Sunday, April 26, 2020

Why do eSports streams contain so little gameplay?

This morning I decided to change up the old morning routine and have a bit of eSports on in the background. I click on a Counter Strike: GO stream, and it's three people without chemistry talking to each other about parrots. I click on a Dota 2 stream and it's two guys talking about girls in dresses. I click on an Age of Empires 2(!) esports stream and it's one guy talking to chat about Bud Light. I click on yet another CS:GO stream and it's on a 5 minute ad break.

Why do eSports streams contain so little eSports?

This is explicitly why I stopped watching several years ago. Every ten minutes of gameplay would soon be broken up by 20 minutes of commercials or talking heads. American Football gets the reputation for being 20 seconds of action followed by 40 seconds of standing around, but even that is superior to the equivalent of a half-time show after every match.

The only streams that seem to defy this are fighting game streams, and most fighting game enthusiasts say they belong to the FGC (Fighting Game Community) and not eSports. I think that's a smart decision.

I guess the difference is that most viewers are perhaps not channel surfing like I am. They have their game, they know when the events happen, and they'll stick around to watch no matter what. I guess at that point having as much padding as you can so you can show more ads makes sense. But I have to think this puts a major cap on how big eSports can conceivably get. If you're just shutting out casual observers completely you will always be a niche product.

And I'd rather eSports not just stay niche. I like sports, I like eSports. I like to watch both. But sports have recently had a reckoning on how much filler they could fit into their shows. The National Football League banned commercials after kickoffs. Major League Baseball drastically cut down on the length of commercial breaks between innings. Even the big boys know their is a limit to a viewer's patience.

But eSports hasn't learned that lesson yet. I suspect because the producers of major eSports leagues are failed executives in real sports leagues. So they jam the product full of ads and 'analysis'. But I don't like ads, particularly when I pay for an ad free experience, and I don't like talk shows, which is primarily what eSports events have become.

And so I plead to the Internet Gods: "Please let video game streams be about people playing videos games. Thank you."

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