Whenever I say the word “Esports” I half expect a Mountain Dew to snowboard through my window and into my hand. The term, and some things considered esports, feels very unnatural, forced. It feels like men in business suits making choices and decisions in a board room rather than an organic movement born from the desire to watch others compete in a video game.
Watching Dota 2 or League of Legends felt like the growth of the community. A strong desire to watch the best of the best play and compete. It’s why games like Evolve flounder because their attempts at esports feel unnatural and marketing driven while Hearthstone’s esports community simply came into being. Don’t worry though. ESPN is on the case.
ESPN announced today they are forming ‘ESPN Esports‘, a section of ESPN’s website that will be dedicated to esports news primarily following Hearthstone, Dota 2, and the behemoth that is League. The site currently looks pretty typical of an ESPN page, they have “report cards” up for some of the leagues, which should help newcomers get accustomed to teams, and guides to help those who may not understand the basics of something like League. They even have Rob Breslau, formerly of the floundering OnGamers, heading up their coverage. ESPN also says they intend to begin live streaming games on Twitch. Suddenly esports is legitimized.
This follows Activision’s acquisition of MLG’s assets in hopes of becoming, according to the Kotick himself, the “ESPN of Esports”. A term that’s somehow even more laughable given ESPN’s announcement.
For a year or two you’ve seen some call for websites to cover more and more esports and now we’re seeing a stark divide. Traditional sports coverage, for good or for ill, has come to roost where traditional games media dare not dwell. Where leagues couldn’t cut it publishers and developers did it on their own and now Disney money has come into play. Esports isn’t a fad and isn’t temporary. It’s still a term that’ll make me shudder and sneer but it’s real and everywhere.