E3 2017: What’s new for Esports?

This year was the 23rd edition of the E3, also known as Electronics Entertainment Expo, in Los Angeles.
Many announcements have been made, but we are going to focus on what may be important for Esports world-wide.

So let’s see, in chronological order, what conferences have unveiled for Esports:

The first conference of this year’s Expo was Electronic Arts’. They fired announcements like a machine-gun, with some new titles and a lot of famous licenses sequels. Among those, the sports games had the place of honor, with Fifa 18, Madden 18 and NBA Live 18. The first one is already a well-established esports game, and NBA is going to become a huge actor in the landscape really soon, so who knows what the future has in store for Madden and other sports games?
They also announced some new content for Battlefield 1, with a new game mode, clearly competition-oriented, with smaller teams and lively maps. Story to be continued…

Microsoft hit hard this year, with a new console ready to hit the stores. The Xbox One X (or Project Scorpio) is about to become the most powerful console ever. What we know is that it features full retro-compatibility with previous consoles (games & accessories), and no doubt Microsoft will bet on it to be their new go-to platform for esports.
On games, two epic licenses with esports potential will see sequels this year: Forza 7 and Dragon Ball FighterZ.
The conference was also the occasion to bring up the updates to come for PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (that will be available on the Xbox One X), and a newcomer in the Arena-Survival genre: The Darwin Project.

If you need to remember only one thing from the Bethesda’s conference, it’s the resurgence of Quake esports. After having been one of the first ever esports titles, Quake is back with the recently released Quake Champions to reclaim its throne in the First Person Shooter category.
The competition will crown Quake World Champions, and $1,000,000 is up for grabs between Duel (1v1) and Sacrifice (4v4) game modes.

Just as usual, Devolver Digital went against the flow and offered a true WTF experience during their conference. Not much potential for Esports in their announcements, but a title which could feature a true competitive side: Serious Sam Bogus Detour, a top-down 2D shooter with (Team) Deathmatch and other PVP modes, available this summer.

Ok, this is no Esports, but i can’t not mention it… Beyond Good & Evil 2 is nigh!
Ubisoft also announced the next edition of Just Dance, which will probably see its World Cup start soon!
Skulls & Bones has been unveiled, featuring tactical naval battles, playable in solo or 5-players teams, and with a strong emphasis on competitiveness to become a legendary pirate!
They also decided to encroach on Cardgame’s territory, with a South Park game, very soberly titled Phone Destroyer, with cards from the South Park universe and a real-time multiplayer mode, so Wait’n See!

Sony made a point of honor giving space to Virtual Reality during the conference with many titles designed for VR, or existing titles becoming compatible with the PSVR.
On games’ side, the next Call of Duty opus, CoD WWII was displayed with a very dynamic trailer. The next Pro League will be played without jetpack or futuristic weapon, but with historic weapons and flamethrowers…
To be noted also, GT Sport, next opus of the legendary Gran Turismo series, with a beta soon available in Europe and UK!

On Nintendo’s side, a lot of big announcements for sequels to the legendary licenses of the brand. Mario, Kirby, Yoshi, Pikachu, Samus Aran or Link, no one was left behind.
But several titles are leaning towards Esports, with Splatoon 2, Arms and Poken Tournament, which see tournaments every day on their E3 stage!
Moreover, the release of Rocket League on the Switch, with a full cross-platform support, means that you should be able to compete in the next Championship Series from your Nintendo console!

Finally, outside of conferences was announced the Injustice 2 Pro Circuit, with ELEAGUE returning to fighting games after their Street Fighter V Invitational to host the $250.000 World Championship in October.
Supercell also revealed their new game with a Youtubers’ tournament: Brawl Stars (already available on iOS) , an arena shooter, definitely competitive, with 12 different brawlers, several game modes and maps.

The end of the year will definitely be exciting for all esports fans, and 2018 is bound to be even better!

Esports are getting more popular, and structures more complex

As esports keep growing and attracting new actors and public, a foreseeable tendency emerges: diversification of tournament formats and structures. With countless new games and loads of organizers entering the fray, it was to be expected that standard sport formats would not be sufficient to cover every single case. Anyway, some organizers are going to great lengths to ensure the competitive integrity of their competition, even if it means going through major hassle with the structure itself, or its features.

By covering all the major competitions, we have come across a wide array of structures and formats, and some of them were… puzzling, to say the least.

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Oh, but we know you, words are good, but you want facts!
How about the now-standard Activision-MLG structure used for Pro Call of Duty events? It’s quite simple on paper, an Open Bracket where teams can freely apply, then try to qualify through a 4-groups Double-Elimination format. The four teams winning each group will qualify and join the 12 invited teams in the Open Pool, which only purpose is to seed them. Indeed, best 2 teams from each of the 4 Pools will enter the final Championship Bracket in the Winners Bracket, while 4th team from each group starts the competition in the Round 1 of the Losers Bracket, where they’ll fight teams having finished 2nd from the Open Bracket groups. Winners of Round 1 advance to Round 2 where they’re to face 3rd ranks from the Pool Play, and from here on, it becomes a standard Double-Elimination bracket.
So simple, right?
There is no questioning the competitive integrity or logic of such a structure… But what a headache for a new viewer who would like to spend some quality CoD time watching it live!

Another great example of such format, centered more on competitiveness that simplicity, is the world seeding-based international events happening in League of Legends. The Mid-Season Invitational Play-In Stage.1 just finished, and here’s what the whole Play-In stage looks like:

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We explained the format and whole season in detail in a previous blog post

It’s basically about teams entering the tournament at different moments, with different structures, to reflect on their region’s past results in international events. It does make sense, but once again, the complexity of the format and its implications are deeply intertwined in the whole year’s competition, and one-time viewers probably won’t have the knowledge needed to understand the whole thing.

Which leads us to the Seasons, with their Leagues, Regional Splits, Mid-Season Brawls and other Major Events, Pro Circuits, Clashes, Promotion Matches and the likes of them… Easy to get lost in so many different competitions going at once, even if you’re only following a single game. Take League of Legends for example again, a standard year is composed of 2 Seasonal Splits & Playoffs, Promotion tournaments to promote/demote teams from the Professional League, a Mid-Season international event and the World Championship. Simple enough? Sure, but there are 13 different regions, each with its own ruleset and variations on this global format. And then, some teams qualify and they all mingle in the international events.

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Now, the vast majority of unique tournaments run with a well-known format, or a slight variation of it, with the Double-Elimination Bracket being more and more preeminent. But the increasing number of new and complex formats brings the question of whether esports will go large, or stay a niche hobby for people really into it. Sure, nothing prevents a casual viewer from enjoying a single match, or even a whole tournament, without understanding everything about it or its implications, but implication is precisely what drives (e)sports, when a connection appears and exists between fans and players/teams.
And with this, we have the 4 groups that need to be contended when organizing an esports event: organizer, teams, players, viewers. They all want a great tournament, but are not always looking for the same thing from it.

  • Organizer wants a format that runs smoothly and ensures competitive integrity.
  • Teams want their players to be able to perform at their best, but also a format that allow for their team to get ranked where they deserve.
  • Players want of course what their teams want, but also to have fun and have a shot at winning.
  • Viewers want the best viewing experience possible, and being able to cheer for their favorite team.

But there is no problem! Everything is compatible! Except no, not necessarily. For viewers to have a good experience, you have to have your matches played in a set timeframe, which will restrain how many matches you can play, meaning all teams won’t be able to play as much as they could, because you’ll have to eliminate some. So you go with a Seeding Group Stage, which doesn’t eliminate any team, but then, you take away the possibility for underdogs to create major upsets and rush a bracket with some state-of-the-art strategies and lucky strokes…

It’s all a complex balance, and to attain it, one must do sacrifices along the way, as no format will content everyone involved.
Hence, complex structures are becoming more and more common, and it might scare away newcomers. This was one of our driving factors when developing the upcoming Toornament new structure feature: allow for a complete freedom on the organizer’s side when it came to structures. This way, nothing would hinder an organizer from creating the competition he wants, to try and achieve that tough balance.

There is no denying, nor condoning or denouncing the fact that structures are becoming more complex, it is happening and we have to adapt. It may be prejudicial to some, but is a blessing to others, and while it requires more engagement to get into, it also shows how serious esports is becoming, with this constant search for the best, in all aspects.

The real Esports opportunity lies in their ecosystem

Here’s a great column by The Chernin Group’s Edward Chang on GameIndustry.biz :

eSports: The missed billion-dollar opportunity for publishers and platforms

Now, we don’t usually publish opinion piece on our blog but this it’s hard to pass on this one. You should read it.

tl;dr Esports belong to publishers and this can be a hurdle for third-party start-ups and platforms. If publishers want to thrive in Esports, they have to nurture a dedicated ecosystem.

Spoiler Chang nailed it.

The post goes through the relationship between the top Esports publishers and the Esports platforms. With a defensive / conservative approach to their game, publishers seem to slow things down and only think short term. Esports are about long term vision.

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Credit: Newzoo

Advanced statistics, tournament organization, bets, in-game items, replays, spectating experience and custom services are some of the many opportunities which could amplify the Esports reach and economy.

At Toornament, we’re blessed to be integrated with some of the major games and work hard to integrate with more, at a deeper level. We’re an Esports platform but we believe that the real platforms are the games themselves. They must be the source and epicenter of a rich ecosystem of integrated services and businesses, in which all parties will benefit from each other.

Video games are closed products, but Esports must be an open platform. If we keep this in mind, the industry will really thrive.

Read: eSports: The missed billion-dollar opportunity for publishers and platforms

2017 – The Esport Preview

2016 has been an incredible year for Esports, with wider recognition from governments, stronger commitment from video game publishers, stability improvement for teams and players and overall, more money.

In the wake of 2016, 2017 is poised to be another exciting year for Esports, but we feel it could be the Risky year -which makes it even more exciting. Here’s how and why :

Blizzard

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The largest Esports publisher is Blizzard indeed, with 4 full-fledged disciplines. But each one of them is facing a challenge of some sort:

  • Overwatch is highly popular, but its fast-paced nature makes it a pain to spectate. How do you make a 12 people fast-FPS with MOBA elements easy to watch? We hope they have the answers over at Blizzard, as the Overwatch League will start this year.
  • Starcraft II is still the undisputed king of RTS, but the genre is waning as MOBAs took over in the last few years. Blizzard has a great game, but need to offer something different to reinvigorate its scene.
  • Hearthstone is another huge hit in the Blizzard roster. The TCG is followed by hordes of devoted fans. But on the Esports’ side, many question the weight of Random Factors, creating insanely entertaining moments, while penalizing the best players. We’ll closely follow if the next expansion help tackle this hotly discussed topic.
  • Heroes of the Storm is struggling, simple as that. Despite its different approach of the MOBA genre, the Blizzard all-stars brawler never got the required traction to spawn a healthy scene. Let’s see if the new modes will kickstart the game for good.

Activision

Heavily relying on its star IP Call of Duty, Activision arrived late on the Esports scene but finally did so all guns blazing (no pun intended). Throwing heavy Esports effort with a rich league, Activision still has to cope with the lower sales CoD has been experiencing for years now. Can Esports save the largest video game saga in the world?

The avalanche of huge tournaments around the worlds like the 100K Paris Open @ ESWC Winter seems to think so.

Riot

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2016 was an interesting year for Riot. League Of Legends stays on the Esports throne by a long margin, but faces unprecedented critics from team owners and fans alike. From the LCS format to the shared revenue, Riot will have to address many complaints if they want to keep their game relevant, as it enters a maturity phase after years of mad growth.

Riot announced many changes for 2017, from the crowdfunded money prize, to broadcasting rights and shared revenues with the LCS teams. It will be interesting to see how these changes work out.

Electronic Arts

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One of the best upsets in Esports has been FIFA 17. While football games have always been heavy on sales while light on Esports, the FUT mode changed the deal. Allowing players to build a fantasy team from scratch, FUT brought the virtual side that makes Esports so attractive to a sport simulation, while empowering players with real coaching skills. We can’t wait to see if FIFA will really grow from there and reach the top tier Esports club.

Valve

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2016 has been great for Valve. The International broke even more records, Dota 2 v.7.00 feels like Dota 3 and CS:GO is still thriving. A bit too much, one might say. With a very open scene, the legendary FPS calendar became crowded with redundant competitions, chiping away the teams’ value. We know that Valve has been gradually building an official calendar for both Dota and CS:GO through its Major system. 2017 may be the year some major independent competitions disappear while a few lucky ones make it into Valve’s agenda…

The new kids in town

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2016 showed that it’s really hard to break into the Esports club. Few games have lively community and pro scene. Fans and pro-gamers alike can’t follow too many games. But Esports are damn too exciting to pass on and 2017 will welcome rookies trying to grind their way to the top.

Ubisoft’s “For Honor” is clearly labelled as an effort to build an Esports scene. Despite its unique pitch (Knights vs Samurai vs Vikings Team Deathmatches), For Honor will benefit from lessons learned on “Rainbow 6 : Siege”.

One of our favorite competitive game from 2016 will be officially out in 2017: Steam’s favorite “Battlerite” is a great, highly skilled Arena Brawler, the kind you can’t put down once you’ve tried it. We hope it will become the next Rocket League, an independent game with a huge and active community.

Last but not least, Clash Royale may confirm its impressive 2016 start. Supercell’s latest mobile hit has proven it is worthy of the Esports moniker, with great tournaments and a very active scene. Everything points toward the real Mobile Esports awakening in 2017. Wanna bet?

Support your local Esport association

From traditional media to traditional sports clubs, Esport is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

Last, but not least, governments are embracing the movement and build legal and economic frames to structures our booming industry.

Following the steps of South Korea, several countries have pledged to support their local scenes, opening talks with national federations and associations.

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France Esport and the French government

Quebec is one of the latest case: The Canadian province of Quebec now considers Esports as skill-based competitions. Until now, they were clasified as “publicity contests”. This victory for the FQSE (the local Esport federation) follows a similar one in France, were France eSports association helped the government separated Esport from luck-based games and is willing to authorize Esports matches on television – they are still considered adds for a video game.

All these progresses in Quebec, France, but also Spain, Great Britain, Russia, Finland or Malta were made possible because of Esport fans, volunteers and professionals pushing the boundaries. We at Toornament are also involved in numerous Esports initiative and we hope you’ll join the movement make yourself and your local Esport community heard by your officials!

 

Toornament is the free Esport Platform

Yep, Toornament is free. You’ll read this sentence a few time during this blog, but want to make it super clear: Toornament is free.

With our explosive growth these past few months a lot of new members, organizers and participants alike, asked the money question: do I have to pay to run a tournament? Are there features to unlock on you mobile app? How much does it cost to access the API? etc.

Our take is simple: Toornament aims to be the most powerful Esport platform. Toornament aims to remain free and open.

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We’re on a mission to elevate the Esport tournaments quality bar for Esports communities and the best way to achieve it is to make the best product possible and open it to everyone.

So yeah, you got the brief: Toornament is the powerful, open and free Esport platform.

Toornament joins Webedia

Big news: Our parent company Oxent has been acquired by Webedia. Toornament joins a media group active in France, Germany USA or Latin America with a strong focus on Gaming and Esports.

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The Oxent team

Since its official launch one year ago, Toornament has powered more than 20,000 tournaments and covered the largest Esports events around the world. Key features such as a Mobile App, open API and Participants dashboard have followed since then to cement Toornament’s leadership in Esports.

This acquisition will help Toornament accelerate its development worldwide, while acting as the backbone to Webedia’s Gaming and Esport efforts.

To our present and future users, Toornament will remain free and opened to every tournament organizers and participants.

Esports Weekly Digest –  Week 34

Missed something in the ever-evolving Esports industry? Here’s your weekly recap!

LCS teams are rioting

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Let’s talk LCS. In the eve of the Summer Split Finals in Europe and North America, an interview sparked a response which sparked a drama which sparked many more responses.

Andy “Reginald” Dinh, owner of fan-favorite Team SoloMid, complained in an interview on how Riot doesn’t care about their LCS teams, throwing game-changing patches days before major tournaments. He went on, comparing the cost-to-revenue ratio of an LCS team compared to Dota or CS:GO sections which generate more money.

Riot co-founder Marc “Tryndamere” Merrill was (maybe too) quick to answer Reginald in an emotional and now infamous/edited reddit post where he called out the TSM owner for investing in other Esports. The community uproar was swift, but the best part was that the other LCS team owners came in defense of Reginald, sharing their own struggles and doubts with the Riot’s way.

We followed and gathered all the drama and discussions on our dedicated Twitter thread.

In the conflict of interest of everyone…

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The latest community witch hunt is about a few people controlling too many Esports organizations. A powerful Russian company named ESForce was recently under the spotlighs for owning organizations such as Virtus.Pro, SK Gaming, media rights for Natus Vincere and numerous Esports websites in the CIS region. The funny part is that the website which published the story is now caught in the same scandal.

The well-respected Esports Observer has financial ties with Jens Hilger, an influencial Esports entrepreneur. Part of the founding ESL team, he then left to start new ventures like Dojomadness.

He’s also involved in numerous companies, which seems normal for an investor and entrepreneur. But some of his investments are in rival teams (G2 Esports and Fnatic) and the self-proclaimed independent Esports Observer. Feels like a drama inception.

On a more serious note, these conflicts will keep on happening as long as there is no legislation to rule all this mess.

Team Rocket

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Let’s end this digest with the beloved Rocket League which is doing well, very well. The latest numbers show that jet-motorized football is not a fluke. A year after its launch, the latest Psyonix game boasts impressive numbers :

  • 7,000,000+ paid sales
  • 20,000,000 players
  • approx. $150,000,000 revenue
  • All this with a mere $2,000,000 budget.

Rocket League is a great case study on how to make a successful competitive game: make a great game, put it in as much players’ hands as possible (Rocket League was free with the PlayStation Plus) and keep on polishing its mechanics while adding new content. Then and only then, launch the Esport efforts.

Esports digest: Week 33

Few tournaments this week, but some interesting discussions about Dota 2, CS:GO and League of Legends. Here’s what you need to know!

Do it for the memes

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For many, Dota 2’s The International 2016 was the best Esport event ever. The level of the teams, the record breaking money prize and the great storylines made it memorable, but a detail struck us and reminded us why we love Esports: for the lol.
These past years, our industry has grown tremendously and gone pro, often looking up to the likes of Football league, the NBA, ESPN… From grassroot events we evolved to professional tournaments. But some of what makes the Esport community unique seemed to be left behind. The clowns, the lol, the memes, the kappa.
After the Shanghai debacle where Valve fired the event host for not being professional enough, we feared that this TI would become a very serious event, with casters in suits and television-like content. We were pleasantly surprised.
Switching from top-notch analysis to savage banter, obnoxious fans bashing or even muppets (!), TI6 delivered each day and conveyed the soul of Esports, a phenomenon born on the Internet. We don’t need to mimic dominant sports to get credibility. Skateboarding got huge and the contest judges didn’t have to wear ties for that. We’ll see if Riot, Blizzard and Activision will take note and stay true to our roots, or go the pure mainstream way.

Coach-Hell-a

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Valve did good with Dota 2? Valve did wrong with CS:GO, their other top Esport. The publisher reduced the coaches role this week. So far, coaches could talk to their players during a match and even lead the game. Valve felt that coaches had become 6th players and wanted to restrict Counter-Strike to 5 men experience. They can now communicate with players before and after each half-time and during 4 authorized time-outs per map.

The outcry from both the pro teams and the community has been swift and loud, also condemning the ESL for adopting this rule for its non-Valve sponsored events. Even tho this coach approach is already used by LoL or DotA, the CS:GO backlash shows how each Esport is evolving with its own codes. Let’s compare with Sports: NFL coaches have headsets, Football coaches have to scream – and tennis coaches can’t even go on the court…

Wanna build a pro LoL team? Think again

LoL analyst, caster and personality Monte Cristo has published a very interesting vlog on the struggle to build a professionnal Esport team nowadays, especially for the LCS, Riot’s top league. From the lack of shared revenues, to the sponsor volatility, this video is a must-see if you want to understand the high-risk, low-reward that is running an Esport team.
This piece from Monte Cristo highlights the main differences between Esport and Sport teams in terms of revenue source. The broadcast rights are the main ones for Sports teams, the sponsors are everything for the Esports ones.

Esports Digest – Week 31

Early August means slow activity for everyone but Esports. With The International 2016 finally live and Overwatch breaking records, there’s no way we’ll slack at the beach. Here’s your weekly digest!

TI6: The pinnacle of the MOBA era?

Valve huge Dota tournament is the talk of the town, from its infamous prize money approaching the historic $20M mark to its numerous storylines, drama and top notch actions – and yes, we’re covering it all.

It will be interesting to see if MOBAs are peaking like everyone is predicting, as the community crowdfunding grew less compared to last year and the active players pool even dived under the all-time high 13M. League of Legends is also feeling the stagnation, as viewership on Twitch has been quite stable this season and South Korea seems to fall in love with love with a challenger named Overwatch…

Overwatch: Summer Hit

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Who can stop Overwatch? Hailed as the next big thing in Esport, the Blizzard shooter has been performing above expectations. Blizzard has been bragging about its latest IP performances since its launch: 15M active players, beating Diablo III as the biggest launch performance. More interesting is the Asian market, known to prefer RTS and MOBAs. Blizzard claims that Overwatch is the fastest selling PC game in China and overtook League Of Legends in South Korean PC Bangs. We can confirm on the latter claim.

Now, what’s next? We discovered a Seasonal Event for this month and a World Cup for November’s Blizzcon. Enhanced spectator mode and stats are also in the pipes, proving Overwatch is definitely gunning for the Esport throne.

Battleborn… Dead?

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The same cannot be said for Battleborn. Take-Twos own take on class-based FPS has been struggling since its launch and after heavy promotion and early discounts, the towel is thrown. Take-Two president Strauss Zelnick had to admit the game failed.

It feels like 2004 when people would launch MMOs during the World of Warcraft frenzy or 2013 where a bunch of MOBAs went crashing at LoL and Dota’s doors. Timing is everything.

Quake Champions: Same Recipe, different Flavor

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Watching all these FPS brats fighting each other, Quake keeps grinning. The father of (fast) FPS is still well and alive. The Quakecon tournaments (which we power) gather fewer players, all of them being seasoned fragger or straight railgun gods. While Esport legends like Zero4 or Faze were fragging each other of 25 years old maps, iD Software gave us a glimpse at Quake’s future.

Quake Champions first gameplay trailer felt right: it’s beautiful, it has abilities but above all, it feels like Quake. The oldest Esport in history may be the surprise underdog for the Esport era to come…