Top five (most neglected) games that deserve “The International” treatment

dota 2 the international

The International for Dota 2 is reaching fever pitch, and technical problems aside, the production value has been staggering – as well as the prize pool. It’s an $18 million tournament with massive crowds, interviews, bios, a stream exclusively for new players and more internet hype than the next season of My Little Pony.

I love seeing an eSports game get that much attention, but it also makes me a little sad. There are many other games that deserve their shot at the big stage, but just aren’t getting it. I’ve chosen five titles that I would love to see get this much attention, and ranked them in ascending order. I’ve even included a video with each one, for the hype factor.

5. World of Tanks

Full disclosure here – I’ve never played World of Tanks. Of course, I’ve never let trivial things like research or knowledge of the subject get in the way of me having an expert opinion about it.

I can tell you, however, that the game has a sizeable following. So, in an effort to keep up to the standards of Dane’s recent 336-page office memo on Ethical Standards in Journalism, I decided to do a bit of research.

From the data gathered over a ten minute period of stream watching, I gathered the following:

  • It does what it says on the box – a world populated exclusively with tanks shooting each other.
  • It’s played almost entirely by members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which is what we like to call the Soviet Union these days.
  • It’s highly strategic, and honestly a lot easier to grasp than Dota.
  • Data points 1 and 3 make this a pretty awesome spectator sport. As for data point 2,  if The International has taught us anything it’s that most Russian gamers have competent English fluencies and hilarious accents.

You can see most of that in this video:

It’s not without some support either – this innocuous free-to-play tank game had a tournament just last year with a $300,000 prize pool. For reference, $300,000 could buy you a four-bedroom house in a good suburb, a his-and-hers Maserati set, every game on Steam or half a swimming pool at Nkandla.

4. FIFA 2015

Substitute that year at the end as necessary.

I’m not really a “FIFA guy”, I generally suck a big fatty at most sports simulators (except Wii Tennis,  at which I have ascended beyond the powers of a mere mortal), but I do recognise the potential here.

Soccer (or “football”, for you “real fans”), has the distinguished honour of being both the most watched sport in the world, and the most boring sport to watch in the world. If you don’t believe me, spend 90 minutes watching a soccer match that ends 0-0. Only then can you know real suffering.

Anyways, the point is people love this crap for some reason. Which means people would really love a massive FIFA tournament – and honestly, myself included. Particularly if it looked like this:

It would be awesome to watch some truly skilled FIFA players pulling off things we didn’t think the engine was capable of, and this is something that literally anybody could watch and enjoy – no prior knowledge required whatsoever.

3. StarCraft II

Well, this game has died a slow, horrible death as an eSport. For me, it seems to be a consequence of a general lack of interest in RTS games.

Which is, in and of itself, a consequence of a general lack of interest in games with exceptionally high skill floors and demanding mechanics. Some may cite Dota 2 has an exception, but I’d argue that Dota 2 has a very high skill ceiling, but not nearly as high a floor. Controlling a single unit is a lot simpler than managing an entire economy and multiple components of an army. Check out this compilation of some of the best StarCraft II moments in 2014, and you can’t help but appreciate the amount of skill these guys have. The micromanagement of armies is particularly impressive.

Still, the game has massive potential as a spectator sport. StarCraft II is one of those games that you can enjoy watching without actually playing it.

The mechanics are a little harder to grasp in this one, but the basic premise is easy enough – kill all your opponent’s shit. With the right casters on the game, smaller details like how much of a disaster it is when your workers are killed can be explained easily enough as well.

It has the extended 40 minute games that involve multiple epic battles and a war of attrition, but it also sometimes has someone hiding a building in someone’s base and winning in two minutes. No prizes for guessing which my favourite is, but they’re both fun to watch regardless.

2. Fighting Game

I’m not recommending some obscure fighting title with a really unoriginal name; there’s just so many of them and I don’t know which one is best.

What I do know, however, is that they’re awesome to watch. In case you need a reminder, let me whip out this old chestnut:

I’ve never really played anything that isn’t Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, and never competitively (kicking Delano’s ass at rAge, for example, was not what anyone would call “competitive”). I have, however, watched an eight-part documentary on Super Smash Bros. Melee and loved every minute of it. You can find that here.

You see, fighting games have their own culture, and that’s what makes them great. They have personality, heaps of smack talk and more rivalries than the rap industry. With The International levels of production, backstory, interviews and behind-the-scenes personals, a fighting game tournament would be so much more than just the game.

If you ever have time, Google and watch some of the documentaries – there are likely more on fighting games than any other genre, and they’re mostly really good.

1. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

My number one choice is partly the most justified, and partly my own personal bias. After basically shit-talking Counter-Strike for years, I’ve become a fanatic. I drank the Kool-Aid, and it was delicious.

In this image I found on Reddit, you can see some of the big eSports prize pools along with their viewership.

Dota 2 sits at the top in terms of prize pool with a staggering $18 million for The International – CS:GO, on the other hand, shares the bottom spot with StarCraft II, World of Warcraft and Hearthstone at $250,000.

From that we can gather two things – Blizzard is cheap, and Valve doesn’t give much of a toss about CS:GO.

Of the 11 games listed, only two top CS:GO’s 1 million+ concurrent viewers in terms of audience (Dota 2 with 2+ million, and League of Legends with a laughable 11.2 million). Yet, somehow, the gold standard of competitive FPS is sharing the bottom spot. Check out this awesome highlights video from a tournament earlier this year, and be sure to check out the crowd in the opening minute – the support from fans is there, just not so much from the creators.

Valve is able to achieve Dota’s enormous prize pool essentially through crowdfunding. They put out the “Compendium”, which gives players various items and tasks built around a level-up system, and a part of those proceeds go towards The International prize pool. This works because Dota 2 has an item system built into Steam.

CS:GO has exactly the same item system, working in exactly the same way. It also has a player base which is more obsessed with items than their Dota counterparts (albeit less players). So where is the Compendium here? Nobody knows, really.

The Counter-Strike community constantly laments the lack of support from Valve. Updates are slow, content is limited and problems that have been in the game since release have still not been addressed.

The game is constantly overshadowed by Dota, and it’s a shame. It’s exciting to watch, and a lot more accessible – almost everyone understands an FPS, and the commentators are there to break down the strategy (of which there is a lot).

In spite of all of this, the community is growing, year on year. It just needs a little more love from Lord Gaben.

So NAG Online collective, what games would YOU like to see rise to e-sports prominence? Tell me about it in the comments, or talk to me on Twitter @BananaSub – and be sure to follow @nagcoza so you don’t miss a thing.