eSports and the gaming community

Last year I wrote about the growing trend of watching other people play video games, on platforms such as Twitch and YouTube. This time I’m looking into a phenomenon some people might find even more remarkable – gaming as a fully-fledged sport, not just a pastime.

For two years running in 2014 and 2015, 40,000 fans of the strategy game League of Legends (LoL) packed into a stadium in South Korea to watch the World finals live. In 2015, they were joined by 36 million online viewers.

‘No-one is on their cell phone. Everyone in the crowd is immensely engaged.’ Spectators watch a game during the League of Legends 2015 finals.

‘No-one is on their cell phone. Everyone in the crowd is immensely engaged.’ Spectators watch a game during the League of Legends 2015 finals.

In 2016, the tournament moved to North America where it was even more successful – 43 million online viewers watched teams battle it out for an astonishing prize fund of $6.7 million.

Did you have any idea this was happening? I certainly didn’t.

‘eSports’ applies the logic of traditional mass spectator sports to the video game sector, and it’s big business. Huge business in fact – the market value is estimated to reach $1.9 billion by the end of 2018 (up from $194m in 2014), and ESPN has broadcast the last three years of LoL World Cup gameplay live in the US. The next logical steps are already happening – teams are signing sponsorship deals and endorsing products, and all the big brands are clamouring to buy advertising space – whether it’s virtual space online or on the airwaves, or physical space in the gaming arenas.

But there’s a reason you haven’t heard about this. The gaming community is large but insular – there’s very little interaction with other online communities, and not much attention from mainstream media.

As the eSports sector expands rapidly, this community will need to be engaged for their opinions on what any new offerings should incorporate – do they want to see more multiplayer options? Slicker gameplay? Should developers prioritise mobile compatibility? As industry analyst Aki Järvinen says, “If you are developing a competitive multiplayer game, you need to start building the community and facilitate broadcasting gameplay from early on.”

The same goes for localisation providers looking to engage with this trend. There is a huge community of engaged, knowledgeable multilingual gamers out there, and it’d be madness not to get them on your side, as localisers, QA specialists and testers.

They’ll be quick to criticise what they perceive to be poor localisation in the end product, so why not get their buy-in in advance?

If nothing else, this community will help localisation providers to navigate and glossarise the impenetrable jargon that games like League of Legends build up around themselves. This can be as opaque to the casual reader as football or cricket stats must be to the non-fan; ‘All Draft all Mid’, ‘Attack Damage Carry’ etc.

The 2016 League of Legends championship was broadcast in 18 languages, and if the projected growth up to 2018 and beyond materialises, there are huge opportunities for localisation. Engaging the gaming community for this will be vital.

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