By Mohammad Abubakr
Last year, I predicted the rise of eSports with tournaments having larger audiences, being located all across the world, and gaining the interest of more advertisers. Fortunately these predictions all turned out to be correct, but the prize pools saw a massive increase to match, surprising even a hardcore supporter like myself. The prize pools reflect the health of this growing industry, and greater events to come.
Now that eSports has grown and become a part of the lives of many people, both gamers and non-gamers, I think it is about time that we begin to see more professionalism in the sport. While 2013 has been great when it comes to the number of events, size of audiences, massive prize pools and the globalization of eSports, the sport doesn't act in a way for it to be taken seriously. Often times you will see the majority of team members missing at major events leading to further delays due to finding stand in players. How can eSports be expected to be taken seriously if even the professional players are not present? I understand there can be visa or health issues but this problem is seen far too often.
In 2014 I predict that the eSports world have tighter stipulations on the professionalism of its athletes in order to be taken seriously and grow beyond its current audience. Tournaments will become more standardized with strict rules in place. I don't expect, or want, stand in players to be completely banned but I think there will be certain limitations such as requiring stand in players to be preregistered.
I did not predict major increases in prize pools for 2013, glad I was wrong!
Professionalism doesn't need to be seen in just the players but also the tournaments themselves. Valve always impresses us with the quality of The International. Following this tournament, all tournaments show a great improvement by learning from Valve. Throughout this year we have seen major improvement in the production quality and professionalism of third party tournaments. I predict this trend will continue mainly due to the continued growth of eSports popularity. I also have some experience with hosting events and a lot of the time the amount of work you can do is limited by budget. By having a larger audience the tournaments should definitely see an improvement in professionalism and production quality.
An area that definitely needs improvement and I think will improve drastically as the budget for organizers increases is that of covering downtime. A lot of the time you simply watch an empty stream with just music playing for longer than an hour waiting for the next match to start. We have seen improvement in this field when it comes to some LAN events but there were plenty of events still lacking in pre-match entertainment in 2013. In 2014, organizers will be able to use their increased budged to hire entertainers during the downtime to keep the crowd interested and hyped.
Even a simple Macho Man game can help to rid downtime.
With this increased professionalism, I predict that eSports in 2014 will expand into the television market, being featured on more than just a few specialized channels know for featuring game tournaments. Maybe Valve will surprise us this year and instead of simply hiring a TV broadcaster to host interviews, they will have an entire TV crew to stream the tournament onto live TV. I predict that even a few western channels may take the risk of testing how much of an audience can be garnered from broadcasting the larger tournaments.
In conclusion, eSports will continue to grow in 2014. The size of audience, globalization of events, prize pool and interest of potential advertisers and sponsors is bound to grow throughout the year. However, more specifically I believe that this year eSports will become more professional. Only if eSports is professional will it have the chance to be treated as a real sport. It has already gained a large audience and following and now eSports simply needs to improve in quality and professionalism. I don't want it to become completely serious as the laid back style of eSports is what makes it amazing, but a little more professionalism by both the organizers and players would be appreciated and rewarded.