MUD2MMO: Esports will fail

On this week’s episode, Tyger goes into three of MANY reasons that E-Sports are destined to not work. At least compared to real sports

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MUD2MMO is a bi-weekly show talking about gaming culture. It's not a typical review or "go buy this game" show, we focus on the gamers, the industry, everything else. Come on by, enjoy the show.

19 comments

  1. I think a big problem with e-sports is how hard they’re watch for the non-fan. Like I can watch the Pokemon World Championship and enjoy it a lot, but to a new person who has never played Pokemon there’s very little to explain what is going on. There’s no explanation about why what the other player did was a good or bad thing. Likewise whenever I try to watch any other e-sports for games I don’t know I get bored because I have no context for what is happening. I have no idea what’s going on, what the goal is, how that goal is being achieved.

    I mean while most real life sports can be broken down to “Get ball X to Y area”, games are a lot more complicated than that. And I don’t think the lackluster commentary is really helping in that regard.

  2. I am certainly not a die-hard e-sports fan for a multiple of reasons. Including the difficulty to get into for the average viewer as outlined by Ratin8tor. Moreover I don’t view e-sport as a conventional sport as a result of its lack of physicality. With that said, I felt that the video’s arguments were rather weak to say the least.

    Regarding the lack of infrastructure I didn’t really buy into the problem analysis. There isn’t a lack of infrastructure in e-sport. The internet and computers are the infrastructure, and both of those can be found in the majority of living-rooms in the Western world. There are no e-sport venues, because there is no need for physical ‘ballparks’ when its all digital. Also, of course there is ‘backyard’ e-sports, what else would you call going over to a friends house and playing video games?

    As far as the cost of entry goes, everyone has a computer these days. Saying that e-sports is fundamentally flawed due to how participants needs to be a PC in order to play League of Legends is like saying soccer is fundamentally flawed because its participants can’t afford to buy t-shirts and underwear. It’s not a cost of entry when it’s a cost that essentially every middle-class family pays anyway. Is e-sport the most affordable sport available? Perhaps not. But in comparison to sports such as hockey and gridiron football its dirt cheap.

    I don’t think e-sport will replace the NFL as the most viewed sport in the US anytime soon. It will certainly grow and will probably end up as a mainstream niche sport, sort of like hockey, baseball or college basketball. But to make the argument that e-sport is flawed because its exclusive is, at least within the Western context, outright false.

  3. Most or perhaps even all of the arguments the author presents here fail on the merits.

    1)The overarching argument: All successful sports have X; E-sports does not. Thus E-sports will fail.

    This argument fails to account for the fact that e-sports are entirely different than regular sports. Imagine the argument in reverse to see the absurdity – All successful sports video games to date have used controllers. Real life baseball does not use controllers. Thus real life baseball will fail (!?). What makes successful sports will be completely different than what will make e-sports succeed or fail.

    2)The sub-arguments. Here, the author notes that real-world sports have X, while e-sports does not. In perhaps every instance, he is wrong:

    A)Real sports have infrastructure; e-sports do not. Millions of people have high speed data connections. Yes, American internet is not nearly as fast or cheap as it could be. This does not negate the fact that millions of people already have a connection sufficient enough to play e-sports, and that playing games on said connection costs an additional zero dollars. The author notes that he has a friend in Australia with a data cap and pay per byte. This is a pretty big exception to the rule – most Americans use nowhere near the speed nor data limits they have access to.

    B)Real sports can be played with low start up costs; e-sports can not. The author cherry picks the cheapest real world sport start up costs and the most expensive PC start up costs to make a very poor comparison. First, many sports that are doing just fine like hockey or golf require significant start up costs. In addition, the author overlooks the cost of traveling for team sports and/or trainers and summer camps that are often required to get better for competitive play. Second, the price of a PC can not be factored as a naked one. A PC DOES OTHER THINGS. Few people buy a PC only to play League of Legends – PCs also do spreadsheets, surf the internet, allow users to watch porn, etc. The relevant analysis is how much more a gaming PC costs than the regular PC the user was very likely to buy anyway (I believe its a pretty safe assumption that someone who is hardcore enough to get into E-sports isn’t going to just want a tablet or cell phone). The author also overlooks the ability for people to buy used games.

    C)Real sports allow beginning players to adjust the rules; E-sports do not. Most E-sports have multitudes of adjustable menus and options, particularly at the non-competitive level.

    D)Real sports can be played anywhere; E-sports can only be played on a central server. This is a distinction without a difference -the relevant point is that the vast majority of people will be able to routinely access the central server. What difference does it make if everyone has to play in the same place? Doesn’t this support E-sports success that everyone can easily meet in the same place rather than in real sports where the players may be unable to play because they are divided among many locations?

    • Yeh, I also disagree with most opinions of that guy. E-sport have some mayor problems like fact that games change with time, but outside that most of his statements are quite ignorant and short sight.

  4. I don’t care for sports in general. I never learned to play any sport type game. Sports terms are meaningless to me. I don’t even like to socialize with other people. That was the advantage that video games had for me growing up. You can play them alone. You don’t need to be dependent on other people to enjoy it. I’m strictly single-player and never never even attempted a multi-player session in the games I buy. To me the concept of esports is some weird abomination that completely misses the point regarding the appeal of video games.

  5. E-sports are dull, boring and kind of missing the point of playing games, but then I dislike sports in general so I’m biased. What I will say, however, is that “infrastructure” can be built.

    Here in the former Soviet block where people plain can’t afford decent PCs most of the time, the “internet cafe” business is still booming. Not as much as it used to back in the late 90s, but it still is. They’re not even cafes, they’re essentially halls where you rent PCs by the hour, specs and all. With many games tying to your account and not your local machine, it’s easy to play on whatever machine you have available.

    The “infrastructure” doesn’t exist, because you guys already have capable PCs at your homes and don’t have a reason to go out and rent time on a public machine. That “infrastructure” already exists in people’s own private homes. If it didn’t, internet cafes would exist, because their whole reason for being is to support people who don’t and can’t own decent PCs.

    Besides, e-sports don’t rely on casual players playing them – that’s kind of the point. The big-money tournaments take place in special venues where gear is provided for the players, usually by “teams” who are sponsored by someone with a lot of money. To that extent, they’re self-sustaining… But I doubt that would allow them to grow. Sports grow by public popularity, and I don’t see e-sports ever being publicly popular. Not like contact sports are, at any rate.

    That said, if e-sports disappeared overnight, I wouldn’t bat an eye, though I feel for TotalBiscuit’s professional e-sports team in StarCraft 2. I don’t find it interesting, I don’t find it engaging and it seems like developers and publishers are pushing it way, way too hard. The simple fact remains that unless YOU seek out e-sports, you’re never going to be exposed to it. That can’t be good.

  6. I do like the points you bring up, not many mention these and instead go for the whole athletes debate.

    You bring up the internet thing, and I know it’s not a thing everywhere but where I live, the leading ISP has free wifi all over my state (hell, even at the beach), so as long as you have a laptop you can play games in most eSports anywhere you like over here.

    Not that I’m saying that laptops are the way to go, just that it’s an option

  7. Where in Wisconsin was some of that. Oshkosh maybe?

  8. Poker would like to have a word with you.

  9. Skate parks still exist? That’s news to me.

  10. (I’m not suee if this counts as an e-Sport, but) To be fair, Fighting Games seem to be rather successful and viewed regularly (then again, fighting games are the only kind if potential e-Sport I watch).

    • Cost of entry and infrastructure are pretty easy for fighting games. All the equipment to play is provided by the venue. To play, you just need to sign up. Entry fees withstanding.

      It’s you against a live opponent on the same system. So, unless you practiced on a different console, it’s all an even playing field. The only thing really making a difference is skill and practice.

  11. Other people have weighed is as to how the cost of entry and cost per game isn’t a big deal, and I agree. I won’t say anything more about it.

    What I’m instead coming to mention is that cost of entry isn’t a barrier for people to enjoy a sport. The reason for this is a rather obvious one, and that is NASCAR. Car racing requires you to buy a car. And just about any car with even a prayer of winning a race is going to cost more than the most well put together rig you can buy for LoL.

    Not to mention, that car racing is pretty much illegal. You can’t do it on open road systems without the government getting on you. You need to have the money to rent entire streets, lots or tracks to do this. The cost of entry for racing is absolutely massive. This also covers infrastructure, or the lack thereof.

    And yet NASCAR is still a fairly successful competitive sport. That the average fan cannot hope to even begin to imitate the activity hasn’t stopped it from being popular. So even if E-Sports really did have a high cost of entry, it wouldn’t necessarily matter. Sports can succeed even if the fans can’t play it.

    I have no reason to think that NASCAR is ‘merely’ an exception. The simple fact is that most competitive activities don’t require the kinds of infrastructure that NASCAR does. There aren’t any other expensive sports out there, because there just aren’t many expensive sports period.

    Poker may be played with nothing but a pile of worthless chips. Basketball can be played with a single hoop mounted above the garage, and a rule that you need to dribble the ball at the end of the driveway to count as ‘changing sides’.

    Sure, paintball did fail, and it does have a high cost of entry like NASCAR. But unless there are a lot more examples of high cost of entry sports failing, I have no reason to believe that NASCAR succeeded in spite of it’s fanbase being unable to play it, and that paintball failed because of that lack of access.

    I’m no e-sports fan. I’ve never watched a single game, but I feel your arguments fail on multiple levels. Besides cost of entry not being a barrier, there’s the fact that even for the poor, it’s not as high as you say. After all, you can play on a crappy computer, just like you can play hockey with a crushed soda can. Dedicated players who really care about their sport/hobby will sink the extra money in it, but casuals can have their fun with whatever they have lying around.

    The very poor are more likely to have crushed soda cans and wooden sticks than a computer and an internet connection, but people that poor probably don’t make up such a big portion of the populace that they’d make the difference between industry success and failure.

    Honestly, I do feel there is one potentially big barrier to e-sports catching on that you completely ignored, and that’s comprehensibility. “Well, they try to get the ball in the goal. Players cannot physically attack each other.” Bring in the sport specific rules for how to validly move the ball around the field, and the sport is explained in five minutes.

    MOBAs, on the other hand, will require that same five minutes “Each team has a set of defensive buildings. The goal is to break the enemies buildings before they break yours.” for the basics, and then another 5 minutes per character, and possibly a minute per each item, and…. you get the idea.

    While viewers can still enjoy and understand the basics of “Kill enemies and buildings”, they’ll frequently have to ask why one player is ignoring enemies and buildings to kill these random monsters just minding their own business. Or why it’s so important that that lamp guy is trying to get that green orb they’re just seeing for the first time in all 10 games they’ve watched.

    That barrier of entry is much more real and much more problematic than the cost barrier. For all it’s impossibility for fans to play the sport themselves, NASCARs very simple “Drive around real fast” basic idea is understood almost immediately. You can get into the details of car mechanics if you really want to, but ignoring those is a lot easier than ignoring the details of over 100 different LoL characters.

  12. Just going to chime in and say that I could not disagree more with you even if i tried. eSports games are all about keeping graphics details low in order to allow for consistent good performance for a broad playerbase. They also stay the same for about 10 years before they get overhauled, meaning they over time become playable at the highest level with any old junk computer.

    And what kind of argument is it that computers are barriers to entry? My parents are in their sixties and they have a computer that I could play several eSports titles on, along with a internet connection that can play several titles on, and they sure as shit didn’t get it for my benefit given that I’ve not lived at home in over a decade.

    They, like every other person in most western countries, have a computer and an internet connection for browsing the internet, doing some word processing and maybe watching some videos online. These are some basic statistics for my country, Finland. In 2011, only 15% of households did not own a computer, down from 18% in 2010 and down from 24% in 2008. It’s a pretty fair assumption that 90% of households in Finland have a computer by this point, and the vast majority of these can run the major eSports titles.

    In 2010 81% of households had access to internet, which over here means they had access to no-cap DSL connections, because that’s basically all that you can even get over here. Heck, my own apartment comes with a free 50/50 internet connection, which is actually increasingly common if you’re living in an apartment building around here. In fact, while 81% is surprisingly low for the internet coverage, when you look at internet usage among persons below the age of 44 it’s virtually 100% for Finland since 2011.

    There’s more kids growing up in Finland with access to any eSports title they want with no investment on their part from the freedom of their own home than there are kids living in cities with ice hall’s so they could partake in our national pastime of ice hockey. Yeah, eSports is totally so inaccessible to people, and barriers of entry are totally a huge problem here.

    And jesus christ fuck off with your assertions about players of eSports titles somehow are rejecting the professional level of the game. Viewership numbers are already rivaling some regular sports for big events and they are growing at a ludicrous pace as people find out this is actually a thing. If anything, the public is embracing competitive gaming on a massive scale and the growth is greater than any mainstream sport ever saw as they transitioned from fitness activity to professional competition. And this is before even getting true mainstream acceptance and accessibility.

    Just fucking admit you really didn’t think this one through and brought your own prejudices based on something that has nothing to do with eSports into this before you look even more like an idiot in your next video on the topic.

  13. I found the premise flawed.
    This video doesn’t examine Esports vs. Sport at all, it examines gaming in general as opposed to backyard physical activity.
    The arguments felt like they were very cherry-picked or almost willfully ignorant of the radically different environments that these two ideas exist in.

    Esports don’t need to be like current physical sports to survive or prosper, and if they do “fail” it won’t be for any of the reasons listed here.

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