Attracting Viewership in Esports: Is it just about a High Level of Competitiveness?

Just like any other sport, esports thrives in the viewership of fans, casual players, and new audiences alike. Its main selling point is not just the game itself, but also the quality of play that viewers came to see and experience. Esports is about watching the high level of play done by the “professionals” in order to see how much depth and quality the game offers, but how much of esports is about competitiveness? Let us discuss how important competitiveness is in developing the overall esports scene and what other factors affect viewership of titles that want to achieve or retain popularity status.

What Constitutes a Competitive Game in Esports

Primarily, viewers come to see the best of the best compete in the stage viewed by several thousands or even millions of people that love the game whether as a casual viewer or a hardcore player. However, how can we exactly define what constitutes a competitive game? Given that there is a wide spectrum of audience watching these games, finding a common definition for a competitive game would be difficult. However, for the purpose of discussion we can break down competitiveness into two major aspects.

First off, tight back-and-forth matches filled with plays and corresponding counterplays between two evenly matched teams or competitors would be a certified way of describing how competitive matches in esports looks like. The tension rises with the level of competition especially for those games that happen during the major events which puts the pride of players on the line with each match.

On the other hand, the showcase of a mix of innovative strategies as well as clean and crisp mechanical skill is also something that viewers look forward to in these games even if these happen to be one-sided matches. Seeing the expertise of professionals in performing difficult plays involving a deep game knowledge and precise timing will always be a recipe for a weekly highlight play. Yet, it seems that the following are not the only important things in esports. Why is it that there are some moments that the viewers get into more than others despite the clear presence of skill and close competition in most high-level matches?

Competitiveness turns into a Narrative


It’s all about the narrative that the game produces. Whether it’s a rivalry or an unlikely victory of the underdog, people get into the esports scene more when they can find something to cheer for and relate to. The context matters as much as the story and the competitiveness of the match. For example, Daigo’s legendary frame-perfect sequence of parries was definitely a top-level play, but it happened in the championship match of the EVO tournament with just a sliver of health remaining which made the play a whole lot more memorable up to date.

There are of course other plays such as Xpeke’s game winning backdoor play, Simple’s jumping AWP clutch, and Coldzera’s momentum-changing 4K jumping AWP shot that have made major tournaments into memorable ones or even unexpected victories such as Taipei Assassin’s Cinderella Run to the Season 2 Worlds Title and Alliance’s comeback victory for the TI3 championship.

In the world of esports, competitive play is just the main ingredient for maintaining viewership. What attracts people into the scene would definitely be the narrative of their favourite players and the moments that have defined the esports history throughout. Without the players, esports would not be such an exciting scene.

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