The Role Of Design and Distribution in eSports

esportsWith the advances in technology and the rising popularity of eSports, a lot of focus is now being put into the holistic development of eSports games.

Both designers and developers of eSports games are now catering to and incorporating the needs of all the major and diverse stakeholders in the eSports industry, including the players themselves and the spectators who watch the game through different distribution channels.

eSports: The Importance Of Gaming Design

With the growth of the eSports industry, eSports design companies are now placing a huge emphasis on designing games that cater to an international audience. The designers are now incorporating tones, themes and genres to appeal to diverse clients from all over the world. For example, in case of SMITE, the game is incorporating Greek, Mayan and Chinese Mythology as its tone. eSports companies now have the ability to offer these games to a global audience via technologies such as cloud computing and gain a global market share. Hence designers are always looking for ways design new eSports games that have a global mass appeal so that they become popular quickly and bring in significant revenue for their employers.

Some of the biggest and most popular gaming companies are now focusing on designing and providing content that the user/player is demanding. This is done by reading and analysing data and metrics and making changes to the content according to the results of the analysis. Dedicated internal teams and cells within the company monitor and parse the server data before going on to incorporate this information into their eSports games. Rather than coming out with planned sequels, companies are now delivering smaller updates.

eSports Designers: Real Time Feedback & CrowdFunding

Twitch is an online video streaming platform that is focused primarily on video games including streaming of eSports tournaments and shows related to the game. The homepage displays content based on the current viewership. It is now boasting a membership of 120 million viewers in a month. The growing popularity of Twitch in the eSports community has made it important for developers to focus on how these games appear to viewers and incorporate a more enjoyable design for their viewers.

The eSports industry is currently moving towards the crowdfunding model, where small design studios are seeking financial security before committing to a new project. These design studios are streaming development online. They are also releasing previews and beta sites for fans to buy the games and give feedback on the design of the games. The feedback is then incorporated in the game before the official release.

Leveraging Real Time Feedback

One big advantage of this strategy is that the users themselves become the biggest proponents of the games. For example a company called Vlambeer streams its development online. It has 12,000 registered users who are watching the stream. These users have also paid a subscription fee. The revenue generated from this business model is significant and the interaction and the feedback with the audience are invaluable.

Another eSports design company called Matcherino is also using crowdfunding and innovative technology to provide a platform where spectators crowdfund the match they want to see and players competing can decide on whether they want to play that particular game. The demand for such platforms is tremendous with fans having raised pool prizes of $1000. Some fans spend hundreds of dollars to match opponents.

eSports Design Studios: Office Space Rentals

There are a number of smaller design studios who ventured into the eSports industry and ran into financial constraints. As a means of cost cutting, these studios are now renting office space in offices of established eSports developers and sponsors. There are also dedicated offices which offer cheap and affordable space for these developers to setup offices in, allowing them to keep their overhead to a minimum. This is a common occurrence in places like London where design studios like Bristol Games Hub, Arch Creatives and Playhubs have been established. Apart from providing a subsidised office space, the developers from different studios can interact with each other and share designs and ideas.

Virtual reality and Augmented Reality is the next big thing in the world of gaming. Big developers like Google and Microsoft have come out with their own Virtual Reality headsets and are also backing companies who make these headsets.

eSports: Innovative Distribution Strategies

Free 2 Play: Free 2 Play is a popular model which attracts new customers by allowing them to play for free without any commitment. People do not have to pay anything to access these eSports games and play. They pay to customize the game according to their needs and purchase items through transactions that are made while playing the game itself. For example the basic version of League of Legends (LoL) is offered free and the enhancements and rewards offered can be bought for less than $10 each.

For a popular game like League of Legends these small transactions translate to huge earnings because the number of players playing LoL is in the millions. With so many video games offered in the market, Free 2 Play gives a level competing field to game developers, both big and small. The best content sells through this model.

The Free 2 Play business model is gaining acceptance across all platforms including mobile, computers and video game consoles like Playstation and XBox. The pricing flexibility also benefits the customers who can then make purchases depending on their individual level of involvement.

eSports: Games as a Service

eSports and digitalization go hand in hand. eSports that are accessed digitally have multiple benefits when compared to traditional games that are bought in a retail outlet and were played mostly by single users. Digitally delivered games allow multi-users to play and tend to be more popular these days. Teams which are made of multiple players can also be easily formed and these teams can then go on to compete against multiple teams.

Traditional games relied on big releases which denoted the end of the product life cycle. In eSports technology, updates are small and are delivered instantly. Users can pause the game according to their wish and then return back to the game and play once again from where they left off.

Moving away from free streaming: Video streaming portals such as YouTube and Twitch are now making a lot of money through their streaming services which are offered free of cost to users. Game companies are devising ways to monetise this streaming service for themselves. Revenue sharing programs with users are now being introduced. For example, Major League Gaming has added subscriptions to its sport streams.

Move to control Intellectual Property: Video Game publishers are now focusing on managing their own tournaments, taking control away from independent organizers like gaming leagues. Riot Games, the developers of popular eSports games such as the League of Legends, Activision-Blizzard, the developers of World of Warcrafts and Call of Duty and Valve, the developer of the highly popular Dota 2 are three such companies who have taken on the responsibility of organizing and promoting their own eSports tournaments as it is far more profitable than outsourcing it to a eSports organizer.

Television Channels: While television is still the biggest global distribution, it has taken awhile for eSports to gain sufficient popularity to be picked up by television channels. These days eSports have a strong global following and popular television channels such as ESPN and the BBC have started broadcasting tournaments albeit in their secondary channels. Pay per View events, which are very popular in traditional sports is another yet, another distribution strategy that might work especially for the top eSports tournaments.