When raid guild Method first streamed the World of Warcraft mythic raid Race to World First (RWF) in the fall of 2018, they found more than just bragging rights. They stumbled upon a potential Twitch viewership gold mine.
Since that first event, the guild has continued to mold the experience by trying to make it as a sustainable esports powerhouse. And other high-profile guilds, namely Complexity Limit, have joined in on the action.
As the event keeps expanding to different channels and teams, however, a number of potential issues and complications could stymie the growth of WoW’s organically cultivated grassroots esport.
Dot Esports spoke to people from both Method and Complexity Limit about the RWF on Twitch and some of the challenges the platform faces moving forward. Method co-founder Sascha Steffens and Complexity Limit guild master Maximum discussed the quality of RWF streams and what the future could hold for the event from a viewer perspective.
No more monopoly
Prior to this current tier, Method won all of the main tier races of the Battle for Azeroth expansion. But despite the guild’s success, they knew that eventually, someone else would be able to best them.
With Complexity Limit’s victory during the Ny’alotha raid a few weeks ago, Method’s dynasty took a bit of a hit. And with Limit streaming their victory, Method got a taste of competition from a broadcasting perspective as well.
As more high-caliber guilds stream, viewership for the RWF will fragment, giving Method a smaller share of the overall viewership that they previously had a monopoly over.
Even with Limit drawing a sizeable share of viewers, however, Steffens seemed pleased overall with Method’s viewership and growth from a production standpoint.
“We’ve seen a slight increase, despite not winning,” Steffens said. “We were always curious about how it was going to go once we didn’t win because no one can win forever right? It’s good to see that didn’t impact the viewership. We had slightly more viewers than last event actually.”
While Steffens could view the competition negatively, that mindset needs to be defeated. He thought Limit’s victory and their ability to win while streaming will have a positive impact on the RWF moving forward, potentially helping guilds monetize their efforts in the future.
“It’s great,” Steffens said. “That’s what we’re always hoping for of course. It can’t be a one-horse race. One of the reasons the Method guild wanted to stream was that we wanted more competition.”
Over the past two years, Method has had a few opportunities to try to fine-tune the RWF broadcast. And while it’s by no means perfect, Steffens is happy with some of the improvements the guild made for this race.
The first thing he pointed to was the increased amount of pure information that viewers can gather on the screen at any given time. With leaderboards powered by WoW raid progression trackers, pull counters, and a pop-up application, among other things, Method tried to make its stream as informative as possible without having it inhibit the broadcasters’ ability to narrate the event.
“We’ve been getting a better idea of how things should work, but we’re still experimenting,” Steffens said. “There’s always new things to try out. I would say that the format as it is is a good one.”
Steffens said one of the proposed ideas is a single broadcast where fans can watch all guilds compete in one place. But that isn’t something we should expect to see any time soon.
Both Method and Limit, the top two guilds in the world, have large enough fan bases that trying to divide one stream to accommodate both guilds would be unrealistic.
“I don’t think anyone knows what is better,” Steffens said. “One big broadcast might sound nice, but it could be a scenario where it’s an attempt to please everyone, but in reality, it’s going to please no one.”
In recent events, Steffens said that they’ve tried to present two guilds on the same screen before but it wasn’t received well by viewers because of how much is going on at one time.
Max stumbled upon a gem of his own in terms of evolving the RWF broadcast when he decided to broadcast communications for Limit. But according to him, the idea felt like a no-brainer.
“There’s really nothing to it,” Max said. “It’s as simple as why not. Streaming your comms doesn’t hurt you. If you can see your VoD you can see the strat. … The only reason you wouldn’t stream comms is if you thought someone in your guild was going to say something that would be bad for sponsors.”
Max streamed team communications from his personal stream in both of the last two raid races and it made him the most successful personality among individual streamers broadcasting the RWF.
Steffens admitted that he watched Max’s stream and Method has considered the possibility of streaming communications, something they’ve always restricted.
The Method exec agreed with Max’s assertion that not using communications isn’t a strategic play from a competitive standpoint. But he added that one of the major reservations his guild has with broadcasting them is the diminished privacy.
“The communications side of it has been the biggest thing for us in terms of learning,” Steffens said. “It’s been interesting to see how the communications are received. I think obviously it’s a big draw.”
Steffens said that Method’s raiding atmosphere is one that the guild has built and broadcasting communications would be seen as a negative step by some players.
Having to worry about Twitch’s terms of service or concerns of potential sponsors is something that Steffens believes would pose a threat to the atmosphere Method has cultivated. But he’s not opposed to trying to find ways to make something work.
“There are, of course, solutions that you can try to do to kind of get the best of both worlds,” Steffens said. “You could try to have communications every now and then but not all the time. So that’s something we’re thinking about, and that’s done quite frequently in other esports.”
Max isn’t even sure that viewers truly want to watch broadcasters. With his stream averaging such strong viewership in relation to the Complexity Limit channel on Twitch, he believes a stronger focus on team communications might be a change that would give them even more appeal.
“I still don’t think anyone has figured it out,” Max said. “There are a ton of people who would much rather be in some player’s stream and not hear any caster guess about what’s going on, and they would rather hear the players say exactly what they’re doing.”
While Max isn’t an expert on the business side of the industry, his experience with streaming and raid leading has pushed him to believe that perhaps the more team comms a broadcast has, the better.
That’s not to say that broadcasters are obsolete. But with so many broadcasters required for a long stream that includes 16 to 24 hours of coverage a day, broadcasting team communications could simplify the production while also providing an enjoyable experience for the audience.
Working on the business side of things, Steffens knows the importance of having broadcasters. While team communications may be preferred for an experienced audience of WoW players, casual fans need the help of casters to explain some of the basics.
Additionally, casters can help read advertisements, which can pay for the events that Steffens says aren’t cheap.
“It is very hard to make up the cost of these events,” Steffens said. “I could see a world where you have more focus on comms… but having no casters at all? I don’t think that’s the right way to do it at all. You need casters for narration, and even during a break, do you want to listen to the voice comms where potentially no one is speaking.”
While the viewer experience in the RWF hasn’t been perfected by any means, the consistent growth of the event has only been proliferated by the intensified competition.
Neither Limit nor Method knows exactly what will come of the RWF moving forward, but the future looks bright for both guilds heading into the next WoW expansion that’s set to launch toward the end of the year.
“I just take things one step at a time, but I don’t know,” Max said. “It’s definitely a good time to be a WoW raider, that’s for sure.”