I believe for all esports there has to be three tiers, a pyramid if you will. This pyramid can define how successful your title will be. Missing just one of them will be crucial to the development of the scene. I’ll discuss each tier and how the tiers can be used to improve player experience and viewership.Without more delay the pyramid.
To start at the top — the elite tier. These are the players that are better at the game than you ever thought possible. They are doing things in the game that you simply did not think of when you wrote that piece of code. These players are the ones that will provide thousands of hours of entertainment for the adoring fans across the world. This is the 0.1%. Players sat in booths in front of thousands of fans and millions online. While you might overlook these players as there is so few of them they are your ambassadors. This tier will show the rest of the world what your game is about. They will create the stunning moments that make fans jaws drop…
Think these guys:
The second tier is the grass roots. This is a term that comes mainly from sports but can definitely be applied to esports. Players here are contrived of people that are trying to get to that elite tier. Upcoming talent festers here. But don’t get too obsessed with esports. This is also a place for players who are not that amazing at the game. Grass roots is a place for those folk who love the competitive side and team aspect of the game. But if we’re being honest with ourselves; just aren’t that good at the game. The grass roots tier consists of the most different types of players.
The casual level. This is where those players who love playing the game but due to many circumstances can’t commit many hours to the game or simply don’t want to. Ultimately still able to hop into another world for a few hours to escape. While these won’t be the players participating in your tournaments or leagues there is a reason they sit at the bottom. The majority of your player base will sit at this tier. This knowledge is invaluable to publishers. Striking the balance between the two tiers above and this is crucial. Too many updates and game changing behaviour will leave this tier struggling to keep up. Too few updates will leave the tiers above bored and wanting something else.
If you manage to hit all of these tiers I believe you will have a successful game. Taking a look at current and past esports titles you can apply this ‘pyramid’ theory. Blizzards ‘Heroes of the Storm’ was an example of an excellent casual tier but a lack cluster grass roots scene. The game was so good at being ready to jump in without much prior knowledge or commitment. Largely due to the game time meaning players only required ~20 minutes to spare — compared to other titles in the moba genre such as League of Legends and Dota 2 which require around an hour to play! Dota 2 is an example where the top and bottom tiers (elite and casual respectively) are thriving but the grassroots scene (Tier 2 and 3) are struggling. Valve — publishers of Dota 2, host one of if not the biggest esports event of the year, The International. Pulling in millions of viewers from around the globe and record breaking prize pools. The game its self pulls in around 400–500k unique players each month, staying roughly at this level since the game first came out in 2013. But the grass roots seen has been struggling with many players pulling out because they simply cannot afford to continue. You can read more about the struggles here wrriten by Pandora: https://www.gosugamers.net/dota2/features/50937-op-ed-dota-2-s-fractured-pipeline
It’s important to remember each tier and who those players are for your game. “Look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves”.