It’s safe to say that eSports are a global phenomenon at this stage. Despite disbelief from many who question its long-term appeal, eSports have proven to be competitive not just on its own but even when compared to ordinary sports and other major TV and streaming events. And it’s not done growing yet. eSports has grown so fast in fact that a lot of people probably never stopped to really wonder, out of pure curiosity, what makes it good.
There are a lot of factors of course, from the cool aesthetic of a dark arena with a focus on gaming screens to the basic desire so many people have to wager on events they can’t control. For something to be this kind of cultural phenomenon, there has to be a lot at play. But where the games are concerned, we can better narrow down the factors that make for popular and successful eSports. And these, it’s become quite clear, are some of the types and genres of games that work best, and which we’ll, therefore, continue to see more of in the future.
It almost goes without saying that MOBA games do extraordinarily well as eSports. League Of Legends, in particular, has come to define this genre and has been among the most consistently popular eSports options out there. Just last December reports indicated that more than 80 million people watched the semifinals of the world championships. Those are incredible viewership numbers that certainly rival those of other major forms of entertainment, and indicate the enduring popularity of MOBA games for this emerging juggernaut of an activity.
There are two major games that put shooters squarely on the map as arguably the best of the best eSports games: Overwatch and Counter-Strike. Overwatch is arguably the trendiest eSports game of the last year or so, and seems to generate new headlines every day. But CS:GO is by some measures the most successful eSports game of all time – particularly when you consider the aforementioned betting angle. Numbers from this angle indicate that in particular CS:GO has a massive semi-pro scene bigger than League Of Legends and Dota2 combined in fact.
Fighting games are perhaps the most natural fit of all. They’re direct, competitive games that are easy for people to watch and relate to and in which winners and losers are clear as day. Accordingly, titles like Street Fighter and Super Smash Bros. in the fighter/brawler category have made it fairly big in eSports. This is actually a particularly interesting category because while it’s clearly one of the best for eSports it’s also an area in which we could see some growth. For example, old franchises like Tekken and SoulCalibur aren’t quite as big as some might guess, and could make a bigger impact in the future.
Back in 2016, there were some legitimate concerns about sports games for eSports. The numbers showed that their appeal was largely a letdown, particularly when compared to even some relatively obscure alternatives. In the time since however, the performance of this genre has improved, particularly through Madden and FIFA. Throw in the fact that leagues like the NBA are getting directly involved in pushing eSports leagues and it seems like only a matter of time before sports games blow up in eSports.
Anthony is the Owner for Culture of Gaming and he spends his days studying, gaming and working on the site.
Anthony has worked for the past 7 years in the Video Game journalism industry and has worked for over 30 different sites in that time.