Level Up With These Three eSports Lessons
July 19, 2018
The digital revolution has transformed the way we complete tasks, consume news, and shop. Yet, in the sports world, the underlying rules and limitations of the games themselves remain unchanged. There is one sport, however, that is fundamentally disrupting this norm, known as esports. Esports consists of a variety of video games, and just like traditional sports, fans follow certain teams, watch their matches, check statistics, and cheer on their favorite ‘athletes.’ According to the annual Internet Trends Report, 53% of esports fans are composed of millennials.
One game in particular, ‘Fortnite’, has taken this generation and the esports community at large by storm since its inception in late 2017. The game, which is actually free to play, is designed for the average player to take on a variety of tasks ranging from building and shooting to looting. Within that construct, other players around the globe compete to be the last one standing. What has worked so well for the game is their underlying mission to keep the experience fresh through weekly iteration in maps, gameplay, and additions. The flexibility of the rules/gameplay prevents esports such as Fortnite from being too easy or too hard and keeps the player excited for new updates every single week. This innovation by the developers aligns with the expectations of their demographic and will continue to capture the attention of gamers within the community. This leads to the question, can youth sports organizers borrow from esports and if so which tactics should they copy?
Worlds collide in Season 5! A viking ship, desert outpost, and ancient statues have appeared all over the island, changing the world of Fortnite. Hop in an ATK with your squad and uncover all new mysteries and locations.
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) July 12, 2018
We sat down with Ryan Bulaclac, an esports organizer with a comprehensive understanding of the video game landscape. Here are his three lessons that youth sports organizers can take from the burgeoning world of esports.
Esports are fundamentally different than traditional sports, in that games are constantly changing. Many of the current esports titles go through new versions or patches that require players to adapt quickly to the changes. From one patch to another, a character or weapon could go from being incredibly strong to almost completely un-viable in competitive play, and that requires players to be flexible.
We live in an increasingly digital world, and one of the biggest appeals to esports is that you have almost unlimited access to the players that you know and love. With social media and streaming, people are able to watch their favorite players practicing during the week, send them donations, and interact with them in the stream chat. In turn, professional players are able to start leveraging social media to continue to build their brands and create more interest.
From an event standpoint, even the smallest events are very easily broadcast to the entire world. As an organizer, I helped run weekly events featuring Super Smash Bros. for Wii U that had around 20-40 entrants per week. The live stream for that event had between 30-50 viewers. These kinds of grassroots productions allow other local players to be showcased on a smaller scale, which could lead to much more. Broadcasting over the web, whether it be on YouTube, UStream, Mixer, Twitch, Facebook, Periscope, etc. is incredibly easy and cost-effective.
Smaller traditional sports organizations could really leverage these newer technologies to connect their communities. Companies like FloHoops and Eleven Sports have telecast youth sports events to great success in the last two years. With buy-in from parents and the athletes, live video could be shared to connect families and friends. From those broadcasts, people could make more highlight videos and compilations to drive more interest into the leagues and the sports themselves.
This is one of the areas where I think that traditional sports and esports are most similar. Much like traditional sports, esports is a way to get people together into the same room (whether it be online or in person) with the same interests and do something together. The difference is that esports have championed major events in such an aggressive manner.
The rapidly growing esports community has annual touchstones, like the International Dota 2 Championship, Counter-Strike’s ESL Pro League Final, and League of Legends World Championship.
Take a look back at the #ESLAUNZ Championship 2018 Season 1 finals, held live from @SupanovaExpo Sydney over June 15-17, covering Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2! pic.twitter.com/6foEt0sZ59
— ESL Australia (@ESLAustralia) July 9, 2018
These major events draw attention and serve both as a celebration of the sport and as a visibility driver. Traditional youth sports dabble in major events like the Little League World Series, and we’ve seen a committed effort in recent years for other sports to do the same. The World Series of Youth Lacrosse was on center stage this Fourth of July and the Jr. NBA World Championship will be broadcast on national television next month. The more that organizers can participate and build large-scale, highly-visible events, the better for the future of youth sports.