The Esports Lifecycle: Crossing the Chasm
Technology adoption, as argued by Geoffrey Moore in his 1991 book Crossing the Chasm, is split into 5 segments — innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. Between early adopters and the early majority there’s a “chasm”, a gap in adoption between “visionaries” and “pragmatists” that companies must cross in order to become mainstream. This model applies towards esports adoption, acceptance, and awareness as well.
Age of Empires 2: Microsoft's New Venture Into Esports
Announced back in May the Microsoft sponsored Age of Empires esports league “Escape Champions League” or “ECL” kicked off this past weekend with two rounds of competitive play. Its eight teams of Age of Empires pros start in Eastern Europe and have plans to travel across the globe. Each continent will have specific maps, different game modes, and new hosts changing up the otherwise repetitive formula. Being boosted by its host and co-sponsor, Age of Empires veteran ZeroEmpires, the championship has already gained some traction and could lead up to be an official addition to the regular RTS esports regime.
While it is odd to see a game released in 1999 make its official esports debut in 2018, it is nothing short of amazing to see a community so devoted to a game finally get the recognition they desire. This was the same community that not too long ago was holding tournaments in each others apartments, so it’s truly a sight to see this small game become so much larger than it used to be. My hope is that this story of a small community going into the big leagues will inspires others to do the same, and subsequently broaden the esports environment.
It’s also become quite clear that Microsoft is attempting to reach into the world of esports with some of their recent ventures. Things like their Halo Championship Series, their Microsoft store tournaments, and now their sponsorship of ECL are all great additions to this community and I feel is only the beginning for Microsoft.
Though with this new entry questions do begin to crop up on whether games like Age of Empires and other titles based around randomization or procedural generation are viable in the long run. This is where balance becomes a key component. The whole point of competitive play is for it to be fair from the start, even ground for both players, and the players are the ones who begin to turn the tides. While watching someone win an uphill battle is far more exciting, having actually money on the line, there is no question that balance will need to take priority. I think experimination like this new league, and with entirely different genres (looking at you battle-royale), will tell us what audiences and players prefer the most.
The only problem now standing in the way of this new league is viewership. For much of the RTS genre it’s just tough to pull new people in. Starcraft 2, one of the esports’ largest real-time strategy games, has seen a large dip in viewership in the last few years. Almost crumbling as one of the main pillars of esports. With Age of Empire 2’s average viewership on streaming program Twitch being only about a thousand, the game will have much ground to cover.
We are happy to see this league kick off and are excited to see how this may ripple into more smaller or older titles entering competitive esports. It’s also intriguing to see big publishers make shifts and changes to new and old games in order to fit under the esports banner. I’m curious how we will begin to adapt these titles into more viable options and where that may lead in bringing more games in. The hope is that the more titles that enter the more people will come to watch, take part in, and enjoy all that esports has to offer.