Some might say it’s been a long time coming, while the Twitter reactions to every other time ESPN have done something eSportsy suggest the world probably still isn’t ready. Either way, American mega-corp ESPN has decided the time is now to launch a dedicated, full-time eSports division. Unimaginatively titled “ESPN eSports”, it intends to provide news, interviews, event coverage and all the rest from a three-person team of industry veterans.
They’re not the only ones of course. Here’s our own roundup of the biggest happenings in eSports in 2015.
ESPN announced the news themselves yesterday, with a press release that named their starting three as editor Darin Kwilinski and writers Rod Breslau and Tyler Erzberger. All three have been hanging around the scene for a long time, with Breslau a particularly recognisable name to those who’ve been around since before the 2010/11 revolution. They’ve all worked together previously at onGamers and TheScore, with a vast breadth of knowledge between them.
The question, of course, is will it work. Clearly ESPN think there’s a stable base and better future in eSports, and the rising prize pools, player counts and viewer numbers certainly support it. They weren’t deterred by whatever viewership figures came out of their various on-TV experiments in the past. Based on the top bar of the site, they’re planning to focus on League of Legends, Dota 2 and Hearthstone. Other than the cospicuously absent Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, those seem like sensible choices, boasting the largest player bases and the easiest in-routes for noobies as far as money goes.
What I’m wondering is whether the audience will go to ESPN. There are already multiple dedicated sites for each game, massive Reddit communities, huge numbers of tournament streams and personalities to tune into and resources like Liquipedia to get results and info from. Then there’s the regular gaming press such as ourselves considering eSports a large part of our regular news and feature coverage. What ESPN will need is original reporting and insight that can’t be gathered elsewhere. While they’ve a quality writing team, only time will tell if that will be forthcoming.
Tell you what though, we’ve come a hell of a long way since 240p Octoshape streams of Proleague finals at five in the morning. The past is rubbish, long live the future.