Esports: Game of the Year Edition
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Welcome back to my weekly(?) Esports newsletter where I send you all the links that I’d normally repeat to a cute boy I was trying to impress three weeks from now.
It’s the new year, which means I spent some time not working on esports. So much happened that we didn’t talk about!
If you missed “gaming's biggest night”, The Game Awards continues to be a big of an embarrassment. Geoff Keighley's slick corporate Oscar-like crowned Elden Ring "The Game Of The Year" (valid) and overlooked many strong independent games across dozens of categories in favor of God Of War: Ragnarök (which I'm sure is good). I wish that the DICE Awards, which are voted on by developers, got the same attention. They are often more interesting in their nominations, and far more representative of where the industry is going.
The Game Awards are a three hour video game version of The Oscars, except every award is a "fan voted Cheer Moment" and the nomination process is somehow, dumber. Awards go to games with the best marketing campaigns and biggest budget. Stray (neither a debut nor an indie) won Best Debut Indie because it had a cat. I see this as inexcusable proof of the system’s flaws in a year that also contained Neon White, Citizen Sleeper(not nominated), Norco, and Vampire Survivors. Come on.
I like big studio games as well, but a world where the genre-defining Immortality lost “best narrative” to God Of War (and neither Citizen Sleeper or Norco were nominated) is a dark one. We should be celebrating games that push the medium forward, not arbitrating which games spent the most money motion capturing the admittedly charming Christopher Judge.
And those are my complaints when the show slows down enough to celebrate developers at all. Often the awards fly past in a mad scramble to load up the next marketing deliverable. Entire decades of people's lives are read off a card and then dismissed within seconds as Keighley (or another host during the pre-show) rattles off awards with the cadence and emotional investment of a cattle auctioneer. It’s important to get through these award things so that the show can move on to an ad break or another bewildering and overlong celebrity cameo. I love Al Pacino, but there's no reason that an actor with no involvement in video games should spend more time on stage than most of the winners.
It's obvious that there's no stopping the "TGA's" (a phrase which Keighley soft launched during last night's TGA's), it’s brand synergies are too powerful. Even I tune in every year. But I wish they'd spend less time "celebrating games" and more time actually uplifting the people who make them.
Yes game developers are awkward on stage, often deeply uncharismatic. That's why Star Wars ™ Jedi: Survivor paid their very attractive lead actor to stand on stage in full cosplay instead. But the awards themselves shouldn't be about profit or games sales, and if Geoff had any actual interest in the people who make the "incredible" and "exciting" games he profits from, he'd put them on stage instead of the 50th ad for a soon-to-be-canceled medieval RPG where the protagonist uses a crystal sword to fight demons.
Announcements Of Note:
Keighley opened the show with 2023 Game of the Year Hades II, and closed it with 2024 Game of the Year ARMORED CORE VI. Somewhere in the middle Star Wars™ Jedi: Survivor emerged from EA's only game development studio Respawn Interactive. Celeste creators Extremely Ok Games promised another emotionally devastating platformer with Earthblade (the hero has goat horns and I love them). Elden Ring was also unceremoniously dedicated to Orthodox Rabbi Bill Clinton by a child who somehow lurked in the background of Gaming's Biggest Night for an uncontested 5 minutes.
Geoff: Esports Zone
Street Fighter 6 looks wildly different. Tekken 8 looks better than ever. Crash Bandicoot is back in a 4v4 Overwatch-like. Call Of Duty veterans are making a shooter: with magic. It's called Immortals of Aveum, but don’t get too excited. All they have is the name and an honestly ugly looking magic handgun.
The veteran fps studio Splash Damage (Dirty Bomb) is making a Transformers horde mode survival game. The best esports game is apparently VALORANT (as with many awards, the criteria for this is wildly unclear. Best to play? Best to watch? Best event production?) and the best esports team is VALORANT’s LOUD. At least there’s consistency there.
Esports: No Geoff Zone
Paragon rebuild Predecessor is fun, and I’ve been enjoying it. Paragon was also fun, so that’s not really a surprise. Predecessor’s toughest challenge will come when it exceeds the original game’s half finished scope.
Ex-Riot developers Hidden Leaf Games launched their Battlerite-style-moba Fangs. In the spirit of Battlerite, everyone decided not to play it. This while ex-Riot developers Odyssey Interactive un-launch their Rocket-league-style-battlerite Omega Strikers. More people were playing that, so I expect it to relaunch soon.
It feels like a very tough market for new competitive games. Valorant and League have a choke hold on the North American market. My analysis is that anyone looking to break that has to attract non-standard audiences. The people that aren’t currently playing League should be your primary market. Otherwise you’re just another “Wildstar” marketing their “WoW Killer”.
To carry the MMO analogue to completion, the MMOs that have broken WoW’s chokehold on the market (Destiny, Warframe, Final Fantasy) all target non-mmo fans first and foremost. They broadened the audience for the kind of game they are.
Call of Duty’s esports skins were unexpectedly popular after all the LA Thieves’ all black kit accidentally offered a competitive advantage. I can’t help but think this was a mistake that Activision could anticipate.
The US Army considered launching their creator program per Vice Motherboard. They intended to spend millions sponsoring Call Of Duty streamers in an effort to target young, particularly black, teenagers for recruitment. The “War Crimes” department of our government decided not to go forward with their plans after revelations about widespread sexual harassment and assault inside Activision. It’s good to have standards.
Discord launched it’s “Creator” program, competing with Patreon directly. Anecdotally most Patreons I pay for offer a discord(though I’ve never felt the need to join one, para-social relationships are weird) so this makes sense. It also offers a much needed revenue stream for Discord which is probably the most popular social media app right now.
Give me your email.
Lowballed in a kind of shitty way:
In an epic gamer moment, Epic offered an artist $300 to design a splash screen for Fortnite, the most popular game in North America. This was a wild coincidence. It happened the same week I was offered $300 for a six hour broadcast by an organization representing CLG, the least popular esports team in North America. I wouldn’t normally bring a lowball offer up here, but the event was heavily sponsored and the producer (who had approached me) was weirdly shitty about the whole thing.
Freelancers are paid for the time in-between work. When you hire an artist, it’s for their talent, not the time they spend working on your commission. Broadcasting is a craft that it’s taken me half a decade to get decent at. When you hire me for a day, you’re subsidizing that time. This is how all craft workers are paid.
Anyone worth hiring will have spent time studying the teams, syncing with co-workers, writing the broadcast, warming up their voice, preparing their home studio.
Some other things:
Video games will cost $70 now. Wildly popular Chinese MOBA Honor Of Kings got an MMO adaptation. Youtube has emotes now, they’re not as bad as you’d think. Amazon Luna corners the Google Stadia market by offering to stream Assassins Creed.
Youtuber “Noodle” enters the Froggerverse, playing every title in the franchise.
Panda Global CEO resigns after hijacking the Smash competitive scene. He remains the organizations majority owner. AOE Esports coach lied about star League of Legends player’s mental health to keep him from being promoted to the big leagues. D&D game canceled, Bloomberg reports. While the publisher (Wizards of the Coast) confirmed the game’s cancelation, the game developers don’t seem to know. Wizards of the Coast un-open D&D’s source demanding royalties for games built on the previously open source ruleset (in what could be a landmark case for open source).
Don’t trust organizations, get paid what you’re worth.
Bee-post: Bees like to roll around on little wood balls as a treat for fun, scientists discover.
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