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Referendum

in glhf

Now if you grade on a scale, “A Different Kind Of Truth” entered the chart at number two, beaten only by Adele. So, if you’re someone who enjoys rankings, you can take pleasure in this.

But the sales number is piss-poor.

In other words, the old paradigm is dead.

You know, the one that began in the SoundScan era, twenty years ago. Where your project was front-loaded, where you amped up the publicity to get a good first week number, to get retailers to stock the CD. And if you got a high number, you were on your way, if not, and you were an established act, you were dead.

But now recording income is no longer the primary revenue stream. It’s just a piece of the pie. Albums are advertisements for the tour. And based on reaction to “A Different Kind Of Truth”, Van Halen will be able to tour for years to come.

In other words, if you weren’t going to go to the show, if you’re not a Van Halen fan, you can completely ignore “A Different Kind Of Truth”. But amongst those who care, who’ll lay down a hundred bucks for a ticket, word is spreading, Van Halen is back.

In other words, if you’re playing to everybody, you’re wasting your time. Don’t worry about either pleasing or offending everybody, just think about satiating your core.

I’d link you to the full post, but it’s not yet up on Lefsetz’ blog. (Update; here’s the source.)

The leading goal amongst thought circles around esports for a long time has been growth at all costs, mostly of the short-term variety. How can we make this bigger now? How can we make things ‘noob friendly?’ How can we initiate the uninitiated en masse?

Pandering to people that don’t give a shit is counterproductive. You’ll gain very few new people that way, and risk alienating the folks that are already on board – your fans, your core. This part of the fighting game community’s resistance to being absorbed into esports at large makes a good deal of sense to me. They have a model that works for them and is growing at a steady pace. Why change things for a wildly variable potential larger audience?

The number of things competing for the attention of each and every one of us is staggering. For those of us around the esports scene, it’s more or less a given part of our entertainment diets; for those outside, it’s far far far down the list, if it even registers there at all. Today, everyone’s a niche unto themselves and their network of friends.

‘The mainstream is dead’ may be a bit hyperbolic, but its existence under its traditional definition matters less and less. You can blow millions of dollars advertising esports to a ‘mainstream’ audience through traditional channels and not move the needle at all, while an accidental marketing push that blossoms organically on social networks can bring you piles of new faithful.

Blow the minds of people that are already in your camp and they’ll grow your fan base for you. Contort yourself for some imaginary everyman and get nowhere.

Esports has a mentality about growth that mirrors that of rock bands at the start of the MTV era: make changes here and there and everywhere to make it more ‘marketable’ to a ‘mainstream audience,’ create a generic spectacle that’s tailor made to hit the most people possible just enough to grab their attention, get a video onto MTV’s regular rotation, sell piles of albums, get rich fast.

That path doesn’t exist for this community. It’s long, and slow, and out of your control. And that reality is now staring MLG right in the face.

I got around to listening to the entirety of Sundance’s most recent live interview the following day. Look, the PPV thing isn’t a money grab. It’s a simultaneous attempt to both find a model that actually has the potential to profit, and to build a product that nails the sweet spot of their existing fans directly.

If you’re attacking these PPV arenas on the basis that it can’t help grow the audience because there’s no free stream for not-yet-fans to watch, you’re missing the entire fucking point.

If you listen carefully, not just to what’s said but what’s left implied, I think the picture’s quite clear. Last year’s growth was great, the fundamentals work out in the long run; right now they’re shit out of cash, more or less. It’s literally something they have to try, NOW.

This is the pinch MLG is in: they spent big from the start and expected their large up-front investments to pay off larger, faster than their competitors. This allowed them to weather the great CGS consolidation and subsequent implosion in 2007 and 2008, and the global economic freefall a year later. Lesser leagues with shittier managements and less capital couldn’t hold up in those conditions.

But the effects of keeping things open and chugging during that period is coming home to roost now. MLG’s audience is not large enough where advertising revenues pay the bills, and they’re $50 million in. We’ve got to pitch in directly if MLG’s model is to continue operating. That’s the bottom line.

I tossed my shekels in for the weekend more or less for the purposes of criticism; if I’m to gauge whether the product is worth the price, I need to watch it a bit. But the question to the esports audience this year is a critical one for MLG. This PPV jaunt is in effect a referendum on their model.

The large convention center events, the lights, the stages, projectors, truckloads of HD equipment being trucked around the country; this model that was larger and more ambitious than any of the others before it – this was all towards the purpose of building an audience larger and more mainstream than what we have at this point. Are we willing to pick up the slack and keep it chugging, or are we better off going in a different direction?