Invite-Only Causes Decline In Viewership
One of the biggest pulls of esports is watching people achieve what we never thought possible in a game. Seeing new and innovative things makes the viewing experience fun, more appealing and increases its longevity. People can only stand seeing the same thing over and over before it becomes too boring to watch.
A big issue with esports recently is games are organizing mostly invite-only tournaments. While this seems like the obvious choice from a competitive standpoint, the viewership is taking a hit. Sure, it can be fun to watch the top two players battle it out for a title, but after a while, you start seeing the match-up again and again and again until it all starts to look the same. Some games are better at preventing this - CS:GO is a prime example, due to the maps being played out differently every single time. Others, like Hearthstone, have the same decks battle it out with generally the same results.
Hearthstone is probably the biggest offender of this, with even big personalities speaking out about it. "Watching Thijs and Firebat play against each other with boring meta decks won't bring as many viewers ... while Unknown Guy #1 playing against Unknown Guy #2 with innovative, fun non-meta decks makes for great viewer numbers,”said Hearthstone caster Kripparian. I completely agree. I enjoy myself much more when I watch interesting decks as opposed to the usual meta-slave decks.
Open events in esports are underrated because they are the grounds for off-meta play with unknown faces. For example, in an open League tournament, you are more likely to see junglers outside Gragas and Rek’sai played by a player who you might have never heard of before in a style you might have never seen before. Scenarios like this might open the eyes of the community to a new style that might be stronger than one currently in use.
A scene that hits home on this topic is the Smash Bros community. Just about every tournament outside of a select few are open, resulting in seeing new faces constantly. I have been an avid spectator of the Smash community for a couple years now and I am seeing new faces pop up and upset top players daily. Open weekly and bi-weekly tournaments bring new players everyday that almost always bring a fresh take on an existing strategy. Not to mention, Smash Bros Melee has been an esport for ~15 years, and they are still discovering new things about the game.
It is always great to see an underdog beat a top player because it gets everyone thinking on topics like, “what did he do to beat that strategy?” or “Why would he play x over y?” and “What should I do to counter this new strategy?” Discussion like this grows a competitive scene allowing more diverse gameplay, resulting in a better overall viewing experience. Things start to get stale if you see the same style of game played out over and over throughout the months. You don’t even need new players to revolutionize the meta. Top players in Smash play C or even D tier characters and blow-up other top players on S tier characters.
One of the issues seen with having open tournaments, however, is pros get tired of stomping through inexperienced players in order to get to the better games later down the road. On the other hand, some pros say things like “If you get tired of playing the game, you’re not playing to improve.” In my opinion, they are right. You should always be playing to improve, whether you are playing a world champion or Frank the Accountant. This was a big discussion in the Smash community for a while. Pros were even asking if they could just skip pool play entirely, basically guaranteeing them a spot in top 32/64/128. Pros lose in pool play all the time, so how would this be fair? After a lot of discussion, they decided to keep open tournaments as well as pros playing in pool play, and I think the scene has grown because of it.
At this point, the best thing the community can do is to show our concerns for a potential lull in the competitive scene. I am by no means saying that competitive esports will die if we never have open tournaments, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to allow lesser talent a chance to prove themselves. You never know what things you can learn just from observing a new playstyle. I have not seen any negative repercussions from having them besides a potential burnout of a player. However, if a player is burning out, they were likely done with their career anyways.
What are your thoughts on open events? Do you think they should be allowed and publicized more often? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @GAMURScom.
The author can be contacted on Twitter @iEnglishBetter or through email at iEnglishBetter@outlook.com.