Who killed the competitive FPS?

who_killed_cs

The decline of the FPS in eSports is depressing. But it’s not unexpected. Yesterday, the ESL announced that Starcraft II and League of Legends would be the only two games featured in the Intel Extreme Masters. Counter-Strike 1.6 has finally been dropped. The game that practically defined Western eSports has lost it’s place at the table. And with it, the last FPS on the eSports roster vanishes. 

There are good reasons for the IEM to drop the FPS. The competitive scenes around shooters has been in decline for years – and the games industry has done its best not to care. Many of he major PC FPS games of the past five years – in particularCall of Duty and Battlefield – are exceptionally popular online.But they’ve abandoned any attempt to build a lasting community – quickly shuffling players onto the next version. Yearly iterations of both Call of Duty and Battlefieldmean that any bugs or imbalances are ignored in favour of developing the next version. Any tools the eSports scene needs to develop the community – spectator modes, competitive map iterations, dedicated server hosts have been either abandoned or downgraded.

Compare and contrast with what’s going on elsewhere.It’s nearly two years since Starcraft II released – two and a half if you include its long, longbeta period. League of Legendsis nearly three years old. Throughout that time, Blizzard and Riot have constantly updated and improved their game; patching imbalances, improving the spectator experience, spent effort building theirown community events all whileintroducing new maps and game modes. They’ve thrown their own weight behind major tournaments, to the extent that they’ve evenembedded links to eSports events into their patchers and launchers. Their support has paid dividends.
Compare that to the support given to Modern Warfare 2, Black Ops, or Modern Warfare 3; where Activision’s support extends to selling new maps and patching out the most brutal exploits.

It’s been a disaster for the eSports scene: Modern Warfare’s died out long ago on PC. Battlefield’s is nascent despite its popularityonline.
There are exceptions. Team Fortress 2has been updated regularly, and although there’s a small scene, it’s never really taken hold as a competitive game – a real shame. Hi-Rez are keen to push Tribes: Ascend as an eSport – but they’ve got a lot of work to do.

The only bright spot comes from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Valve’s experience and new found desire to build for the eSports community in both DOTA and CounterStrike, and the sheer number of players still knocking around in CS: Source suggests CS: GO could well grow and grow. But that’s the future. Today, eSports doesn’t have a banner shooter. And that’s a tragedy.

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