How Will Esports Solve Their Broadcast Problem?

They’re becoming a bigger industry, but there’s just one problem: esports are hard to watch

(Psyonix)

Esports are getting more and more popular, but they still have a major hurdle to overcome: It’s difficult to watch them. There can be so much happening that a coherent broadcast is almost impossible. On the latest episode of Achievement Oriented, Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion talked to Compete’s Eric Van Allen about the challenges of broadcasting esports.

Overwatch is new to the esports scene, and it’s a particularly clear example of the issues esports broadcasts face.

“[The success has] been middling, for Overwatch,” Van Allen said. “They’re definitely closer than they’ve been in the past, but they’re not quite there yet. There are still things in Overwatch that are just missing, and some of it is just not having the right camera angles to display all the info that’s going on, sometimes there’s literally too much happening on the screen at one time for anyone to process, unless they’re just honed in and seeing things that nobody else can see. Like the Rain Man of Overwatch is seeing what’s going on there, but nobody else is.”

The answer may be to experiment with new ways to broadcast.

“They need to just kind of keep cracking at it,” he said. “I thought it was interesting, they had the Overwatch stream a week or so ago, and a lot of people had a lot of complaints on the actual, professional broadcast that Blizzard was putting on for contenders. But another player was streaming his perspective of the matches, so it was only playing out from his viewpoint, and he was getting better viewer numbers than Blizzard was purely because it was more interesting for people to watch a tournament play out from a single player’s perspective than it was to try and watch all the action happening like it would in a traditional esports broadcast.”

Should people be able to select which feed they want, with general, vague commentary dubbed in that could work for any of the available streams?

“It’s an option that people have tried out before,” he said. “In [Defense of the Ancients] you can watch tournament games through the client and actually center your camera and perspective, and even mouse movements on individual players during live matches. Which is a really useful tool. But I think just experimenting with things and continuing to find ways to portray the info that’s on screen, that’s going to be how they’re going to forge ahead.”

One answer: have games that actually play out more like traditional sports. An example could be Rocket League, which is a soccer-like game that features rocket-powered vehicles.

“I love Rocket League,” he said. “It’s so easy to show someone a clip of Rocket League, and they go ‘Oh, that’s cool!’ Show them a League of Legends highlight and there’s a lot of explaining you have to do, you have to sit them down and prep them and be like, ‘OK, you’re going to be watching here, and then here, and then this happens.’ With Rocket League it’s just a car with a rocket strapped to its back, flying towards a soccer goal. That is instantly recognizable as awesome.”

“So I really, really like Rocket League. It just has all the things going for it that you would want for this sort of game,” he said. “It’s playable on almost every console now — they just announced the [Nintendo] Switch version of it. It has cross play on almost everything. It’s so easy to get into. And there’s no real systems or structures around it, you’re just driving a car and hitting a soccer ball, which actually opens it up to a lot of player finesse and player movement. And watching these teams set up these kind of moves you would normally see from like a professional football club, but on a pitch with rocket cars, is really awesome.”

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.