According to eSports professionals at GDC, the best way to make an eSports game is to not make an eSports game – it’s actually more about building strong communities and reacting to the feedback they supply.
Most big eSports communities are attached to free games, so making your game cost nothing like the titles in our list of PC’s best free games is probably a good place to start, too.
While ‘don’t build an eSports game’ might not seem like particularly helpful advice, you only have to look at the success of something like Rocket League to see that it’s true. That game was never marketed as the next big eSports thing. Its eSports popularity just kind of happened, like it did with the best MOBAs – hundreds of other MOBAs have failed to imitate this success, and not for a lack of trying.
“You can’t come out and say ‘I’m gonna make an eSports title’, which is one of the biggest misconceptions that a few game developers I’ve spoken to have had,” said former League of Legends pro Stephen ‘Snoopeh’ Ellis, during a GDC talk attended by PCGamesN. “You can implement a competitive system within the game. You can implement spectator features, replay features, but you can’t come out and say you’re gonna make an eSport title. By and large, that’s what you community does.
“Beyond that, what developer can do for players specifically is provide that competitive ladder, so your matchmaking, etc, should be very good for the players, but beyond that it’s the monetisation. I look back to when I was spending 14 hours a day, for five [or] six days a week playing League of Legends just to stay at the very top. And when you’re doing that it’s very non-sustainable, and at that time it paid zero dollars, so Riot came a long way, but initially Riot didn’t have the systems in place. The important thing is, you want these kids to play your game and remain competitive, you have to give them the opportunities to do that. Whether it be a base salary, or compensation.”
Further into the talk, this stance was mirrored by AZUBU’s director of eSports, Tricia Sugita, who said: “Publishers can’t really build the next eSports thing. They aim at it by seeing what the latest trend is, but it doesn’t ultimately mean they’ll be successful, and sometimes it happens by chance, so, like Hearthstone. Blizzard didn’t think that would be a huge eSports title as it is. It was intended to be more of a fun game, and I think the community shapes that more than anything.”