It would be naive to think that, with the global phenomenon that is the gaming industry, that a competitive scene would not too rise from its flames. While the professional gaming industry has spent the past ten years equipped with the social stigma of sweaty teenagers, it appears, finally, to be taking a modern, new glossy tone.
In the last 20 years the gaming industry has seen a seen a huge windfall in cash-flow. the industry worldwide is worth $83.6 billion and, by 2018, is expected to reach $113 billion. With the rise of the gaming industry, it's been only natural to see that the competitive gaming scene has grown concurrently.
eSports is a term that may be unfamiliar to many, though through the course of the past 10 to 15 years, the concept has leapfrogged from humble, low-scale tournaments, to the multi-million dollar events we see now; across games like League of Legends, Counter Strike, Dota2, Starcraft, and more. The top players in their respective games have taken home millions of dollars through prize pools alone, compared to the triple-figure rewards for top players in years gone by.
As it stands, the eSports industry alone is said to be worth $748 million, and by 2018 is expected to have more than doubled to reach $1.9 billion. Considering there has always been somewhat of a stigma against competitive computer gaming, this is a staggering leap.
Through the rise of the eSports scene, we have also been seeing free streaming services such as Twitch rise to prominence. Thanks to these live-streaming websites, prospective and current pro-gamers have a chance to not only advertise themselves directly to the consumer, but a chance to earn a living by means outside of the major tournaments. International events have also seen a lot of interest on sites such as Twitch, and as you can imagine, sponsorship plays a big role, so where the public interest peaks, so does the cash-flow. And this naturally equates to more money being paid to the player and, thankfully better experience for the consumer.
So, as we can see, ensuring a public interest in your competitive game is huge. And, to maintain this, you need to keep both your casual player base happy, and the viewers happy through good quality and exciting game play. Subsequently, balance changes (which hope to revitalise the game and, of course, add new meta) arise which force players to switch up their style.
There are a lot of pressures on the few who are in charge of designing and balancing their respective games. A game's designers must keep the game fresh and balanced. Tiny changes to the game's meta can throw entire matches one way or another, depending on how balance is perceived. Subsequently, hundreds of thousands of pounds can be won or lost either way as a result of these subtle changes.
These designers are tasked with the challenge of making sure they have an exciting eSport which will draw in viewers, thus drawing in more sponsorship. They have the challenge of making sure they keep the game balanced for the casual player and the pro players. The fragility of the scene can even end up creating a scenario where pro players are losing out on hard-fought cash because of poor design issues.
These people in charge have millions of dollars at their very fingertips, and are under constant pressure to make changes to satisfy their player base. Because, at the end of it all, if the game is in a state where it is unplayable, people just won't be interested in it.
Regardless of their difficult tasks, the fans are rarely happy. David Kim, lead designer of StarCraft 2, which has seen major tournaments offer $250,000 to top players, is under constant abuse from fans of the franchise. Elsewhere, in other competitive games, like League of Legends, HearthStone and Dota2, it is difficult to find a majority of fans happy with balance.