Saturday, June 17, 2006

Esports event to be broadcast by DirectTV

I've been very busy lately.

I noticed this news item on the BBC about DirecTV obtaining the broadcast rights to the Cyberathlete Professional League's winter event (Dec. 13-17), and a series of events in 2007. Supposedly the event will be broadcast live, along with interviews and other coverage that go along with adding the 'spice' to the broadcast (maybe similar to the way the top poker tournaments are broadcast, with interviews and player backgrounds).

The BBC also reports that DirecTV had been experimenting with their own eSports tournaments for consoles. There is a note at the bottom saying that another channel, Voom, is planning on dedicating an entire channel to eSports.

Although this is a significant step forward for eSports, giving much broader exposure to the games played, the competitors, and expanding the audience (something the sponsors will love), it remains to be seen if it will catch on with a broader audience. The long term result should be an increased number of events, increased winnings, and theoretically, better competition. Perhaps eSports will become more like what occurs in South Korea.

However, there is some concern that live coverage by HLTV (being able to view the tournaments live, in-game, through proxy and spectator servers) and by the various streaming audio broadcasters like TSN (Team Sportscast Network) will be affected, which would be unfortunate since these technologies have worked for years to provide coverage of these events to the eSports fanatics (like myself). It still remember watching the infamous X3 and NiP match on De_Nuke that went into overtime. Hopefully these are not lost.

There's also some concern, in my opinion, on the possible negative effects of broadcasting violent video games to the public. How is the public going to view a game like Counterstrike, where you have terrorists trying to plant a bomb, with respect to what has happened over the last few years? Will there be a call to censor, or modify the game, so that it is palatable to the general public? Will we have the T side planting a flag instead (or maybe a carrot inside the CT's garden?)

CS is a complicated game, at least as complicated as American Football, and even moreso since the game is not played on the average rectangular playing surface (court, rink, pitch, field, etc.). At least there are map overviews, which should definitely be combined with first person and 3rd person views when showing the game. Explaining something as complicated as an eco round to the gaming public will be difficult. How are they going to explain 'handles' or 'nicknames' or the differences in guns, grenades, etc? I don't know but I do hope they obtain some experienced broadcasters from TSN, or one of the other eSports radio shows.

One advantage eSports has over almost any other sport (except maybe racing), is that you can get a camera perspective from the players themselves (first person). Personally I think any broadcaster should take serious advantage of that, as it provides an unusual perspective of the game, and would also allow people to truly experience the game as it is played. Who wouldn't want to see what it would be like to score a Kobe Bryant layup, a Ovetchkin goal, or throw a Manning pass? Combine that with instant replays, and you should have a fairly comprehensive broadcast, if it's done right.

What I do expect to happen is a huge proliferation of statistics for the game coverage (for some reason American broadcasters love to spew useless stats during the game, I suppose they do it since they have nothing else to talk about). I can imagine stuff like "and compLexity wins 67% of the time when they're down 3 men to 2 in the 4th round when playing as CT on De_Dust2 and the T squad attempts a run at bombsite B and Danny “fRoD” Montaner has a Deagle and full health". Blech.

Also on ESReality, and GotFrag, and previous mentions of other game tournaments to be broadcast on Guardian GamesBlog and Joystiq.


Anonymous said...

Great thoughts on the arrival of major broadcast to e-sports.

In the case of the CPL Winter 2006 event, the CPL has already signed up with the new online streaming company GotFrag TV for live streaming and HLTV coverage.

Angel Munoz, CPL

bllius said...

I suppose that means we will have to see how this all turns out.