Beancounters at SuperData have published their analysis of the esports sector, claiming that publishers, most notably Valve, should take on more proactive roles in setting up and maintaining secondary competitive leagues for their games.
Esports are already a multi-billion dollar business and it pays to think in advance, no pun intended. Much more than just stacking up tournaments and leagues though, development leagues act as training grounds, talent pools, communities and ultimately represent the key ingredient for ensuring longevity of the esports scene.
Blizzard has Overwatch Contenders and League of Legends has a similar program in The North American League Championship Series. LCS actually has an Academy team for each professional team in the league, so it's a bustling scene in its own right.
Naturally, proper competition requires competitors, duh, and it doesn't get easier than cherry picking from among bench warmers. Blizzard's Overwatch Contenders is no bench warming affair though, as $3.2 million in prize pool cash can prove.
Blizzard's Hearthstone has the Challengers Program, again a similar concept that works for both parties. Ironically, I've been a fierce advocate for freedom ever since I can remember, which means staying away from fascism, iOS and Battle.net, but there's no doubt that Blizzard did a magnificent job with Overwatch's promotion.
We've actually discussed this at length around the office, how Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 now seem like light years behind Overwatch in terms of PR, even though both preceded it by 3-4 years. You could point out that CSGO and Dota 2 required creativity and originality to build, something Blizzard isn't even trying anymore, but if you weren't going to cash it in, why invest at all. To be fair, Blizzard are masters of the cashing out part.
Don't get us wrong, there are bunches and bunches of tournaments for both Dota 2 and CS:GO and there probably will be many more, along with the official leagues. However, much like in modern fighting sports, we'll have a million competitions, each of them with own rules instead of a central event with GabeN's blessings and Valve's seal of legitimacy, which may actually lead somewhere.
Blizzard didn't only pump loads of cash into the brand and wait - they obviously used a tried and true methodology. It just seems a true shame how CS:GO was once considered to be prime esports material, with its inherent simplicity being a perfect match for esports, much more so than Overwatch by the way.
You can find the full report here.