essays and pithy thoughts


in mailbag

A little-publicized feature of this here blog, aside from putting it in the sidebar of the main page, is that I do encourage readers to drop me a note if there’s something you want to see discussed here. Send your thoughts along to or hit me on twitter, @keekerdc.

I don’t particularly mind it, but I also haven’t been paying a heck of a lot of attention, either.

If you’re asking on principle, I think a reasonable case can be made that no individual game will be able to establish a significant esports following without some sort of direct developer involvement. That’s just the lay of the land at this point; Valve, Blizzard, Activision, and Riot have all obviously made involvement in esports a notable part of the overall strategy for key IP. To expect to launch a new title and have it spontaneously grow an esports following in a completely organic, laissez-faire manner isn’t realistic any longer. Cash is needed at the outset to kickstart a scene if you’d not like to be playing fifth fiddle.

Two cases in point on opposite ends of the spectrum: Shootmania and TF2. One is a cream puff of a game with a developer that just wants it to be an esport, and will throw good money after bad to achieve it. The other is a rather robust title that’s still getting updates six or seven years on, with a competitive scene just as old and a format that hasn’t really changed since the outset, and has an esports scene that’s really just been dusting crops the whole time.

So, to that end, until a completely open-source game is released that doesn’t have a weird look or wonky feel, and can captivate hearts and minds like leading commercial titles do, I think what we’re witnessing in terms of direct publisher involvement is the new normal. Titles that don’t have it won’t make it.

Really, the largest concern is exploitation of the competitive tier through false promises of timely prize payouts or other financial support. The danger of that coming from a publisher towards their own player base seems pretty remote.

I also think that direct publisher involvement is a strong incentive for players to fully invest in a game, as it seems less likely that a publisher would abandon support for a house-run professional tournament series as it is that an independent tournament circuit would abruptly switch games and leave a scene in the lurch.

On the whole I find it to be a pretty positive development.