Watching 2013′s Season 3 World Championship League of Legends tournament hosted at the Staples Center in Los Angeles (labeled the “Super Bowl” of eSports) got me wondering – which upcoming game can push eSports even further? Which new title is destined to be ideal for competitive play? Unlike most regulated sports, in eSports the rules, playing field, and competitors all change as new titles move in and older games get forgotten. Over the years we’ve seen a movement in focus and popularity from the early days of one-on-one deathmatch into the era of the team shooter and competitive RTS, and then into today’s very MOBA-dominated eSports scene. Click the jump for my take on which games just might make the cut in 2014.
Heroes of the Storm
No surprises here. As mentioned above, the two main competitive MOBAs League of Legends and DOTA 2 are massively popular as eSports titles and I can’t see Blizzard’s foray into the genre being any different. A few new interesting elements have been added to the gameplay such as territory control, dynamic boss fights and multiple maps, but none of the additions look likely to deviate too much from the standard formula. Blizzard have proven with games such as StarCraft 2 that they are more than capable of making a solid eSports-oriented title and Heroes of the Storm looks a safe bet for competitive play after release.
Microsoft’s big next-generation exclusive is an online multiplayer-only first-person shooter that appears to have great potential for competitive play. Teams play in squads to complete various objectives and can call down a range of Titans (giant mechs) with different abilities which will add a great deal of strategy to the play. There are a number of fresh new gameplay mechanics like the ability to run on walls, hijack mechs, and extend periods between player deaths which could breathe new life into an aging genre. The game has been designed for 6v6 play and it will be interesting to see if this becomes the accepted format, or if the more standard 4v4 and 5v5 modes are used.
OK, I know I’m cheating a bit here because ShootMania was released well over a year ago (and I’m also not mentioning Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Counter-Strike), but the game’s recent rise in popularity really does warrant a mention. Included at both the 2012 and 2013 Electronic Sports World Cup events in Paris, ShootMania is a fast-paced first-person shooter developed by the same people who created TrackMania and the yet to be released QuestMania. It focuses on the use of the game’s primary weapon – a rocket launcher-style gun – and requires fast movement and prediction. With a large number of former deathmatch professionals playing the game regularly and an increasing fan base across Europe, ShootMania is my prediction for the most unlikely eSports success of 2014.
Personally, I don’t understand why competitive gaming ever extended past Quake III Arena (now freely available as Quake Live) – the epitome of what I believe an eSports title should be. But there you have it, my take on the titles which could take the eSports world by storm in 2014 (ranked in probability from definite to “well, maybe”.) What’s your opinion on the upcoming games? Which titles did I leave out?