In future, esports team owners will dictate how games get developed and patched | PCGamesN

In future, esports team owners will dictate how games get developed and patched

As traditional sports team owners spend ever-increasing amounts to sponsor esports franchises and leagues, the ownership of the games themselves could start to move away from developers and publishers.

Come learn all about the Overwatch League before it's corrupted by horrible money.

This is the view - or at least a potential future - outlined by Ryan Garfat, an esports editor for ESPN, in a talk at GDC today. The panel, titled ‘Traditional sports meets esports’, discussed how team owners are likely to demand an increased influence over the games themselves, just as they currently exert over the more traditional sporting bodies.

Drawing multiple parallels between organisations such as the NFL and NBA and how these currently function, Garfat forsees a future in which team owners involved in, say, the Overwatch League start to hold sway over the development process.

Currently, games are patched for the wider playerbase first and foremost, but the amount of money spilling into the competitive scene may change that. “They will exact their influence to ensure that their pro teams are represented in those decisions,” Garfat says. “If I own a team, and I have a Lucio specialist, and all of a sudden Lucio’s nerfed, and I paid a hundred or two hundred thousand dollars for this athlete, that directly impacts my team. And I’m going to want a say, or at least an explanation from the developer, as to why that game is being changed, and how that might impact my $20 million investment into your league.”

This kind of scenario is akin to the NFL, where team owners collectively agree upon changes to the rules of the sport itself as well as the structure and format of the league. Just as they do in more traditional sports, esports team owners will want a “seat at the table” to discuss the development of games such as Overwatch, League of Legends, and NBA 2K.

This could lead to the development of future esports-focused titles being flipped on its head, Garfat explains. Whereas in the past developers hoped (or intended) for a compelling pro scene in order to encourage more players to buy their games, now people could start developing with the influence and income from potential sponsors explicitly in mind.

The obvious counter to all of this is that no-one ‘owns’ the actual sport of American football or basketball in the same way as, for example, Blizzard owns the Overwatch IP. The NFL is the collective, professionalised expression of a sport that exists independent of it; the Overwatch League can’t exist independent of the game itself.

But even that could one day change. When discussing possible future titles developed with an esports scene in mind, “I would not be surprised if an owner of a team buys an IP”, Garfat predicts.

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Braneman avatarDroniac avatarGrgoljblaster avatarTsunamiWombat avatar
Braneman Avatar
4 Months ago

something I've noticed from games balanced at the "highest levels of play" is that they tend to fall into boring ruts. Like in Heroes Of The Storm, Genji and other Overwatch heroes basically cornered the game for like six months to the point where people started complaining and getting bored of watching HOTS esports. If your team is doing well with Genji in HOTS and you demand that counters to him don't exist in the short term you're going to win tournaments, but in the term of probably less than a year from now that game is going to be dead.

Either people will stop playing casually(no casual players no compeditive watch time, see Starcraft 2) because Genji the 65% winrate hero(I haven't looked this up or anything) isn't getting nerfed and they're bored of fighting him, or because the compeditive side of things has turned into a stale crackers game of "Who can play Genji better."

I've seen this happen in HOTS, a lot of the competitive matches of the last couple months have been decided because one team didn't want to play against Genji or another Overwatch hero so they basically HAD to give the other team their comfort picks or deal with Genji and the Overwatch gang.

Grgoljblaster Avatar
4 Months ago

Welp, gaming was fun while it lasted. At least we still have our board games.

Droniac Avatar
4 Months ago

In a way that would be a return to the way esports used to be.

If you competed in a first person shooter in the late 90s or early 00s, then it was (almost) always with some form of "pro" mod in place. Things like ETPro, various Q3 mods, etc. Such mods would often form the basis of game balance in competitive scenes, in addition to numerous rule-determinations that were made on a league/tournament-basis, generally enforced by such "pro" mods.

The push towards DLC / games-as-a-service has killed off modding and player-hosted servers, so that avenue of control over how these games are played is gone now. As are the competitive scenes themselves. All that's left are a few pro teams playing these games according to whatever whim the developers have and the noobish PUG-ing masses (myself included).

TsunamiWombat Avatar
4 Months ago

Oh boy thats not a potential conflict of interest at all