If you haven’t heard, the CPL recently ceased operations. Many of you, like me, may have the obvious question on your minds, “What’s Next?”
Mr. Munoz points to “fragmentation of the sport” and “the current economic climate” as primary reasons for the demise of the CPL but to be honest I really feel that this is a cop-out. There are much bigger reasons that the CPL ultimately died …
The Death of the CPL
While it is true that fragmentation of E-Sports and the economy are problematic to all of us within the United States, I’d contend that the demise of the CPL ultimately was a result of a steady stream of poor business decisions. Let’s go over the worst of them …
First of all, I have to point to the “World Tour”. While it seemed to be a good idea, games such as World in Conflict and F.E.A.R. weren’t the best choices of games to promote as your flagship tournaments. While others would argue with me about this point, I can’t find any real fault with Sierra wanting to give the CPL money to promote their games. Both games had their highlights, but Sierra bought into the belief that the CPL would have high levels of attendance via running their standard fare of highly competitive activities (e.g. Quake/Counter-Strike). Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
The “Million Dollar Halo 3” tournament was probably the worst thing that the CPL could have tried to pull off. Gamer confidence was already at an all-time low already after the decline and fall of the WSVG and most professional gamers were disappointed with the CPL’s neglect for true competitive games such as Counter-Strike and Quake. With the announcement that they’d be giving away a million dollars for Halo 3, the Halo community initially rejoiced and spread the word like wildfire. At the same time, the CPL’s former following lost the last glimmer of respect realizing that this was yet another tactic to bring attention back to a failing league.
For an organization that had brought colossal gaming events to the market for over ten years, it’s was a shame to see them flounder and fail rather than to take stock in their true assets and retool to become great again.
What’s Next for E-Sports? It’s up to you …
What’s next for E-Sports is clearly going to be determined by what we do to change it. In reality, E-Sports has been brutalized by poor decisions and a disregard for the needs of both gamers and sponsors as well. Here are my suggestions:
1.) Rebuild the Community and Work Together
One thing that Mr. Munoz got right in his announcement we are a fragmented industry. Most people I’ve met who aim to run Live Events say the same thing … they want to “do something different”. Honestly, it’s kind of like the current political campaign raging within the United States: It’s easy to say we want to change and do things right, it’s an entirely other matter to actually make it happen. I contend that most corporate-types really aim to control the market and run the show for themselves. It’s all about money and power.
Until more recently, much of E-Sports has been a truly grassroots effort. While certain businessmen have disagreed with me on this point, E-Sports has to be about gamers first.
Looking to events like Quakecon where supporters literally come out of the woodwork every year to make things go on smoothly, we easily realize why this is the biggest US-based event. It’s about community, about collaboration. Id Software surely plans to lose money on this each year. The shocker for me at Quakecon 2007 was to see Id invite other game developers. Id needs to be commended for this as being one of the very few true community supporters.
Whether you’re the CGS, the MLG, or some small local or regional group … let’s find ways to cooperate and rebuild the foundation of E-Sports together!
2.) Support Live Events
While online leagues are great, I believe that their true purpose is to build the foundation for gamers to end up at Live Events (e.g. LAN Parties). A given online league can offer prizes and other reasons to compete online, but without Live Events at the end it is an empty experience.
From the gamer perspective, online events will always be problematic within the U.S. gaming market. Latency alone kills online play for many people, and with the failure of businesses like GameRail and the KillerNIC to address the problem, things likely won’t be fixed until we completely gut and rebuild our national infrastructure.
What’s most important to recognize is why Live Events are crucial to everyone: Simply put, we have the celebrity value of having the top gamers in one place, the entertainment value accompanying stiff competition, and the exhilaration of hundreds to thousands of gamers wanting to be a part of the action.
The bottom-line? While they’re expensive, sponsors who support live events get the biggest “bang for their buck” by the media frenzy that surrounds them. Online ads are too easy to ignore, but everyone wants “event swag” and gamers are more likely to want to buy your product if they can see it in-person!
3.) Play the games people want to play
This one is easy. As the CPL discovered first-hand, you have to host tournaments for the games people compete in on a daily basis. If you’re confused, check Xfire and GameSpy Stats to confirm your suspicions.
You can satisfy sponsors even if you don’t promote their brand new game as a flagship tournament. How? Simple … Make sure your participants know about your sponsors games and “sandwich” tournaments between bigger events. Larger turnout = better exposure for your sponsors.
Also of note to game developers … please pay attention to this too! We’re all going to buy your new game, but you can’t expect it to become the “next big thing” in competitive gaming. Continue support of things like Counter-Strike and don’t confuse the market and if you do want to develop a game that will replace aging platforms, please bring the gamers themselves into the picture.
4.) Don’t limit the potential of competitive gamers
For all those leagues running events, listen up! Locking competitive gamers into exclusive deals is killing the sport. If E-Sports was as evolved as Baseball or Football, then contracts would be proper. Unfortunately this early in the game, it does nothing to help a fledgling sport.
I’ll remark on this from personal experience … I recall an event of mine where Team Pandemic had to cancel because of their commitment to certain organizations. While you’d think this would make other gamers excited at the prospect of being an easier event to win, many gamers thrive on the prospect of competing with the best and the brightest. Many gamers have the attitude that by helping other gamers become great too, it evolves the sport.
While it’s one thing to have individuals commit to a series of events, it’s another to exclude them from attending other events if they don’t conflict with your own.
5.) Set Aside Personal or Corporate Greed
Greed is bad for business in this and any market. While it’s one thing to encourage profitability and to pay employees that run events, it’s yet another to think E-Sports is going to make you rich today. Maybe someday … but that time is not now. At this point in the history of E-Sports, the most important thing is for leaders in E-Sports to build a foundation for the future.
From a corporate/sponsor perspective businesses must realize that supporting a fledgling industry puts you in admiration of the community and it’s followers. From a personal/gamer perspective, recognizing that being a full-time professional gamer may not be realistic while E-Sports recovers from the setbacks of losing the CPL and WSVG. My advice, keep gaming but make sure you finish up that college degree!
So, what’s next for E-Sports?
I believe that we have two paths we can follow. One is to allow corporations and non-gamer businessmen to take advantage of the vacuum left by the CPL and WSVG. This path will lead to sterile events with little regard to the true needs of gamers.
The other path is harder, but much more rewarding. Although E-Sports has been damaged significantly by organizations such as the CPL and the WSVG, we can take back E-Sports for our own. We, both individuals and businesses, must collaborate on Live Gaming events that span all online leagues and lead to bigger and better things for everyone.
Let’s choose to take back E-Sports …