Given the ridiculous popularity games like Fortnite and PUBG have enjoyed over the past year, perhaps a better question is if their is a path forward in eSports that doesn’t revolve around Battle Royale. Furthermore, with so much luck and happenstance involved with these formats, is professional battle royale even a possibility or are we better served to leave them as stream-first platforms?
The reality is that battle royale is disrupting the industry in a wide number of ways. First off, if one just looks at the view numbers on Twitch, while there are still plenty of non-Royale games at the top of the charts, the top streamers are almost all BR content producers. Secondly, and perhaps more relevantly, the number of viewers when the streamers compete in a tournament are considerably higher than any pro tournament, regardless of how much promoting PUBG or Fortnite do for it.
So what is the real problem here? I suppose from a competitive eSports angle, it’s that the money and fame comes with streaming, not playing professionally. This means more streamers, less competitive players, less eyeballs on competitive events, less sponsorship money, etc…
What is the Solution to Losing Pro Players?
Before we jump into possible solutions, let me start by saying that I don’t yet think there is a problem. The current setup works for everyone involved, and nobody is complaining… yet. So what if pro players and top pro teams start to move out of the eSports side of pro gaming and shift their attention entirely to their streams? We have already seen well known players like TSMViss make this move.
I think it is going to come down to the ability for companies like TSM to market their professional players as the best players in the world, and to promote their streams as such, if they wish to keep both a pro team and a stream team.
If you take a look at TSM’s pro team for PUBG, it includes the likes of Rawry and Break, two of the better players in the world, both of which stream 6 days per week. These streams should at worst be top 10 anytime they are on, as both guys are entertaining and beasts at the game. It should come down to pro players not wanting to quit professional battle royale, rather to join pro teams that do the best job of promoting their players.
Is BR the Future of eSports?
We don’t view battle royale as the future of eSports so much as a part of the future of eSports. While a phenomenal platform for streaming, BR is not without it’s flaws as a competitive platform. Here are some issues games like Fortnite, PUBG, and future offerings from CoD Black Ops and Battlefield will need to address:
- Battle Royal can no longer afford to reward passive play. Aggregate score for a tournament should account for team kills. It should be possible to not win any games, dominate the kills statistic, and win the game.
- Balanced loot across the maps would help. You can’t have one team drop hot and not find guns while another drops somewhere slow and lucks into high end loot. This happens more than it should
- Fix the advantage created by random circles. If one team drops on good loot and gets circles for the entire game, they are all but guaranteed to rack up kills as teams try to get into the circle, while being able to use vehicles and compounds to ensure that they never risk losing players. Many suggestions have been made, but something as simple as having the first circle be random and all future circle just shift to the center (or hard shift in alternating directions) would work. Circles should be predictable in the competitive format so at the very least everyone knows where the game is going to end and can fight their way into their preferred position.
The future of eSports doesn’t revolve around BR games, but BR games are certainly going to help shape what this industry looks like over the next decade.
Fantasy Is the Future of eSports
Sorry, but we had to say it. The fix to most eSports and professional gaming issues revolves around user interest. A tournament often times has 10,000 people watching it while another 10 million play the game. These tournaments have to somehow become must see TV, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to increase the availability and popularity of fantasy eSports.
Much like fantasy football, the future of fantasy eSports is in daily fantasy. Websites like AlphaDraft and DraftKings already offer daily fantasy eSports, but are not getting enough help from the industry to grow in popularity. If these platforms become more popular, the industry as a whole is going to grow beyond imagination.
The DFS effect has already been well documented in professional leagues like the NBA, as well as places like the CFL which saw their viewership numbers and website traffic skyrocket once they were added to DraftKings list of available sports.
For those of you that haven’t tried fantasy eSports yet, give either AlphaDraft of DraftKings a try today. You can use a DraftKings promo code and play for free. The games they are currently offering include CS:GO and LoL, but if the popularity is their they will not hesitate to grow their eSports offerings.
Think about building a lineup of various professional PUBG or Fortnite players. Scoring would include team wins, kills, assists, rez, etc… DraftKings and the BR games could cross promote in game through skins and advertisements around the BR maps. It’s a no brainer for both parties.
The future of professional gaming is bright as the popularity of Fortnite and PUBG continues to grow. Their is room for these games alongside the already established mainstays in eSports, meaning more eyes on all things professional gaming.