In a shocking reveal, the latest demographics provided by popular LAN gaming centres in Korea, ‘PC Bangs‘, has shown that Overwatch is now the most played game in their gaming cafes, beating the uber-popular League of Legends which now stands second.
— erik lonnquist (@ggDoA) June 16, 2016
After Korea naming StarCraft as their national pastime in the first decade of the 21st century, the release of StarCraft 2 later provided an additional and much needed boost to the otherwise dying community of hardcore RTS lovers. However, Riot Games’s 2008 release, the most played game in the world, League of Legends had already made its way into the RTS community. Striking almost the same nerves that an RTS such as Warcraft and StarCraft would in the yesteryears, MOBAs later on went to become what StarCraft used to stand for.
But first, let us take a look at how WarCraft lost its community, and to whom. It is argued that it was Blizzard’s own releases, World of WarCraft that shifted huge populations of the fantasy RTS onto the fantasy MMORPG world. World of Warcraft, however did not affect the growing scene that was StarCraft’s potential of being the shining beacon of eSports. With large arenas being set up in Korea and players turning professionals (i.e full time StarCraft players), Korea had turned into the eSports capital of the world. The crowds in Korea were far beyond what Sweden and Europe would see for either Quake or Counter-Strike, which were their primers, and StarCraft began paving the motion of the eSports revolution all over the world. WarCraft too saw its days, with players like Grubby setting up their streams ever now and then still to almost 10,000 viewers, but however saw a massive out-flux of players to WoW.
Now, such a similar incident occurred with the rise of MOBAs, starting with League of Legends. Made by once chief modder for the WarCraft 3 mod ‘Defense of the Ancients’, Steve “Guinsoo” Feak was later hired by Riot Games to develop their own MOBA and correct the wrongs that would surely arise through making a game from another game’s Mod Creator. This would later spawn a massive effect over the RTS community as MOBAs began triggering similar strategies in one’s mind as that of an RTS whilst giving the player much needed breathing space i.e simplicity. One major incident that backs the said theory is the fact that one of StarCraft’s most popular team, SlayerS had left the game for League of Legends as early as 2012. Whether it was this that would later begin a domino effect that show the dwindling of the StarCraft fanbase and the rise of MOBAs in particular (not only League of Legends) is uncertain.
DotA 2 saw its fanbase grow out the underground community of the original mod itself. It had begun attracting players from other games probably due to its ever increasing prize pools courtesy Valve, most significant in them being Scarlett, one of the most well known pro player in StarCraft who had left it for DotA citing her not seeing a viable future in it in comparison with DotA. It would of course, be stupid of me to not recognize the role that DotA played in shaping the current wind in eSports. It should be noted that DotA is probably leading the charge in terms of leading the eSports revolution in the second decade of the 21st century, with much being owed to its enormous prize pools that bring in news coverage and attention to it.
And now is where Overwatch comes in. With an amazingly unique array of heroes all seemingly hand-crafted to cater to cosplayers, and refreshing combat mechanisms, Overwatch strikes a balance perfect for casuals to have hours of fun as well as the hardcore gamer to enjoy its learning curve and create perfection. Blizzard has single handedly created a masterpiece that infuses pop culture and the art of gaming that was perfectly done only once in the past, in World of Warcraft. And the influx has already begun, proof being the news above.
All that remains is to be seen is how well Blizzard, not the people nor the community, embrace this transition and adds to the eSports scene. It can always be argued well that it was Valve and Riot Games who played their cards well to bring the MOBA genre where it is now. Does Blizzard Entertainment finally seek to make their mark in the eSports scene,develop Overwatch into a sport for their 10 million players and make the ‘Hero Shooter’ genre what RTS was to the first decade of the 21st century and what MOBA currently is? Only time will tell.