There is no denying esports has been the buzz word of 2017. It feels like every other week a new report is issued about its potential phenomenal growth, or a new non-endemic brand buys into the sector. With this influx of investment and the constant glare of the media spotlight, publishers and developers are looking on and wondering how they can get a piece of the esports pie?
The first thing to consider as a publisher or developer is: What are the upsides of being involved with esports?
If done right this is pretty simple: You’ll extend the life of a franchise or standalone game, the content created acts as a discovery and marketing tool to help increase the user base and it can be used to drive revenues around in-game sales, DLC, live events, merchandising and even potential media rights.
Arguably the most important thing all publishers and developers need to do when attempting to engage with esports is look at the entire ecosystem and not just focus on the top end hardcore tournaments in sold-out arenas. Esports is about engaging and enfranchising the entire competitive player base, from the grassroots up. If you don't focus on the grassroots it's like attempting to build a house without laying any foundations, you are doomed to failure from the start.
Having a low barrier to entry and engaging gameplay to appeal to a large userbase is also incredibly important. Without a wide community base, engaged in competitive play, there is a limited talent pool, a smaller potential audience and therefore a lack of a solid foundation.
As early as possible in the development process, game devs need to focus on how to build this ecosystem. Things like fun game mechanics that can be kept fresh with new content, or a constantly evolving meta to keep players engaged is vital. Look at the most successful esports titles to date and learn from how they keep their community engaged in competitive play.
One other key aspect to bear in mind is building an observer client. A smart and engaging observer client which displays the action and allows commentators and game analysists to examine the action is a important piece of the puzzle.
Post launch, there needs to be a focus on content creation around the competitive play. Tools and plugins to allow the capture and streaming of battles and trick shots as well as recreating the most popular memes are vital. You should enable your players to become content creators, to utilise the game and their footage without being too protective over that content.
Engaging with influencers and creating YouTube tutorials with handy tips and tricks keeps the community and ecosystem thriving. As with any sport, a community is built around finding a level to compete, being inspired by the ability of others and the aspirational drive to improve. Esports is no different.
The aspirational ladder isn’t fuelled by top level teams and tournaments, it is born out of competition in the grass roots community and for any publisher or developer to thrive in esports, the community has to come first.
ESL UK's managing director James Dean is the keynote speaker at our forthcoming Future Games Summit Esports Workshop. Tickets for the half-day workshop are £49+VAT. Why not buy one?