A reality show along the lines of the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter series could propel eSports into the mainstream in the west, says StarCraft 2 design production chief Chris Sigaty.
Speaking with Eurogamer, Sigaty said that although organisations like Major League Gaming saw large increases in viewership from 2011 to 2012, in places like South Korea matches are shown on TV during prime time and attract audiences in the millions.
Were eSports on TV, people channel-surfing could stumble across it and "That's where that conversion happens," he said.
Sigaty cited The Ultimate Fighter – a wildly successful show where fighters live together while competing for a fighting contract – as a possible blueprint for an eSports show.
Getting advertisers on board was the immediate challenge, he said.
"Ultimately what needs to happen from my perspective for eSports to take that next step or hit the tipping point is the realisation by advertisers that it does have the viability of other sports, that it's worth putting the same sorts of investments they do into other sports into this."
Sigaty also believed that the complexity of a game like StarCraft 2 wouldn’t be an issue, as viewers followed games like poker thanks to mini pop-up tutorials while the game was running.
"That's all you need. And then work on convincing the person who's flipping by in this theoretical version that, don't worry – yes, there's a lot going on – but just focus on: they have more units or less units and they're taking territory.”
In related news, MLG CEO Sundance DiGiovanni detailed his ideal game to The Penny Arcade Report – an arena duel, deathmatch-type shooter – before stating that his company will develop it eventually.
“One day we will. One day we will. Yeah,” he said.
“We’ve had people approach us about it. Right now we want to focus on partners with games like PlanetSide 2 and help them broaden out and take advantage of what we’ve built. But we can also take advantage of their understanding of the game mechanics.
“We’ve done this with folks at Bungie, with folks at Activision, we’ve done it with lots of studios. We’ve done that enough times to have the understanding to take to our own title, eventually.”
However, the game won’t surface anytime soon, said DiGiovanni.
“I don’t want to rush, I’d probably create an arena shooter and have people say I’m crazy. It’s not time for that,” he said.
“That time has passed, but who knows?”
Finally, Riot Games has told PCGamer that it is building stadiums as part of a wider strategy to grow eSports in the US.
“We have the battle arenas in Los Angeles and in Cologne, Germany – that one we’re partnering with ESL on. This is going to be our stadium. It’s where our teams go to play in weekly matches,” said Riot VP of eSports Dustin Beck.
“If you watched the qualifier, it took place at the arena. We’re using a bunch of high-quality cameras and backdrops and settings. We went big on both of these arenas so we could have a production level similar to any other traditional sport.”
Riot community eSports manager Whalen Rozelle said production values would also be higher this year.
“We’ve brought in producers with backgrounds in the NFL and the Olympics, so that they could take advantage of all the dynamic footage we’re going to have and do a lot of storytelling throughout the year. That’s another benefit that we get from the Legends Championship Series structure.”
The company also planned to provide consistent scheduling, stabilise pro salaries, and allow pro players to have input on game design, among other things.
“We brought a bunch of pro players to Riot HQ to work with the designers,” said Rozelle.
“They got a chance to sneak a peek and try everything out and give feedback to the designers. There’s a constant feedback cycle that they were able to take advantage of.”