We talked about this a little bit in the last F2P Cast, but everyone wants to be an e-sport now. Firefall, PlanetSide 2, every flippin’ MOBA… they all want to be the next League of Legends and draw millions of players to their virtual arenas.

Hey, haven’t we seen this before?

Remember when every game wanted to be World of Warcraft, or, more specifically, the “WoW Killer”? If WoW could draw 10+ million players, all we need to do is make our game just like it (with minor, but surely totally awesome, tweaks), and it’ll be fantastic! The money will roll in!

How did that work for ya?

We’re just now starting to pull out of that non-creative nosedive with general MMO design, but I think we’re seeing something similar these days, with so many games clamoring for that e-sports presence that only a scant few have actually managed to be successful with. On the bright side, unlike with “WoW clones,” e-sport-friendly games are generally decent enough games to start with, and their entire financial success (probably) doesn’t hinge on them drawing millions of viewers for their World Championships.

Still, as much as we’ve been through with other games, it’s hardly wrong for us to roll our eyes and meet any such announcements of an “e-sport focus” with some skepticism. Sony Online Entertainment has been pushing for it with PlanetSide 2 for some time, with their agreement with MLG and their recent announcement of Battle Islands, which they insist are not just e-sports fodder.

Firefall’s another example of a game that, like PS2, is much more than just a team-based PvP shooter, a notion that Red 5 studios has been adamant about promoting, but now they’re hosting tournaments and, based on what they showed off at last year’s PAX Prime, they’ve got a lot of hope for the game’s e-sport marketability. Again, what’s the focus? Is it this rather cool and unique-looking PvE shooter, with innovative crafting and the feeling of fighting back the relentless hordes, or is it fairly typical, seen-it-a-million-times PvP arenas?

Really, companies are free to pursue whatever path they want with their games, and if they want to promote e-sports, good for them. Maybe they’re just trying to draw the hardcore tournament/e-sport crowd the same way another MMO tries to draw hardcore raiders or crafters or role-players as a subset of their larger player base. It’s just another way to play.

And someday, someone might actually manage to “break through” the way League of Legends and StarCraft (the latter mostly in South Korea) have done. But every game does have a limited budget and scope, and I hope they aren’t blown away in the attempt to chase an unrealistic dream.

For a great treatise on why e-sports might or might not ever be huge in America, check out this video from the PBS Idea Channel on YouTube.

By Jason Winter

Michael Dunaway has been part of the MMOBomb team for years and has covered practically every major Free-to-Play title since 2009. In addition to contributing First Look videos and news articles, Michael also serves as the Community Manager for the upcoming MMORPG, Skyforge.


  1. Same as korea,many games tried to make their own e-sports league, until they realized starcraft will crush anyone who tried too. Best bet istoo just make just one entity to manage all of the e-sports.

  2. this is just silly and a stupid post to an extent. Yer there are alot of MOBA games coming out but really, only dota will be a true e-sports worthy game. LoL is pay to win (having to buy champions among other things) to an extent. HoN, well thats just HoN enough said. Dota how ever will be the king of MOBA games in the esports scene. The skill cap for LoL isn’t high enough nor is it indepth enough. How ever I still think LoL will top out with most players at the end but it won’t really have an esports side of it.

    • it already has though and is spreading through all the regions in teh same way as starcraft did and how those buying champions with in game currency a pay2win? Doesn’t dota has some items to increase visibility for your hero??

      Both games have waht it takes to be an esport(technically one is already, just have to wait for dota2 now).

      • Dota 2’s cash shop is purely cosmetic and other things that do not affect the gameplay at all…. Also, Dota 2 is already an e-sports title.

  3. What people do not understand is that this is just a marketing ploy, like going F2P. It is just to slap this status on to support the few that pay and are super addicted. Look at League of LEgends. Considred one of the cartooniest child like games, has huge problems, but instead of investing in fixing them, they just hold real life events. This generates more buzz than actual balance, and game play issues. It is bottom line cash. You see turds play on a big screen and you aspire to one day do the same. Problem is, you never will. You will pay till you die and never get to that point. If the numbers are true, 3 million subsribers…Divided by 2 teams of 5 people (10 total), you have .00001 chance of E-sporting. OTherwise you are just buying hugging the back end of the human centipede as every is given the command to poop. Enjoy E-sporting. Nothing but a joke.

  4. Not all of those publishers ‘want’ their game to be an e-sport, it just happens because the game is popular and it has the groundwork laid to become one. Speaking of “MOBAs”, apart from Dota 2 (which became an e-sport pretty much from the get go due to the original also being an e-sport as well as debuting with a tournament), barely any of them are trying to reach that e-sport glory, and are more intent on trying to cash in on that genre’s popularity, at least for the upcoming ones and or ones that have been released this year.

  5. I don’t see this go well.
    Think for a moment, if every games that is released is going to be “e-sport focused”, there isn’t much of a market for them.If we became saturated with e-sports tittles, it would be nuts.Also, i don’t think that there is a huge “hardcore tournaments pro’s” gamers out there, most people just play for fun, not for cash.So, it could be that in the future we would have LOADS of pro gamers – even more than casuals because of the shift of direction.I don’t think this is a good idea for business if you think about it.

    • I think it all depends on the game. It is fairly obvious that League of Legends has grown leaps and bounds after they started the whole esports thing. And the point Razer said is very true for any game that has esports in it, the developer will have to focus on balancing big time compared to many other f2p game companies. But will it work for all games? No, I don’t think it will work for most. But there arn’t really any free to play shooters (other then quake live I guess) that are big on the esports scene. Perhaps firefall could fill that void. Who knows. As far as planetside 2 goes…. I really doubt that will become a serious esports game unless they make some smaller 5v5 maps.

      • And before anyone corrects me. When I say the part about them starting the whole esports thing, I mean about them jumping into esports. I know it has been around before that.

  6. Many companies will try and few will succeed at even gathering competitive following. Getting the more serious part of the competitive community to accept a game is a test of the publisher’s ability to balance the game while still maintaining a profitable business model at the same time. Something that F2P games are rarely known for.

    Even if you’re like me and don’t give two flying sh_ts (would you like to buy a vowel?) about e-sports, this new trend could be beneficial to F2P games as a whole. It will force publishers to be much more serious about making fair and balanced games because pay2win is not compatible with e-sports.

  7. This is completely inaccurate and just a troll post. The E-Sport is not the GAME but the GENRE. In the world of FPS games cod is dominant because there is not many good FPS games out atm, and really none w/ competitive edge. That leaves SC2, Dota, and LoL to make huge bank rolls from the size of the E-Sport community.

    • There is another fps that has the edge of cod. Counter-Strike. It has had a larger competitive scene before CoD even became very popular as a franchise. There are more professional teams for it and it has 6 major tournaments each year.

    • I see the Battlefield series as a much better competition than COD. I mean 64 players working together ‘properly’ and coordinated to win the game. That’s much intense than COD run and gun only tactics… Or camping. Ahahahaha.

      • You’re right, but Battlefield is just not a competitive fps. Does it require teamwork? Yes, tactics? Yes. But it’s just too slow of a shooter. Imagine ARMA being in e-sports. It just wouldn’t work.

        • Because first person shooters that makes it look like real soldiers in real wars are snails are a good choice to represent that theme.
          Not like it really matters, in the end FPS are far away from how a war works.

          • I’m just pointing out that not every fps out there can work as an Esport event, the best example being Arma. Planetside 2 is just not an exception, and Firefall was only PvP concentrated, it may have been ok for Esports.

    • excuse me, but this COD shit you’re talking about is full of crap. there are so many better fps games out there in the market

  8. While I agree on the “e-sport focus” being too maintstream – however MOBAs need that kind of mindset in the development stage as well as they are extremly sensitive on balance issues.

    As for games striding off a bit and offering both PVE and PVP functions while they still market themselves as PVP and e-sport focused games – It’s not that much of a bad thing and for example it was prefectly fine for Dragon Nest.

    They held several torunaments in Korea and China which were pretty popular despite DN having it’s own balance issues when it comes to their gameplay.


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