In a surprise announcement, Blizzard revealed they would be creating the Blizzard Arena. A new eSports venue to host many of Blizzard’s own games and their accompanying leagues. This new venue is planned to seat up to 450 audience members, contain multiple stages, and even a merchandise store for all that ever sought after Blizzard merch. Blizzard’s newly planned arena looks to be the latest chapter in the ever growing industry of eSports.
Does eSports as an industry really need this additional…physicality? I submit that it does not.
The “e” In eSports
What separates eSports from traditional sports is that eSports take place behind a screen. These sports, for them to work require some sort of artificial processing to create the playing field that the sport takes place on. This comes with some inherent advantages that traditional sports lack.
Unlike a game of football(American or otherwise) where one’s view is restricted by physically placed and manned cameras, eSports can take on any view. You can see the perspective of the player, the entire field, the view from the goal, the view from the ball, the view from the units, the list goes on and on and on and on and on. The possibilities of how you can view an eSports match are endless in an electronic environment. The second you take that game and move it back into the physical world, it’s lost.
As a viewer, you are bound to what someone else dictates. If the presenter finds something interesting that is worth viewing, that’s what you will be viewing as well. Even in a traditional sport where multiple cameras are present, you are bound to the one single view that is chosen to be displayed on your screen. In a physical setting, viewers give up their ability to watch the way they want.
The ability to control how one personally views an eSports match opens up another potential that traditional sports lack, choice in an announcer. Viewers could have the ability to pick the announcer they prefer, opening up an entirely new realm of how someone can view a match. Multiple announcers could exist, each claiming their own specific niche, focusing on a unique aspect of the eSport. An announcer for Starcraft II could be most interested in the potential plays that could come from a match, rather than the immediate action taking place. Another announcer could be focused on only the immediate action and have no interest in potential plays. Viewers would be able to find what announcer, if any, they prefer when watching their eSport. Enabling viewers to watch the way they wish and enjoy the eSport they love the way they want it; a current impossibility in traditional sports.
Having a physical arena to hold an eSport is not without its benefits. One of which is too easily identify when and what matches are played. Physical arenas are restricted by itself in how many matches it can hold, naturally creating an easy schedule to follow. Time slot X can only have Y amount of matches because there is only Z amount of stadiums available. In traditional sports restrictions for scheduling games exists for multiple factors, you need one of two stadiums to host the game itself, limited rights on who can broadcast the game, and the broadcasters limitations on when it can broadcast the actual game. All these factors come together and create and easy to follow schedule. eSports have unfortunately never had this because they don’t have to, but that doesn’t mean it’s a positive.
eSports, since its inception, have had a scheduling issue. They’re several different games that all have eSport leagues(some with multiple), all of which have different times, rules, and schedules when it comes to their games. It’s simply impossible to follow all the various different leagues because there is no standardization. Viewers don’t know when Halo-season or Rocket-League-season is, just when the major tournament takes place. This issue exists not because of a lack of a physical presence, but a lack of online presence. Making an arena is certainly an easy way (albeit an expensive one) to sort this out, but by simply creating a proper resource that viewers could access to following along, you maintain the benefits mentioned above. Viewers would get the added benefits of the “e” in eSports, while also gaining an easy to follow schedule to enjoy watching their games.
Scheduling issues expand pass viewer when introducing a physical element to eSports. Players now have a new obstacle that didn’t exist previously, being there. eSports traditionally don’t require a physical venue unless it’s the championship. Only the best of the best show up to these events while the rest are left to fight digitally or in local tournaments until then. Players maintain a lower barrier to entry because most of the competition happens before the championship in an easily accessible way. When creating an arena in the manner Blizzard is doing, that barrier increases. Now what was traditionally reserved for championships, now opens up to lower tiers such as qualifiers. If a competitor wishes to advance, they will need to pack their bags and head over at an earlier stage in their season. Effectively increasing the barrier to entry that doesn’t even need to exist in the first place for players. It’s just another hurdle that is being created for the sake of molding eSports into the traditional sports model.
eSports presents a whole new set of potential for viewers and players alike to watch and compete when compared to traditional sports. Creating a physical space for these to only take place destroys its potentials, relegating us to the restrictions of traditional sports. If eSports is to become something unique and palatable for the general population it needs to offer new and exciting ways to view some games. Trying to take eSports and forcibly attempting to mold them into the “Sunday Night Football” mentality is simply the wrong way for the industry to progress. Rather, the industry should be focused on taking the advantages of an eSport and turning them into marketable points. Not hiding them under the rug to make eSports more into traditional sports.