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Top 3 Games I’d Like to Become Esports

By Kenneth Williams in Sports
| March 19, 2019 12:00 am PDT
These 3 games should be esports

Breaking into the esports sphere is hard nowadays.

Games are being made specifically to become esports, but many still have problems gaining traction. The most important factor for this is the spectator experience.

Tons of games out there have dedicated player bases and competitive spirits, but not all of them are suited to big tournaments.

Whether it’s network problems, developer concerns, or just lack of public interest, they just don’t make the cut.

It would be so much easier if an esports genie appeared to grant three games the title of “esport.” It likely won’t happen, but it’s best to be prepared just in case.

Listed below are three games that probably won’t become esports but totally should.

Pokemon

From Counter-Strike’s gunfights to Mortal Kombat’s fatalities, it seems like every competitive game has to have some kind of violence to it. It’s not the main reason, but it’s a big part of why Pokemon would be so entertaining as an esport. It’s refreshing to see a game where characters just get knocked out instead of exploding.

Competitive Pokemon normally consists of two players battling against each other 6 vs. 6 in a mainline Pokemon game. That usually means the most recent release.

Nintendo has let players battle online since 2006, so a rich metagame and competitive history has developed. It would seem strange to see it alongside League of Legends, but Pokemon already has a massive fanbase.

To break down the rules even further, players have to assemble their team of six Pokemon entirely before a battle. Each Pokemon can learn four moves each with their own different effects, strengths, and weaknesses.

Pokemon also have an innate passive ability that can be just a little bonus or an entire gimmick their Pokemon depends on. A ‘mon’s typing, which designates them as up to two of the 18 elemental types, also has a big effect on their viability. They also can hold an item that further changes their behavior in battle. Sounds a lot like a MOBA, doesn’t it?

The similarities end there. Pokemon battles are either fought one Pokemon at a time or in doubles, where both players send out two Pokemon simultaneously. The quicker Pokemon moves first, then the slower one gets their turn. Trainers will try to set up traps, power up their team, outwit, and overwhelm their opponents.

Just like teams in MOBAs or decks in Hearthstone and Magic, a Pokemon team has to have a central theme that the whole squad works towards.

Teams can grind out their opponents, stall out their offensive options, lock them out of the game, or just overwhelm them with sheer power. This leads to a ton of competitive diversity.

There are a few problems that have kept competitive Pokemon out of the mainstream.

The first is that most players don’t even play the actual games. Online simulators like Pokemon Showdown are the primary method of battling. This is because training up Pokemon in an actual game takes a ton of time. Also, Nintendo doesn’t have a track record of supporting their games’ competitive scenes.

The last major problem is the ruleset.

There are dozens of formats for competitive battling. Only a few are played enough to have a big community, but it could cause confusion. The two current rulesets for Pokemon battling are Smogon and Nintendo’s official one. Events would have to be very specific on how entrants ought to play.

But hey, a lot of those negatives can be turned into positives. Pokemon being hard to train would make changing members of a team exciting. Fans could get attached to both the players and the members of their team.

Pokemon is popular enough that it would likely have an audience just out of curiosity.

Tetris

Good luck finding anyone on Earth who hasn’t heard of Tetris. The simple puzzle game is one of the oldest video games still around and maintains a loyal fanbase to this day. When you mention video games, most people’s minds go to Tetris.

Its status as the video game can help cement it as a popular spectator experience. Many people might now know, but there’s a ton of strategic planning and quick execution that goes into high-level Tetris play.

The T-shaped tetromino is often a huge playmaker in competitive Tetris because of its unique properties. By spinning it at precisely the right time, players can make it skip over an occupied space and settle in a more optimal spot.

This technique, called a T-spin, is just one of several strategies.

Making Tetris even more appealing for esports is its latest release. Tetris 99 takes the classic formula and puts a battle royale spin on it. 99 players stack it up simultaneously while sending rows of unclearable blocks to their opponents. The last one standing wins.

I could easily see team-based or doubles variations of Tetris 99 taking the world by storm, even if the gameplay isn’t as flashy as Fortnite or PUBG. The ability to coordinate with a team would improve the spectator experience and attract a larger audience.

Tetris’ simple gameplay but mental and mechanical depth puts it squarely up there with most other esports for skill cap. Many of the game’s best players have been at it for decades and are still improving.

The major roadblocks are the spectator experience and the scoring system. The early game of Tetris is simple and by-the-books, and it’s tough to get excited about the match until the very end. Since Tetris has no logical end, games could theoretically go on forever.

Luckily, Tetris 99 already presents a solution to this problem by making it a king-of-the-hill.

Dark Souls

Dark Souls is a medieval fantasy RPG action game where a lone player character is forced to tackle insurmountable odds to save the world. Or destroy it, maybe. The game isn’t very clear.

It was released to critical acclaim and is often touted as one of the best games ever made. It had two sequels and a widely praised spinoff in the form of Bloodborne. It’s lauded for being incredibly difficult, rewarding, satisfying, and an overall fantastic single-player experience.

But the multiplayer half of the game is where the esports potential begins to show.

See, Dark Souls’ player versus player experience is not like it is in most other games. Players don’t click a button on the title screen to play against one another.

Instead, they can invade each other’s game worlds completely randomly. Dubbed “invaders,” these players can block the host’s progress until they are defeated.

Dark Souls 3 is the latest and final installment in the series, but the game’s PvP is still played today. Dedicated players still plan out builds, rush through the game to find gear, and invade other players all day long. The game also features a dedicated matchmaking system that supports both head to head and two versus two.

Heavily-armored builds can rely on tanking a dozen enemy slashes, while dagger-wielding backflip ninjas can take each other out in seconds. This variety keeps things fresh and provides tons of different competitive scenarios.

FromSoftware, the game’s developer, even made post-launch patches to tone down some overpowered choices.

Now players can find success with various swords, daggers, dual blades, bows and arrows, spears, fencing swords, clubs — you get the idea.

In addition to their weapons, players can use one of a few magic types to aid them in battle. They can perform miracles to heal themselves, snipe enemies with powerful sorceries, or burn and poison them with pyromancy. Some even eschew a weapon altogether and only rely on magic. Players can also use items, like throwing knives or firebombs, to poke from afar.

There are thousands of videos on YouTube of players duking it out in Dark Souls 3, with many explaining their own unique builds and strategies.

There’s definitely an audience for this kind of thing. Since private matchmaking is pretty simple to emulate, running a tournament wouldn’t even be too hard.

The reason it isn’t a popular competitive venture is because of its niche audience. Getting to the point where you can even hold a candle to an experienced PvPer takes days of practice. Getting on their level can take years.

Combine that with no real way to spectate and its shoddy netcode, and you get a game that’s already lived up to its potential.

Conclusion

So many competitive games are things of beauty, but only a few can express that to both players and spectators.

Making a game into an esport is tough work and relies on a maelstrom of factors. The games on this list don’t check all the boxes, but they’d still be cool as hell to watch.

Keep an eye on the lower end of Twitch’s games list to see them in action. Maybe you’ll come to agree on a few of them!

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