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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

BB40: What makes a Blood Sport Popular?

I've not had anything to really say about the upcoming tournament  Hell, I couldn't even recall its title until I read the BB40 description. About all I know of this tournament is that it was insanely expensive to buy into, it jacked up PLEX prices enormously and now it's not quite so insanely expensive to buy into. Otherwise I wasn't terribly interested in it - and I'm still not.

But CCP really wants this event advertised and they have managed to co-op the Blog Banter for it. Fine, if they want a Blog Banter about it, that's what they'll get. I doubt it's going to be what they had in mind. However, it is what has been weighing on my mind.
BB40: Interstellar Blood Sports
So on with the banter.
Fresh from publishing the community spotlight on the EVE blogosphere and Blog Banters, CCP Phantom has suggested a banter focus on competitive tournaments.
There is no finer spectacle in the universe of EVE Online than the explosive dance of weapon-laden spaceships in combat. The yearly Alliance Tournament is the jewel in EVE Online's eSports crown and the upcoming New Eden Open should deliver the same gladiatorial entertainment showcase.
Given the scope of the sandbox, what part should eSports play in EVE Online and what other formats could provide internet spaceship entertainment for spectators and participants alike?
In August 2011, we had a Blog Banter on how to conduct arena fights in Eve Online. I wrote Chivalry, not Cage Fights in response to that call. Within that post, I mention this:
After each combat, those who witnessed it could award favor or disfavor to the combatants. Rankings would exist and the most favored might not even be those who always win. Even a loser, who fights well and with honor, could earn favor from his/her peers. Both could win! And, just as easily, both could lose. Those who acted despicably would receive disfavor. Only those present could decide.
That first sentence, the one I highlighted, is the key sentence. Within any sport, it is not the athlete that controls the future of the spectacle. It is the audience. The spectators who reveled in Rome's arena kept it going; not the Gladiators who died in it. Manchester United and Arsenal would just be unknown names if not for the fans. Neither the World Cup nor the Super Bowl would happen if not for the fans. The place for eSports in Eve Online isn't to get GFs, it's to allow others to watch a GF - and get something for it.

When it comes to eSports and Eve Online, we are the athletes. We bring the fans. CCP should treat us as such. They need to court the best of us and entice us to cooperate. Our upkeep is high, and we may be arrogant because we are good and know it, but without us there is nothing to cheer for; nothing to take pride in, and nothing to bet on. Do not look to capsuleers to be the fan base. The only time an athlete watches the game is when he needs to get into his opponent's head. Whether collegiate or professional, to the athlete sport is a job not a pastime. CCP needs to look at it, and capsuleers, in that light.

CCP needs to look outside Eve Online for fans. They need people who can't play the game themselves, but would cheer for "their team" and want them to win. Getting people to watch the event will be tough.  Take a lesson from Las Vegas. Dog racing is terribly boring, but watching dogs race is not the primary reason people watch dog racing. It's about the outcome - and the bets placed on that outcome. CCP must incentivize the fans as well as the athletes. Give them a reason to watch. How many billions of dollars are bet on sporting events around the world? Sports betting is the true pastime of sports aficionados, not the games themselves. Anyone who thinks otherwise is naive IMO.

And one other thing, watching football does not make anyone want to play football unless they are a child. If CCP thinks eSport tournaments will increase subscriptions I think they need to reevaluate. That's not where they will make their money.

The real money holders are corporate sponsors. Once they've got the athlete and fan issues worked out, CCP can approach corporate sponsors with the marketing opportunities. The fans are the incentive the big money players need to get involved. They are the Holy Grail of marketing demographics. And don't forget the elite athletes either. Why do you think there are so many athletes wearing Nike swooshes and the Under Armor logo (which looks so much like the Ultima Online logo it's weird.) That's where V3 skins could fit into the great scheme of things don't you think?

So where could CCP apply this "incentive program" known as eSport other than the tournament? It could also work with sovereignty. People all across the United States participate in Fantasy Football. Treating the various null-sec alliances as teams and then allowing people to "fantasize" about who'll be on top next week or in a month or in a year could work. Using in-play betting for Faction Warfare fights might be popular. Just about anything with competition within the game could be incentivized. CCP only needs the proper incentives. 

But that's all for CCP to figure out. I've no interest in helping them with it to be honest. I'm not all that certain it could ever work. But if it does work, Eve Online changes forever. I cannot predict where that change will take it. Corporate sponsors have their own agendas. Fans view the game far differently than the athlete. All three have different ideas on what will improve the game because they are only concerned with what improves it for them. Who CCP listens to after changes like this is anyone's guess.

There is also another issue. Such betting may be illegal in some jurisdictions. Perhaps that is why the latest tournament is being held at a time more favorable to Europeans than Americans. In Europe, bookies are regulated;  not criminalized. It is a consideration CCP needs to take into account.

There is only one thing I can predict with certainty out of all this. I won't have anything to do with it. That's not what I want from Eve Online. That doesn't mean I'll leave. If eSports and the possible changes it could bring do not directly change what I like to do, I've no quarrel with it. Otherwise, all bets are off.

Fly Careful

3 comments:

  1. Blimey, you make it all sound so sinister.

    The banter topic wasn't "co-op"-ed by CCP. I was in touch with CCP Phantom for the community spotlight (which gives all EVE bloggers a bit of love) and I asked if he had any ideas. He suggested doing something related to the tournaments. That was all.

    I've got a list of potential Blog Banter subjects, but it's always preferable to go for something topical and of the moment. Tournaments seemed like a good fit and clearly there's some interesting and fierce opinions about it. Which makes it perfect banter fodder.

    I too feel a little uneasy about the tournaments, but perhaps not quite for the reasons you do. I think they're symptomatic of the anodyne development path that EVE is on. I wouldn't mind if it was an "as well as" scenario and equal focus was given to other aspects of EVE gameplay. But sadly, it seems to be an "instead of" situation, with the backstory and soul of EVE becoming increasingly irrelevant.

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    1. I had to but my name on this post because Garth was unavailable. Sorry about the co-op comment. Flippant doesn't come across well in writing. Nice word use BTW. I had to look up anodyne because I couldn't remember what it meant. The word is certainly the correct one though. Anyway, since I don't take myself too seriously you shouldn't either. As I've said before, I don't care if I'm right or wrong so long as it gets folks talking and hopefully thinking in ways they hadn't considered.

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  2. While the conclusion of your post is certainly your well-deserved own opinion on how you will deal with the New Eden Open, the thoughts concerning how the eSports is about the spectacle around it and not the good fights the contestants may have I find most intriguing and valid.

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