Friday, February 8, 2013

Video Gaming: Ready for Prime Time TV

Guest Post by Matt Heston


E-sports, otherwise known as competitive gaming, isn't really on the public radar right now, but there are a few hints that suggest that competitive gaming may just be the new big thing on television.


Not everyone likes, or even watches mixed martial arts, but it's made such a splash that everyone and their grandmother at least know something about it. MMA has proven that, given the right framework, a small yet passionate community can grow and even make good business sense for television and advertisers. Granted, that framework required a great deal of cooperation between investors, promoters, and competitors (and regulators, for those who remember what the sport was like back in the 90's). I use MMA as an example simply to point out that gathering an audience for a sporting event requires more than just the athletes and a place for them to compete.

Technology and the Internet have helped progress the competitive gaming scene through streaming services such as TwitchTV or ESL.tv, where people can follow their favorite players in games such as Starcraft II, Call of Duty, League of Legends, and many others. The truly hardcore fans will stay up into odd hours of the night to watch live a major high-stakes tournament being held halfway across the world while the more casual viewer can simply turn on the stream of whoever happens to be playing their favorite game.

The convenience of these streaming services are a major step in the right direction. The investment that these businesses have put in is substantial, streaming online video isn’t cheap, but they’re seeing the returns on these investments grow as gaming grows in popularity along with the access to a reliable Internet connection. (As a side note, how much prodding will it take for American telecoms to realize the value in investing in more fiber-optic lines for their current market and their future where everyone will be demanding a faster Internet connection?)

Television is a desirable outlet for e-sports to spread to, and in South Korea it already has. Ongamenet is a 24-hour cable channel available for anyone there to catch up on the latest developments in e-sports. Naysayers should  remember what people thought of ESPN when it first came out. South Korea has a model in place for e-sports, and in the United States we have something like five or six variations of ESPN. This model can be very easily brought over to the West and made super-sized. It wouldn't even be that expensive, relatively. 

Cable networks exist in a spot right now where everyone has a television and high-definition cameras are cheap enough to turn anyone into a tv-show director. This has set the bar low and the potential rewards high, you can see it in action by watching something brilliant like The Walking Dead or Breaking Bad one moment then flipping the channel and seeing something else like Cake Boss or The Big Bang Theory.

We’re living in a world where Toddlers in Tiaras is a thing that exists. There was effort made by actual, living human beings to produce it and there are actual human beings that sit down and watch it. There should be absolutely no reason I can’t flip on my TV and watch people play video games.

Mat