This week the ‘eSports IQ by Alex Fletcher‘ features the following content: ‘WESA: eSports in a nutshell’; Poker, eSports and the crossover of gaming entertainment; The reality of authenticity.
WESA: eSports in a nutshell
The world of competitive video games was brimming with speculation, debate, and then late-breaking news the past week. First, a picture of the World ESports Association (WESA) leaked, which sent multiple contingents in the eSports world fuming at, what seemed to be, an exclusive league of top Counter Strike Global Offensive (CSGO) teams in collusion with the Electronic Sports League (ESL). Followed by several days of speculative banter and prospecting. ESL stepped forward to remind gathering mobs that an official announcement was due later in the week. Even after the official announcement and PR push, there are still more questions than answers regarding WESA; most of which will only be answered with time. The point here isn’t to debate the merits of WESA. Instead, an objective analysis of the entire scenario, from leak through the announcement, distills a clear picture of the nature and character of the eSports opportunity, its community, and current issues.
Immediately after the official announcement, executive members of WESA opened a Reddit thread to engage members of the CSGO community. In which, despite consistent efforts to repeat the organization’s language, they were met with a persistent chorus of qualms, questions and skepticism. Even when reiterated by input from Wouter Sleijffers, CEO of one of the world’s leading eSports franchise, Fnatic, a current member of WESA, the overall tone remained unconvinced. However, chaotic and uncontrolled the idea of an open Reddit thread might seem, the conversation contains the DNA of eSports for all to see.
To draw a parallel, this notion would be unimaginable in any major traditional sport. Still, the decision to open a forum for direct dialogue with the CSGO eSports community was strategically correct. Why? Regardless of any negative sentiments generated by the leak, which some have questioned whether it was unintentional or not, engagement is what drives eSports. For better or worse, Reddit threads, live streams, and the like, are the language of competitive gaming. In order to connect with this crowd, you must speak the same language; a reality from which no one is exempt. End of story.
True passion on display
The community’s dialogue, tone and pitch throughout this development was a living and breathing case study on, the oft mentioned, passion and enthusiasm associated with eSports. There was a palpable care demonstrated, not only on Reddit, but across a number of other channels for consumer generated content. WESA caused a spike in written articles, tweets, videos, and podcasts. These weren’t just rants from “emotional fans.” In fact, a key topic was the concern that WESA could materialize an exclusive league that would threaten sustainability of the CSGO pro scene. The content served firm reminder that eSports supporters don’t just root for teams and players, but are generally knowledgeable and dialed-in.
Dealing with sports envy
A common theme in WESA’s language entailed references to traditional sports bodies, such as the NHL and FIFA. All despite the organization’s stance that it is not a league. In response to the claims of doublespeak, WESA responded, “We’re referring to NHL and other sports leagues to bring an example of how it was formed, and to illustrate the similarities between both. WESA is not a league, but a body that will organize other leagues.” Whether WESA forms a league or becomes one is immaterial, at this point.
The issue is an apparent approach to picking and choosing pieces of traditional sports organization structure without accepting the full reality. For example, exclusivity is at the heart of leagues like the NHL. It’s impossible to borrow formative structure while denying that exclusivity isn’t a plausible path. However, that’s exactly the position in which WESA has put itself. Additionally, all traditional sports bodies involve an independently organized players association. While WESA has designed player representation into its initial structure, attempting to proceed without a self-sustaining union for players is quite puzzling.
Poker, eSports and the crossover of gaming entertainment
On May 24th, 2016 the world’s first poker and eSports crossover event will take place, with stars from both sides taking part. The eSports team features top pros from Hearthstone, a popular card-based, video game title with a thriving competitive scene. The one-day event also features three versus three formats across all games and will be aired live on Twitch. Titled Worlds Collide – eSports vs. Poker Pros, this promotional event by Amazon Coins and Poker Central represents the future of creative programs built around competitive gaming entertainment. Since, for all the growing levels of awareness, eSports is actually just a segment of the wider video game experience, which has emerged as a leading form of entertainment. Watching other people play video games competitively is an extension of the audience’s engagement with playing games on their own time. This reality offers room for crossover programs, not only with card games like Poker, but with a number of other channels in tech, sports and media.
The reality of authenticity
Reports of “incessant racial slurs” hurled at Hearthstone pro, Terrance “TerranceM” Miller, through Twitch chat, during his run at the recent DreamHack Austin event, were met by a strong stance by Mike Morhaime, CEO Blizzard Entertainment – publisher of Hearthstone. Unfortunately, the fact that offensive language was used during a Twitch chat did not come as news for anyone who’s ever logged onto one. The tone of real-time, livestream chat can span the gamut of human emotion, which is exactly why chat is such an important feature of the viewing experience. It provides a canvas for expression by the audience, for better or worse. Obviously, racism, sexism, or any other form of harassment should be actively discouraged, but these aren’t endemic to livestreaming (see: social media). They are ugly aspects of the human condition which will rear their head when the opportunity arises. One of the main attractants for livestream audiences is the raw authenticity of the content and experience. So the question becomes, how much can/should be censored without strangling that authenticity.
- World Esports Association (WESA) leaked, includes top teams and ESL – esportsobserver.com
- Press release: World Esports Association (WESA) Founded – esports-marketing-blog.com
- Reddit: Q&A with the founders of the World Esports Association – reddit.com
- Poker and Hearthstone pros to compete in unique dual-discipline event – dailydot.com
- Blizzard vows to make changes following racist abuse of Hearthstone pro – pcgamer.com
— eSportsMarketingBlog (@eSportsMBlog) May 20, 2016
About ‘eSports IQ’
The ‘eSports IQ’ is compiled by Alex Fletcher, the founder and president of Entiva Group, LLC, and features insights on the latest emerging trends in eSports. By curating invaluable content from a wide range of information sources you get the leading edge in the business of eSports.
Past eSports IQs:
- Week 19: ‘FC Schalke 04’s eSports play – Pros and Cons’ and more insights
- Week 18: The Business of eSports Match-Fixing
- Week 17: ‘Bud Light jumps on the eSports train’ and more insights
- Week 16: ‘Can sports and eSports play nice?’ and more insights
- Week 15: Economics for eSports player unions still missing
- Week 14: ‘The reality of eSports governance’ and more insights
- Week 13: ‘Is Turner’s ELeague for fans or advertisers?’ and more insights
- Week 12: ‘Understanding celebrity investment in eSports’ and more insights
- Week 11: ‘Audiences vs. Viewership in eSports’ and more insights
- Week 10: What does eSports on TV really need?
- Week 9: ‘Cineplex takes a shot at eSports market’ and more insights
- Week 8: ‘The potential of eSports and gaming as mainstream’ and more insights
- Week 7: ‘Vodafone partners with G2 eSports’ and more insights
- Week 6: ‘MP & Silva has been named the global marketing rights partner of Garena’
- Week 5: ‘ESPN continues investment in collegiate eSports’ and more insights
- Week 4: ‘ESPN eSports must exhibit hyper focus’ and more insights
- Week 3: ‘eSports is growing but has not started scaling yet’ and more insights
- Week 2: ‘Deloitte joins the eSports numbers debate’ and more insights
- Week 1: ‘Sport property continues commitment to eSports’ and more insights
Image source: eslgaming.com, Photographer: Helena Kristiannson