5 Games Looking to Break into eSports in 2016
With massive sponsors like Red Bull, media partners like ESPN and legions of fans, the subculture of competitive gaming is looking to have its largest year ever in 2016. And while Dota 2 and League of Legends are going to continue swapping the largest tournament winnings between them, a few other games are looking to get in on the action. Those two games have carved out a niche in the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas) universe, so a few other genres will be well represented this year. These are the top 5 games looking to break into eSports in 2016.
Street Fighter V
In many respects, eSports owes its fame and fortune to the fighting game community. While games like Starcraft created international buzz with tournament play, people have been playing games like Street Fighter for money for decades. And while it hasn’t garnered the same level of fame or prize money that Dota or League has achieved, the fighting game community’s roots run deep. In 2016, the latest version of Capcom’s beloved brawler is coming to PC and PS4 and with it, a new crop of fans that found SF4 too confusing. The game’s producers have specifically tuned this title to appeal to fans that dropped off after SF2, but the most diehard gamers that have been playing for years will still find plenty of depth. With a new year brings a new Capcom Cup, so look to Street Fighter V to really make a splash when it comes out in February.
If you want a hint as to how much companies are banking on the power of eSports, look no further than Paragon. Epic has been working on this game for a while, but Sony gave it a ton of love when they decided to close out October’s Playstation Experience press conference with a new trailer. Paragon is looking for a slice of that MOBA pie, as it’s a straight-up third-person hero-based battle arena. And while we’ve yet to see a substantial amount of gameplay footage, the glimpses released thus far look way slicker than the competition. It’s going to take a monumental shift in the way the genre typically controls on consoles (read: not very well) and more than just horsepower to make this whole thing work.
On the lighter side of the spectrum, Microsoft is teaming with Motiga to put out a casual MOBA, if there is such a thing. A mix of cartoon graphics and over-the-top action might be just what the genre needs, if any new (and young) blood is to join the eSports world. The Xbox One already has a game in Smite that has shown that console games of this ilk can work if tuned correctly. Gigantic looks great, even beyond the cel-shaded art style, as the UI elements, visual flourishes, and on-screen text all seem to come from a place of visual design and not just “make sure all the words and numbers go somewhere.” Still, this is an unproven developer with a lot to prove, so hopefully they stand out enough to make a dent in the scene.
The one thing developer Gearbox has proven is that it knows how to make games with guns. Borderlands has been a runaway success, with multiple sequels and spinoffs that have only gotten better with each iteration. With Battleborn, Gearbox is branching out into something a little bigger than Borderlands, with 25 playable characters and a story mode not really found in other games of this type. This is a first-person shooter at heart, but all the trappings of a MOBA (creeps, lanes, resetting skill points before each match) are still prevalent. The initial alpha and beta tests that have come out have been slightly promising, as the game runs well and offers something for just about everyone. But for the diehard eSports folk, there might not be enough specialization and attention to competitive detail to make the cut.
Blizzard is banking on Overwatch. Activision just purchased what was left of MLG and you can bet Overwatch will join Starcraft and Hearthstone in upcoming tournaments and competitions. It’s also a first-person shooter, but nobody understands the balance and tuning required to make games like this work like Blizzard. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but you will get to choose between various heroes with unique powers in a five-on-five battle arena. Yes, the eSports world needs some new blood, but until then, Overwatch might end up being the slickest version of the formula to date. Betas are popping up here and there, so we’ll know much more before it officially launches sometime later this year.