Esports Arena Shots
Though interest and investment in esports continues to skyrocket, many brands, prospective investors, and commentators on the space haven’t yet been able to make it to a live esports event. In addition to encouraging everyone to visit a live esports event (it really takes the live experience to “get it”) we’d like to highlight several venues familiar to traditional sports fans that have seen sellout esports crowds over the past year.
League of Legends Worlds (2016 Semifinals) – Madison Square Garden (Courtesy: Riot Games)
League of Legends Worlds (2016 Finals) – Staples Center (Courtesy: Riot Games)
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive ESL One New York (2016) – Barclays Center (Courtesy: ESL)
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive MLG Columbus Major (2016) – Nationwide Arena (Courtesy: Major League Gaming)
DOTA2 The International 7 (2017) – Key Arena (Courtesy: Valve)
DOTA2 The International 7 (2016) – Key Arena (Courtesy: Valve)
PUBG Receives High Number of Negative Reviews on Steam
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds received an abnormally high number of negative reviews on Steam as a result of server issues and the addition of an in-game ad on the lobby screen. The issues and comments came from China where there are no local servers and in fact, the ad was for a VPN service claiming to speed up connection time for players connecting to non-native servers.
What is more interesting than the collaborative effort of thousands of players rallying to post criticisms of the most popular game on Twitch and Steam is the attack on in-game advertising by the players. For advertisers, the holy grail of gaming and esports advertising is authentic, in-game integration. PUBG has created this solution even before coming to any formal agreement with an advertiser or brand. One of the many in-game items that gives the player’s avatar health over time is an “energy drink” featuring an icon that looks eerily similar to a certain blue, silver and red can out of Austria.
Like other pay-to-play games, players expect games with pay walls to be void of all advertising. Although the ad in question is not an authentic integration into PUBG’s gameplay, it stands to show that players are still averse to ad integration. To create positive brand reception, advertisers must understand the mentality of a gamer and have insight into the game they are marketing through to create truly authentic ad integrations that will result in positive returns for the brand.
NALCS Reverts To Best of One Format
After three splits of a best-of-three (Bo3) format, Riot’s North American League of Legends Championship Series (NALCS) is reverting to a best-of-one (BO1) format.
The League of Legends community, pro players, and org owners all reacted to the shift, but opinions varied dramatically: Immortals mid-laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park projected his disbelief at the decision, while Cloud9 owner Jack Ettienne echoed his organization’s support for the change. The League of Legends subreddit offered a mixed reaction – most consistently, it seems the fan-base is opposed to the decision based on the perception that there are more random outcomes in a Bo1 and therefore domestic competitiveness will falter.
For a variety of reasons, we believe Riot Games made the right decision on this issue. Since the transition from Bo1 to Bo3 in the Spring of 2016, LCS viewership has stagnated and the league has been more difficult to follow creating fewer compelling story lines. The Bo3 format yielded so many games that following every team’s week-over-week progression was very difficult.
While the community criticism levied against Riot is fair — fewer games will create a higher probability of ‘cheese’ upsets and therefore a league table less indicative of actual performance ability — the league has create the best possible product for viewers and a Bo1 format is more digestible, easier to follow, and concentrates community conversation.
Additionally, nearly 50% of fans indicated that they don’t dedicate the time to watch an entire Bo3 series and fans cite the fact that there are too many games as a factor to why they stopped watching, according to Riot. The hope is that with the transition back to Bo1, more fans — including casuals — will follow the league and all it’s teams more closely.
We love this decision beyond the facts and stats that Riot provided in their update. Through various conversations and informal internal surveys we have heard a common theme: the NALCS has become less exciting and harder to follow because of it’s move to a Bo3 format. Some fans we spoke to used to watch 4-6 games per broadcast day and since the change have transitioned to watching only 1 big matchup per week. These fans cite the difficulty to follow the league — and the lack of a unified league story — as the main drivers for their newfound consumption habits: it’s hard enough to follow one team’s journey week in, week out in a Bo3 format, let alone the journey of all 10 teams. In a Bo3 format, a team can play 6 games per weekend – more than what the entire league plays during a full day of Bo1’s.
One of the more interesting aspects of this decision comes from a business perspective. With the change, the NALCS has dramatically less inventory to offer broadcasters, brand partners, and advertisers. The best of 3 format was played on dual streams, across 3 days, offering a maximum of 30 games per weekend. The current system will be broadcast on a single stream and will cap out at exactly 10 games per weekend – decreasing the hours broadcast, commercial break opportunities, and sponsor plugs significantly. It’s unclear weather Riot included MLB Advanced Media, the NALCS rights holder for 2018-2022, or any corporate sponsors in this decision but for the long term health of the league and from a product perspective we feel Riot made the right move.
One last note – it’s great to see Riot adapting to changing consumption habits, and more importantly admitting they made a mistake. With our industry in it’s infancy, market leaders have to be humble when the data they have shows their previous decisions were wrong, and in this case, Riot stood up to the test.