The World Cyber Games (WCG) are known as the largest international competitive eSports company in existence have dropped a bomb shell announcing that they will be moving away from covering PC and Console games anymore.
To give an idea of how long these guys have been around, they were formed in 2000 – In business this is a while, however on the internet and especially gaming it is the venerable Gandalf the grey watching over the hobbits of Cybergamer and MLG.
In a leaked announcement, they said the following in regard about their view for the future of gaming and how it relates to them:
In recent years, the gaming and IT trends have been moving so fast. In the current status of gaming and IT industry, one of the most remarkable information to us was the mobile shipments have exceeded the PC shipments.
As wide spread mobile devices, mobile gamer would rapidly increase as well. In this situation, the major PC game publishers have been expanding their investment and business in the mobile game development & publishing.
This information was very cruel to us since we had been committed to the PC-Based gaming event for long time. We have witnessed that there have been many companies and organizations who went out of business because they didn’t put effort to change. Therefore we concluded that we should create WCG’s new identity.
Under this circumstance, we made a hard decision that we should bring the mobile, new key sector in the game industry, in our event concept. Hence, WCG decided to start the Mobile Game-Based Festival.
To create the Mobile Game-Based Festival, WCG is under the discussion with the sponsors and game publishers regarding new event structure and the countries for new festival. Therefore, there will be no longer present event module, such as Pan Championship, and PC-Based National Finals. And, the official game titles of WCG will consist of mobile games.
Bolding by me for emphasis. The move for WCG to drop gaming is a dramatic one, however should have been seen coming for a long time. The previous years WCG finals were held had a $40,000 First place prize for the mobile racing game Asphalt 6. The prize for Counter-strike was $25,000 which is $15k lower than a mobile game (have a look at the full listing on the wcg site).
Competing in a mobile game has an shallower learning curve. This is for multiple reasons, the larger ones being the catering to gaming in a shorter timespan (quick fix gaming while you are on the loo or at a lunch break) as well as the input or control to the game needs to be simplified due to the control surface also being your actual screen of your phone/gaming device. While Asphalt 6 HD is an technically amazing game, for gameplay its depth revolves around unlocking newer models of cars, and upgrading your ingame steering and engine.
This pales to greats such as even the Wipeout series on the first playstation. Besides the analogue controls giving you an advantage, actual independent buttons to press left you with micromanagement options such as juggling weapon/shield powerups, shooting behind you and various forms of braking. The simplification of game mechanics hurts the ability to refine a players technique for longer term play.
The short term of this barbaric stripping of core mobile gaming by WCG may give trouble to event organizers planning their own smaller events – WCG themselves will not be supporting them for any events, impacting sponsorship and players attending for WCG in the first place (qualifying events for WCG were often held in gaming local area events, with the winner getting invited to go to the next level and flights to the relevant place).
Sponsorship is a risky business for promoters. They need to write up paperwork and prove that the money they are giving away to events is going to give a return in the investment. A common way to do this is to show prior examples and a strong area that they are going to sponsor – showing larger events and their return is a good way to give a comparative judgement for people who may not understand gaming itself. With WCG effectively gone for pc gaming, that is both a big event you can’t use, and if they are following any news about competitive gaming, they will have noticed WCG going for mobile only.
We’ve talked about why Mobile based gaming is a bad choice for competition, but we havn’t discussed why the direction of mobile has been taken. Well, that’s simple – getting your game’s name in the media sells more copies. It’s difficult to get your game into the competitive region. It takes time, recognition and plenty of support from the developers themselves to foster a healthy community (which on a side note, DICE are messing up for Battlefield 3). Gaming companies can give the recognition an artificial kick by giving large sponsorship and prize money deals on conditions of their choice for the game. Samsung proudly show off their endorsement for Asphalt 6, they make sales and more eyeballs on the game. Win for them!
The equivalent of this would be the offering of extra XP in games by buying soft drinks in store. That’ll never happen though…
In the longer term, I hope for smaller companies to pick up the slack, and take competitive games to a new level. Streaming technology which I believe is the future of gaming currently is becoming cheaper and more accessible, leaving a large market to tap into. That market however will depend on a fully supported ecosystem – gamers playing together long enough to form well disciplined teams, which then have the ability to focus on long term tournaments with eventual payoffs in their time spent to make it worthwhile. That sounds a bit like every other sport doesn’t it?
Australian competitive gaming is currently on shaky ground, and we will see if and how much this will affect it. I look forward to healthy competition to come back and bring strong communities. But first, we will need new games to bring new gamers in… While it is silly to argue graphics over gameplay (gameplay should always come first), it is harder to sell an older game for sponsorship. Besides age and graphics, there are newer ad opportunities in recent games, which will only get bigger as the streaming wild card comes in to hopefully boost gaming into a golden age.
On the other end of the stick, we don’t ask for AFL 2.0 do we? It is up to the following of a game to dictate where it will be played, and I feel its a waste for companies to turn their back on LAN based play for reliable setup (and the preservation of hair on event organizers heads) and match making outside of a casual lobby.
RIP WCG, Your may your sugar filled mobile addiction give you peace before you die of malnutrition from the people that supported you during your beginning – the gamers.