The most popular esports these days are very hard to ignore when diving into any online esports community. Riot’s League of Legends, Valve’s DOTA 2 and Counter Strike GO dominate the posts and discussions, while games like StarCraft 2 & Street Fighter hang on the edges with their own followings. There are plenty of other esport titles with dedicated followings and a big player base like Smite, but not many can hold a candle to the success of the aforementioned games.
That was until games like Hearthstone and Rocket League jumped into the scene. Both these games developed followings and huge esport popularity incredibly fast, with Rocket League gaining a place in the Electronic Software League a mere three days after its initial release. These games have more than proven that with the right moves, a game can become huge in the esports scene very fast, so with this in mind I thought it would be interesting to consider what might be the next games to take over in the esport world?Currently, MOBAs are the unchallenged kings of esports. They’re the most commonly watched and played, with League of Legends breaking 1 million concurrent twitch viewers during the group stages at worlds. It’s hard to think of any games that have the potential to unseat League and Dota 2 in this genre at the moment, but there’s plenty of games with the potential to capitalise on the developing scene around these titans – all a part of a MOBAfication of games.
Action MOBAs like SMITE have taken the complex MOBA formula and stylised it to make it easier to watch for people familiar with action games. The third of first person perspectives give games a lot of room to bring their own new ideas to this genre.While SMITE is indeed flourishing, I’d put forward Motiga’s Gigantic as a game with huge esport potential in the future. The gorgeous looking game features a cast of fantasy characters doing battle to guide their titular ‘gigantic’ NPC to the enemy base in order to destroy it, creating some awesome setpieces and spectacular viewing. While the game is only in beta at this stage, there’s already a devoted community involved around the game on reddit, plus the dual Windows 10 and Xbox One support is a big plus for a diverse player base.
In terms of shooters, while CS:GO is the go to for a lot of viewers, both Blizzard and Activision have a chance to take their slice of the pie with their upcoming releases, Overwatch and Call of Duty Black Ops 3.
Overwatch has only just entered its first closed public beta but it’s already drawn a tonne of attention from players and pro teams. FNATIC’s battlefield team, widely regarded as the best in the world, appears to have already made the jump to Overwatch, while organisations like K1CK Esports Club & Tempo Storm are racing to get teams organised, pulling players from games like Team Fortress 2 to the new shooter.Ever since the very first Pixar-esque announcement trailer from Blizzard this game has been on the radar for a lot of people. It’s vibrant mix of characters and classes with crazy abilities and over the top style make it vastly entertaining to watch even from early streams, so this is definitely one to watch for.
Activision’s Black Ops 3 also has a huge potential for reviving Call of Duty esports thanks to a very mobafied feel in the new multiplayer. Players roll into battle with a range of classes, abilities and ultimate like special abilities that can either buff a team or deal a tonne of damage to foes. From what I’ve seen and played Call of Duty has never been so varies in building team composition, creating a more faced paced but tactical game than we’ve seen in the past. It’ll be great to watch the competitive scene develop once the game has launched.In terms of fighting games, it’s very hard for new games to break the status quo, with games like Super Smash Bros Melee and 64 still widely played competitively. I feel like the whole scene is definitely one that savours games and really respects the competitive potential for games no matter how new or old they are, but there are two main games that I can see having quite a big following in the near future.
The first of these is the upcoming Street Fighter V. The game has been hugely anticipated and there are already people training and committed to it, even in the beta stage it’s currently in. Between events showcasing the game and the interest in this game from new players, with Capcom’s support this game is already on track to be a big esport in 2016 and beyond.
The other title is Rising Thunder, a giant robot fighting game from Seth Killian that prides itself on its simplified controls and accessibility alongside competitive depth. In an interview with Polygon Killian suggested that the the big games with hardcore followings like League of Legends & DOTA don’t have the overcomplex controls that fighting games do – “ultimately the fun of actually being able to do the moves that you’re trying to do when you want to do them completely eclipses the value of doing those moves in sort of a more traditional way” he says.It’s definitely something interesting thats developing within the fighting game scene, and it seems to have gained a lot of interest already. If all that doesn’t sell you on it, surely giant robots punching the nuts and bolts out of each other will.
Outside of these more rigid genres of esports there’s one interesting anomaly cropping up that may just become something big in the future. Esports hasn’t really tackled Virtual Reality in any way, but RIGS: Mechanised Combat League from Guerilla Cambridge is doing that – imagining a world where humans fight with mechs in futuristic sports combat. It’s a fantastic mix of 80’s Tron fuelled future sports and modern style, receiving a great wrap in previews with Sony’s VR platform.If not RIGS, the recent trend towards VR could provide a whole world of new esports we haven’t even begun to see yet. Whether it looks like RIGS or develops in a whole different direction, I can’t wait to see what developers and the wider esports community could do with this tech in the realm of competitive gaming.