These last few years, video game competitions have come a long way and is still growing fast. We see games being updated regularly, new disciplines are making a splash, the introduction of new technologies or more simply, new ways of putting on a show. Today it’s impossible to tell what the electronic competitions will look like in ten years. Yet, as we analyze the trajectory that video games is following right now, it is possible to draw up a sample of what tomorrow’s e-sports could look like.
Video game competitions have always heavily relied on technology. It follows trends and adapts to new products. Eye tracking, augmented reality, movement sensors etc. Some products are already available to consumers, others, highly anticipated, will be entering the market as soon as next year. But will the year 2016 really be synonymous to revolution? First, let’s take a step back from the marketing messages. Yes these new technologies have a huge potential, and it’s a near certainty: they will profoundly change the way we play. However these products are still first generation tech and putting aside their starting price, they still require some very powerful gaming rigs that are extremely expensive to the average Joe. To profit fully from the Vive headset produces by HTC and Valve you would need, if possible, to have a nice space of around 16m² to use it in! A whole room dedicated only to gaming? A big challenge! Especially as integrating these technologies on a competitive stand point is still something that needs to be achieved by any company. For Geoffrey De Bie, marketing manager for SteelSeries, one thing is clear: “VR is the booming business of 2016! It’s the type of product that will really buzz on the market. On the other hand, I don’t think that will have a real impact on video game competition. There may be some tournaments, some tries, but it won’t go any further for the moment”.
Cheaper, products like Eye Tracking may become indispensable for tomorrow’s pro-gamers. Nevertheless, even today the extra data or available features are not numerous enough for a real democratization of these products to take place among gamers. With roughly 600 Eye Sentry units in stores and 300 units sold to the public, Geoffrey De Bie explains: “the Eye Sentry is a really innovating product but we cannot talk of top sellers. These technologies must make an entrance in the competitive world. This is not yet the case despite their potential. I think the future of these technologies is in the hands of developers, game editors and tournament organizers who must work together to integrate these components in the competitions.”
Is it too early for this type of product? For the moment, technology must overcome challenges that are much closer to home. We are in the era of data, of “gamification”. Today it’s the companies who best know how to exploit this data who are winning the most points for the future. The year 2015 has seen the boom of online betting sites or the famous “fantasy bet” that use these data. We could talk about unikrn, Alphadraft or even DraftKings. These companies are raising millions and are a good example of how dynamic this sector is.
Concerning mobile, 2016 will be a test year. Vainglory is a title with great ambitions, it’s a game made for competition and some professional teams have already started working on this new field. The Korean channel OGN has also broadcasted the first “World Invitational”. We must come to the conclusion that mobile is a very strong gaming platform that can support titles with strong competitive DNAs and help in making them popular.
If there is one last barrier technology has to get passed, we could talk about the issues it faces with cross-platform needs. Some games have shown their ambition to be able to match up players on both XBox and PC. Unfortunately we are far from seeing PS4 players go up against Xbox players but it is the start of a true democratization. Can you imagine the possibilities for competition or marketing ? Today, this utopia is becoming a race to control the sector, always growing when we talk of video game competition.
If editors have always tried to help player experience evolve, today they are also looking to revolutionize the spectator experience. Electronic sport is not only a competition between players. It’s a complete show! With time, e-sport is maturing and in a few years, the way we watch a video game match has completely changed. To understand this you only need to see the more and more complex scenography in the biggest competitions. The League of Legends finals, during the players’ entrance into the stadium, was a show worthy of the greatest sport events.
As far as technology allows, it’s important to make competitions as immersive as possible. Today, if you are watching a player in front of his screen, you will have his reactions that are being filmed at the same time, replays of his best moves commented live, statistics and even pyrotechnics to bring the game to life during some competitions.
You can be sure that all these details will be developed further, amplified. Thanks to technology, it’s even possible to imagine complete and instantaneous immersion in the stadium. But even before the show inside the stadium, competitions will be watched less and less from the viewer’s own home. The viewing party phenomenon is not something we need to explain any more. More and more actors of the industry are organizing tournament retransmissions. Remember that the Lyon Esport association allowed more than 2 000 people to follow the League of Legends championship finals live from the Zénith of Toulouse in France.
In the end we were able to count over 625 viewing parties for that event happening in the USA and all over Europe. These numbers include re-transmissions in cinemas. Even without this type of gathering, today it’s easy to go to a bar anywhere in the world to follow your favorite players. But despite all these evolutions and changes, this practice is only just starting to become structured. Teams don’t have their own chants yet, supporters are often dispersed around a stadium, and they don’t have any real club yet. Players already have their fans, but in the years to come they will become more organized.
Overall, video game competitions will continue their expansion! Building upon technology, e-sport should both continue its growth and it’s mutation. But most importantly it should strengthen its roots even more in our reality.