Earlier this year, my colleague Jasmin and I ran a learning lunch to help boost my colleagues’ knowledge of eSports. It was a great session; I got to talk about something I’m really passionate about and help others to understand it too. We covered everything from popular eSports, competitions to take note of, and some interesting facts and statistics.
The office has been lively with eSports talk ever since, and my colleagues are often asking me questions like: “What is a dive composition?”, “Do teams have sponsors?”, and “Why do people stream on Twitch?”. So, I feel like it was a great success!
In case you don’t know, eSports are video games that are played competitively for spectators; there is glory and honour to be won, although players usually have the prize in mind ($$$). This ranges from the amateur level in your local eSports bar (for example, Eden Esports Bar right here in Leeds), right up to the professional level in arenas across the world, but most notably the USA and South Korea. How is this different from your typical ranked game of Overwatch, DOTA 2 or Hearthstone?
The key word is ‘spectator’. If something is watched for fun by people who don’t actually play the game, this makes it a spectator sport. Think about football as an analogy - millions of people watch the sport, but how many actually play? A mere fraction of these millions of people, I imagine.
While there are multiple eSports attempting to take themselves more into the mainstream in the UK and USA in 2018, I’m going to talk about three events that are big news in the worlds of Overwatch, DOTA 2, and CS:GO.
This is by far my favourite eSport! Overwatch has been a popular eSport in South Korea ever since release (I’d recommend looking up the participation of teams in the ‘Apex’ seasons of competitions, in particular), although Overwatch itself is quite a young game (just two years old at the time of writing), so there’s a ton of potential in its very bright future.
So, what’s different about Overwatch League? First of all, accessibility: the ability to be able to access it for free on Twitch and to be able to watch it in English. I enjoyed Apex immensely, but – in my opinion – it’s hard to watch when everything is in Korean, despite the incredible talent of the casters (the eSports equivalent of a commentator)!
Secondly, Overwatch League is specifically organised by Blizzard themselves and it’s hosted in Burbank, California. As you can imagine, they put a lot of effort into creating themselves a stunning arena with a great atmosphere. They’ve also managed to poach some of the best casters who travelled to Korea for Apex. For instance, it’s definitely worth checking out my favourite duo, Montecristo and Doa.
Not only this, but three predominantly Korean teams have relocated to the USA just so they can participate - this has led to Apex teams disbanding/merging, and when it comes to the next Apex tournament, it’ll be really interesting to see what teams are left or return!
If you want to check out some Overwatch League, I thoroughly recommend checking out their Twitch channel and watching a video of a full match. They do a great job of describing what’s going on and the games featuring London Spitfire, LA Valiant, Houston Outlaws, and Philadelphia Fusion are incredible to watch - https://www.twitch.tv/overwatchleague/videos/all
DOTA 2 ESL One - Birmingham
Valve’s DOTA 2 is possibly the biggest eSport out there. In fact, the DOTA International in 2017 featured a prize pool of over $24million! ESL have hosted DOTA events all over the world, particularly in the USA and Korea, and will be hosting their first major tournament in the UK this year.
This is huge news for the UK as for so long we have been overlooked in the world of eSports, or perhaps we’re slower on the uptake? Either way, the UK has a real opportunity to breed its eSports talent and teams whilst hosting some of the biggest and most successful teams in the world; the sheer accessibility of this tournament is game-changing for the UK.
12 teams will compete in the final between 25-27 May with a prize pool of around $1million. You can buy tickets to go and watch; the atmosphere will be electric! Check out the official site here - http://www.esl-one.com/dota2/birmingham-2018/
CS:GO - London Major
Lastly, we come to CS:GO, short for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. CS:GO is the third iteration of the incredibly popular Counter-Strike franchise (another product of Valve, actually - they’re doing very well, aren’t they?) and is also a first-person shooter.
Counter-Strike was a side product of the incredibly popular game Half-Life back in 2000. Since then, it’s grown to be arguably the highest regarded and most successful of all competitive shooter games.
The CS:GO Major is somewhat similar to the ESL DOTA tournament, in that Valve put in some prize money, which is topped up by other contributors. This year’s competition is coming to the UK for the first time, and is being held in Wembley, London, between 20th-23rd September. The prize pool is a humongous $1million! This has increased from $250k back in 2016.
This is another huge opportunity for the UK to wow the eSports scene, and in fact when you consider the fact that two out of the three biggest events this year have arrived in the UK it’s really exciting to think what we could end up hosting next! Perhaps the European stage of the Overwatch World Cup?