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Can eSports harm the gaming industry?
During the age of the mythical Trojan War, perhaps one of the greatest heroes to emerge from ancient Greece was Achilles. He was a legendary warrior fabled to be invulnerable everywhere on his body except in a rather unlikely spot, his heel.
Similarly, while eSports only represent a segment of the overall gaming industry today, the rapidly growing phenomena could actually become the Achilles heel to the future of gaming.
Now that many game studios are jumping ship on other projects to create the next megahit eSports title like Fortnite or League of Legends to seize their pot of gold, a question on the mind of many gamers is what will happen to the rest of the industry?
In this article, we examine the different ways eSports could stagnate the broader gaming industry.
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Here are the reasons why eSports are bad for the future of gaming:
- eSports investments could cripple advancements in virtual reality gaming
- Oversaturation of Battle Royale and MOBA style games
- A catalyst behind the rise of the microtransaction economy
- Increase in rushed and poorly designed games
1. eSports investments could cripple advances in virtual reality gaming
Since the earliest known video game competition taking place on the Standford University campus in 1972, the vast majority of gamers have spent their lives playing the same way using a controller, TV, and a console.
While PC-based gaming provides another option, the long-awaited arrival of mainstream VR has been the Christmas gift to gamers that Santa kept forgetting for the last 40 years.
New iterations of virtual reality have slowly but steadily been released to the public and experienced moderate commercial success.
However, the promise to deliver a legitimate VR experience with a diverse game lineup now feels closer than ever with the release of platforms such as the Oculus Quest 2, Valve Index VR Kit, HTC Vive Pro 2, Sony Playstation VR, and exciting news about upcoming releases.
Although VR is still trying to deliver on the promise of full submersion gaming that was introduced decades ago, the fact is, the technology has long and expensive development cycles. Also, many consumers are still on the fence about investing heavily in such niche technology.
A study by Qutee in 2018 had found that only 5% of gamers intend to purchase a VR headset within the next year and that the technology needs more high-quality applications and a reduction in the cost of headsets.
While for many years, virtual reality has seemed to tote the line between relevance and obscurity, eSports could now pose a real and direct threat to its long-term development.
If eSports siphons away game studio investment and talented developers from the virtual gaming sector, it’s highly likely that hardware costs will trend upwards and reduce the number of quality apps available to the public.
The rise of eSports is fundamentally shifting the gaming industry away from the core principles of innovation of the past and into a profit model that only seems to include a focus on updating maps, bug fixes, and microtransactions.
The more profitable online-based competitive genre of gaming could make a compelling case for studios to abandon the unknown with VR development altogether, and follow the easy money.
2. Oversaturation of Battle Royale and MOBA style games
The growing appetite for Battle Royal format games such as Fortnite, PUBG, and Apex Legends is pushing game developers to create more content to keep up with the insatiable demand.
While this on the surface may not appear to be an issue, a potential downside to these development practices is that the industry becomes oversaturated with only a handful of game formats, including Battle Royale, MOBA, and similar genres.
A consequence is that for millions of gamers who may not necessarily enjoy these types of game formats, they could be left with fewer high-quality options to choose from and ultimately send them to other industries to fill their entertainment gap.
The flight of lifelong gamers to other industries could spell disaster for the gaming sector if eSports ultimately, one day, loses its appeal. The study by Qutee in 2018 also showed that only 31% of players feel gaming is becoming more innovative, which is potentially a problem for the broader industry, indicating this could be a sign that gamers are starting to get fatigued with current offerings.
3. A catalyst behind the rise of the microtransaction economy
The highly competitive aspect of eSports combined with the social capital of streaming sites like Twitch produced fertile grounds for the demand of microtransactions. Microtransactions are exactly how they sound and are small in-game purchases that allow a player to upgrade elements of their gameplay like skins, power-ups, mounts, and other character enhancement options.
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The growth of the microtransaction economy has created many mixed emotions inside the gaming community. However, one certainty is that this pay-to-play model is now deeply entrenched in eSports. While on the surface, microtransactions may appear harmless, however, there is a real concern among some that the model isn’t sustainable and creates a performance glass ceiling for many gamers.
Microtransaction currencies like Fortnite’s V-Bucks are just one example of how in-game experience can be impacted without the use of the digital currency. As more eSports games continue to double down on the microtransaction economy, many disenfranchised players may also exit the industry altogether.
4. Increase in rushed and poorly designed games
You may have noticed a new trend in customer service over the last five years, which is an increase in customer satisfaction surveys, phone calls, and the texts you receive from a plethora of companies, and not just those in the gaming industry. Many industries now realize the importance of delivering a quality experience when users interact with their brand, knowing that with the power and viral nature of social media, a single unfortunate incident can create a negative public perception for the company as a whole.
The same concept can be true of video games, and when game developers are pushed to the brink by studios to create quickly, the result can often be a lower-quality product that is riddled with bugs that gamers will not enjoy. Players are observant and quick to share their opinions on social media about a disappointing release.
As more game studios adopt an eSports-based model, it’s likely development cycles will shorten, and the demand to quickly reach profitability will rise significantly. The end result will likely be a surplus of half-hearted game releases that could have otherwise been legendary titles.
The economic model of the eSports industry could bleed into other sectors of gaming as well, potentially negatively influencing how games are developed and released to the public.
Do you think that eSports is bad for the gaming industry?
Now that you have seen our reasons why eSports is bad for the gaming industry, what do you think? Have you seen enough evidence here to convince you, or do you believe there is another side to this story? Right, wrong, or indifferent, make sure to let us know down in the comment section and remember to share on social media!