKs added that Boosted is by far the best company he has ever worked with, hands down.

Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a big hit, photo courtesy Washington Post

Fighting Games: Turning Pro Gamer’s Buttons to Fists

Fighting games involve a different kind of play style. In this genre, players control a character on a usually 2-dimensional plane that squares off against an opponent. Because they are one versus one or many, players have to rely on their own strategy and skills with the controls to claim victory.

The Super Smash Bros. series has been a staple in Esports since the early days of professional gaming. 2001’s Super Smash Bros. Melee has remained the most chosen entry(until the rise of the recent Super Smash Bros. Ultimate), meaning it has stood the test of time to remain an esports mainstay for eighteen years. This series is sort of an enigma in the fighting genre, breaking the usual one on one model of most fighting games. It may be the variety of gameplay options that make Smash Bros. last. Not only do players get to pick from an ever-growing roster of Nintendo stars, but also how they want to fight. Player numbers, item bonuses, and tons of other modifiers are available, making an almost infinite number of possible matches.

Street Fighter and Tekken are two other top series of the genre. These player versus player games rely on quick button combo action and good reflexes. They’re a little harder to master, but easy to pick up and practice. Learning how all the characters fight as well as how your opponent plays is key. This way you can be prepared to counter both when the stakes are high. There’s also those power moves that'll give you an edge. Both have best two rounds out of three, allowing room for a comeback.  Just like Smash bros., multiple older titles in these series are still big along with the latest addition. Mortal Kombat, although slightly less prominent, is another example of this type.

It is especially evident in this genre that nostalgia plays into the appeal of the longer lasting games. Lots of these titles have been around since the arcade or early console days, and that warm feeling of old memories returning is for some tied to them. Maybe it’s that one character who’s been on the roster forever and you wouldn't dream of playing as anybody else, maybe it’s the controls you’ve mastered since you were old enough to press the buttons, maybe it’s simply just as fun as you remember it. It would certainly be appealing to share the nostalgia with fellow players who love it just as much as you do.

DOTA 2 always draws in a crowd, photo courtesy AsiaOne

Strategy Games: Critical Thinking in Esports

Real-Time Strategy titles are more tactical-based games where players must keep track of many different aspects of play and strategize accordingly as it happens(hence the ‘real time’). Players craft units and inanimate structures like turrets to collect resources and clash with their opponent. The player commands their troops what to do and the unit performs the task until directed otherwise. As more resources are gathered, more powerful troops become available. The StarCraft and Warcraft franchises are two icons of the category. StarCraft takes a more futuristic approach with sci-fi esque ships and weaponry, while Warcraft goes the fantasy route. Competitive gamers must like taking the role of commander, as RTS’s have taken the world by storm. Starcraft is even thought to be what drew South Korea into the esports industry.

MOBAs, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, are a similar type of strategy game. The difference is that players control one unit on a team. Time elapses as players work towards a goal such as destroying the opposing team’s marker or eliminating their characters altogether. Like RTSs, aspects like special abilities can improve over the course of battle. The team has to keep track of the entire field of play and shift their strategy as needed.   League of Legends, Dota 2 and Smite lead the pack of MOBAs.

Some have speculated that the RTS is dying out in esports with the rise of the MOBA.

Professional Gaming's Future Could Be in the Odd Ones

There are also those games that seem to be in a class all their own. Perhaps that’s what makes them stand tall amongst bigger titles. Rocket League is somewhat of an abnormal success in esports. Players control a car in a futuristic stadium and attempt to score points on a team of opponents by knocking a ball into a goal. Think Hot Wheels meets Soccer. The addictingly crazy gameplay has led it to find a large audience in the esports world.

World of Tanks is also vehicle based with (you guessed it) military-style tanks. This one is a Massively Multiplayer Online game(MMO for short) that has been gaining a steady following in recent years. Let’s not forget  less action packed titles.

Hearthstone is a card-based game that may sound like a niiche title, but is still active in million dollar tournaments. It is certainly the top dog in esports card games. Gameplay is based on deck building and turn-based strategy, taking the collectability of real life trading card games to a new level. It’s another title from Blizzard, who seem to gear their titles for the esports industry.

So, What can we gather about the future of esports from all this? Well, it seems big franchises like Call of Duty and Super Smash Bros. are here to stay. The next titles in the series will almost certainly become big draws. Current trends discussed above also point to where esports is going. With the wild success of Fortnite and ongoing popularity of Overwatch, game companies are eager to get a slice of the pie.

Battle Royale games have been popping up everywhere and will continue to do so for now. Team/class based shooters are slowly gaining more following with the rise of Overwatch, so more of them should emerge as well, hopefully with their own unique flavor.

Games that sustain a healthy community relation to developers have a good chance of blowing up no matter what genre they are in, so it is likely that more game companies will get involved with their player base. Then there's the nostalgia factor, not only keeping some older games going, but possibly bring others back to the limelight. Who knows what game could suddenly climb to the top because players rediscover it?

Finally, some titles will have just the right hook to turn heads. If car soccer can appeal to professional gamers, the next big game could be another bold idea.

Looking at the history of esports offers a roadmap to its future. Almost like a crystal ball.

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Monday, December 9, 2019




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