About the Author: Garrett Weinzierl is founder of PlayWin Multiplayer, a cross platform eSport enablement solution that allows gamers to play against their friends for fun or real money. Join today at playwin.me.
Much has been written about the eSports ecosystem, yet it is unclear what actually constitutes an eSport. Anyone can look and see the development of PC based games such as Starcraft or League of Legends and see that these games are part of the eSports ecosystem. But what at a fundamental level is it that creates an eSports community? Before we can move on to the innovation of mobile eSports we need to discuss the three core elements that are required for a game to evolve into what is commonly considered an eSport:
1) Competition: A game must have a clear way for players to gauge performance against one another. While Mario Maker is a great game, it doesn’t present a clear way for players to judge themselves against one another based on their creations. (But the possibility does exist for a speed running community to develop around the levels that are constructed.) Head to head based games remain the most common, while time and score based games have a huge opportunity for the expanding asynchronous market.
2) Multiplayer: Many people have some confusion over what constitutes multiplayer. At the most primitive level, multiplayer functionality can be as simple as a leaderboard. This dates back to the earliest iteration of competitive gaming, the arcade. Arming yourself with a handful of tokens and deciding that your initials will occupy the top spot. However, with modern technology we have developed an entire niche of eSports that are centered around this concept. Speedrunning allows gamers to play against each other for the fastest time within a simple set of criteria. However, traditional multiplayers games where you choose your teammates and/or opponents will always remain a stalwart due to the unique social aspect that only knowing your competition can provide.
3) Ecosystem: The final piece required for an eSport community is the most difficult. The gap between games that meet the first two criteria and what we commonly consider eSports is where this third requirement lies. Large companies like Blizzard and Valve enlist the support of a variety of federations to promote their professional scenes and brand their games as eSports. However, this presents an inherent barrier to the average user trying to form a competitive scene around their game of choice. This is where the innovations on mobile platforms are poised to make the biggest difference in the expansion of eSports.
Mobile platforms have several built in advantages in how they will grasp the mantle as the preferred eSports platform of the future. Mobile devices are quickly becoming the most ubiquitous and heavily used devices to game on. While they will not displace the PC as the preferred eSports platform for longer session games such as DOTA2, a new era of shorter games optimized for the mobile experience will begin to emerge. This has already started with early innovators such as Vainglory and Critical Force optimizing the MOBA and FPS genres for mobile. The upcoming collectible card game, Clash Royale, looks to further improve a genre that is well suited for the mobile experience into shorter, faster paced games. Yet the biggest innovation on mobile will be the advent of democratization platforms such as PlayWin, Skillz and Grumblr that allow users to play real money challenges against one another. This removes the ability of large corporations to control how their games are branded as eSports and gives the choice to the game community.
In the future, gamers will be able to initiate their challenges without the oversight and bureaucracy of third party enablers. This is the critical element of expanding what are commonly considered casual games into bona fide eSports. A simple puzzle game such as 2048 could be enabled with a competitive multiplayer platform allowing gamers to play directly against one another or in a larger tournament based format. With the shorter game sessions and the ability of people to initiate the challenges without outside interference, we will quickly see an entire new world of what people consider eSports to emerge and take center stage.