Thursday, 17 January 2013

#2 - Oversaturation, Fatigue and the need for a unified pro circuit

You will all no doubt remember the crazy November of 2012, if you don't? quite honestly you missed out and i feel sorry for you. If by some horrendous accident or continued misfortune you did miss it then here is a short summary; 4 weekends and four incredible tournaments featuring the best players, the best casters, amazing games and mostly in sweet, sweet HD. I have to say that as a lover of Starcraft it was a beautiful thing. Back in September and October everyone was getting hyped for what was being billed as a crazy month for the scene. November came and it did not disappoint, players were jetting all over the world and casters bouncing between continents like a Starcraft and red bull fueled pinball.

As already stated i loved that month but it brought up three points for me that i thought i would share.

Firstly is the over saturation that is occurring at the moment in the Starcraft 2 scene. Simply put there is too much going on and that's completely natural, people are getting excited about the scene and want to do their bit so tournaments are cropping up all over the place and its brilliant but it cant continue because it just isn't sustainable. With the sheer amount of tournaments happening in the scene people just cannot watch the amount of Starcraft that's happening while still having room for work and sleep. This means tournaments losing views and organisations going under and that's not good for anyone.

My second point is a system that tennis does really well. That is a unified pro circuit in the form of the ATP tour. Players play minor tournaments all over the world during the year and four times a year (if they have qualified) they come together for the major tournaments. This is a system that i think Starcraft and eSports as a whole could benefit from. I'm not saying that the system should be followed verbatim and that we need to cut away some major tournaments but think a lot could be gained from the major tournaments having a dialogue on this subject. That way the schedule can be eased for players and casters and tournaments have more time to improve and prepare between tournaments. In addition to that we could see global ranking systems, off season and some really interesting dynamics to the scene that haven't been part of it as of yet.

My third and final point is that of caster and player fatigue. to make this point i am going to use the example of Apollo. Over the course of November he casted every single major tournament visiting 3 different continents and four different countries along the way. At some points he even ended up travelling to another place very close to the one he had previously left to go back to Europe for an event in between. I love Apollo, he is my favorite caster but i could tell as he was going through that month that he was enjoying it less and less. Specifically i noticed that during the Thor open that he casted the first weekend of December in Sweden he was not his normal charming and chirpy self. Now don't get my wrong i am not attacking Apollo i think he did amazingly and i could not have done what he did during that month but it was definitely too much. I also do not know the whole reason for the change in mood because i don't know him but i have to assume that tiredness must have been a part of it. I am also not saying that he was forced to cast these events because obviously he can pick and chose but he only has so much refusal power before bridges start being burned i imagine. As well as being a problem for casters it is a problem for players although to a slightly lesser extent purely because they are playing every day anyway when training so its not as much of a problem but even so with all the jet lag from flying between tournaments it will definitely have affected their performances. This means lower quality of games and ultimately lower quality entertainment for the viewer so fewer views as well as the players feeling that they haven't performed to their highest standard.

So to summarise that essay i think that while as a spectator November was fantastic, at the end of the day i think it hurts the scene and the people that put so much of themselves into it. I think so much can be gained from tournaments talking to each other so that everyone can have a break every so often.

Thanks so much for reading! agree? disagree? chuck a comment below and we can chat.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

#1 - Journalism in eSports and how i see it

Many of you will no doubt have read or watched much of the recent drama surrounding journalism and its perceived role in eSports. I watched inside the game and parts of the executives and began to form opinions so i thought i would share.

As many people have been doing i think it is useful to first reference so called 'regular' sports when facing this issue and as i am British its going to be football (sorry). Every year football fans are subjected to the general chaos that is the transfer season and whether you love or hate it, it is essential to the sport as it is with eSports. Transfers spark competition and growth and that truly is a beautiful thing, however there is one major difference between sports and eSports and that is simply how these transfers are reported. In regular sport you will never see a specific team announcing their new signings it will always be Sky Sports, ESPN or just the general news. Why then is it that people are in uproar about this occurring in eSports? the answer quite simply is size. The industry for football is absolutely huge with millions of pounds changing hands every transfer season for players and managers alike. The reason they are able to sustain this kind of spending is because the top clubs make obscene amounts of money each year from merchandising and in the key area; direct from fans and this is where the difference lies. eSports simply isnt big enough to support that yet so money is made in other ways and the key way is through advertisements and website traffic. One of the biggest draws for website traffic at this point in the industry's growth are new and high profile signings. In order to capitalize on these as much as possible eSports teams need to break the news so that they are the first place people go to to find out about where there favorite player has gone or which team that guy they hate has signed for. This is where the journalism debate has stemmed from, journalists receiving leaks from people in the know and breaking the news before the team can do it. I feel that the blame for this lies equally with both parties. On the side of the team there is clearly some reigning in to be done so that everybody knows their place and that leaking information is not acceptable. On the side of the journalist i think more than anything else responsibility needs to be taken for the information they are reporting. Just throwing this information out there is not benefiting anyone and at the end of the day is just going to hinder the growth of the scene. 

My take is that journalism in eSports is actually moving a little bit ahead of the curve, some day eSports will be big enough that we will have huge announcements on huge eSports websites about the latest signings but in my opinion we are nowhere near that yet but the journalism we are receiving is. What the scene needs right now is a little bit of give and take and that means journalists going to teams with the information they receive and saying i would love to have an interview with player x and manager y. That way it benefits everyone and the scene is helped by more revenue being pumped into the teams that make it happen.

More than anything i feel that specifically the Starcraft scene (thats all i know about) could really benefit from some good old rules and regulations i.e. a code of conduct as to how to interact with the press and how to deal with the situation if approached. Its all very well saying that the journalist in question is doing a bad job by leaking information but if you arent putting anything in place to prevent that from happening then you are just as much in the wrong. Preparation and regulation as boring as they sound are as essential to esports as the games themselves. If we all just go barreling on with no plan then teams and players and ultimately the industry will get hurt. 

To summarize i dont think journalism in eSports is actually doing anything wrong i just think its getting a little ahead of itself. To be honest who can blame them eSports is in an incredibly exciting place right now and its only going to get better but we can definitely benefit from a little bit of stepping back and taking a moment every once in a while just to make sure you are in the right place.

Thanks so much for reading! agree? disagree? chuck a comment below and we can chat