The Games Driving eSports and What You Need to Know About Them

​​​​​eSports are made up of a number of disciplines including fighting, sports and online collectable card games but the rapidly growing competitive scene is clearly dominated by Team Based First Person Shooters (FPS) and Multiplayer Online Battlefield Arena (MOBA) games. We take a look at two of the most popular games in each of these disciplines. 

Counter-Strike®: Global Offensive (CS:GO) Developer: Valve

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a team-based shooter with modern weapons. Teams of five versus five face off in a series of rounds, not dissimilar to traditional sports. There are two sites on every game map, noted as A and B, and the offensive team, the ‘Terrorists’, set out to plant a bomb at either site which they then in turn defend until the bomb timer counts in their victory. The defending team, the ‘Counter Terrorists’ initially take mastery of both sites and attempt to stop the bomb from being planted within a certain game time limit. Both sides can also win the round by eliminating the opposition.

Looking at the history of the franchise, Counter-Strike has been in the market since 1999 in various iterations, receiving its first lick of new paint in 2004. That refresh was Counter-Strike®: Source (which launched around the same time as Counter-Strike®: Condition Zero… a game more focused on traditional single player than eSports). Counter-Strike: Source is the refreshed and up-to-date version of original Counter-Strike title built on developer Valve’s latest (at the time) game engine, appropriately called Source, too - the same engine that powered the likes of Half Life 2. Counter-Strike: Source ruled the online shooter space for 8 years, a huge time in an ever-shifting landscape such as online gaming. In 2012, an updated version of the game was launched, known as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. It took quite a while for Global Offensive to actually be accepted into the eSports scene as many tried to cling onto the predecessor (and arguably the better version) which had been refined over many years. This led to the Counter-Strike series having less time at events as the communities were divided, but after significant development from Valve, CS:GO teams and players gradually accepted the game along with event organisers.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is now the top team shooter in the World1 with millions of players logging in each day. It also has a massive audience online watching the pro teams compete in the leagues that have been hosted by many organisers, including ESL, Dreamhack and MLG. Next up will be a televised league, hosted by Turner, which will help ensure Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will be a massive leader in team based shooters this year.

League of Legends® (LoL) Developer: Riot Games

League of Legends is part of the growing genre called “multiplayer online battle arena” or MOBA. It features two teams of either three or five players facing each other across an arena. Each player picks a unique ‘champion’ character with a specific role and skill set within the game. The player then levels up the character, allowing the team to gain access to abilities and also buy items to improve their individual champion characters to achieve the final goal: destroying the main core of the other team’s base.

Unlike Counter-Strike, League of Legends is not played across a number of rounds and is more appropriately compared to a sport like American football, where a gradual tug-of-war and shift of power across the playing field eventually comes to a head in a final action, defeating the opponent’s end line, their ‘base’. 

As for its history, League of Legends was released in 2009 as a free-to-play game with the option for micro transactions. LoL, as it is commonly known, was seen as the main competitor to Defence of the Ancients (DOTA) which still exists with decent popularity. The developer Riot Games is both publisher and developer which makes easy for them to enhance the title with new modes, new champions and new items. The benefit of this keeps the game fresh for old and new players. 

Riot Games is also the governing body when it comes to the tournaments and leagues for LoL. This includes the Championship Series which started in 2013 and conducts a series of leagues throughout Europe, North America, Latin America, China, Korea, Oceania, CIS and others. Professional teams play in these leagues throughout the year, aiming to reach the World Championship. 

Just how important is LoL? In North America, the Citizenship & Immigration Services recognised League of Legends players as professional athletes which gives them access to a specialised visa, making it easier for foreign players to come in and play in the hosted tournaments.

Of course, the turn of the year means a new season of the Championship Series with a key test for Riot Games being whether they can beat the viewership of the 2015 World Championship. Overall stats for 2015 show 360 million hours of the World Championship being watched, 334 million unique impressions and an average concurrent viewership of 4.2 million people2.

What do titles like Counter Strike and League of Legends mean for your business, and why should they garner your attention? With such a huge and active community, these titles have undoubtedly shaped the gaming landscape in both the competitive and consumer spheres. Their growth is due to their simple but effective gameplay formula. Easy to learn but hard to master, they lend themselves wholeheartedly towards the viewer market, where thousands will tune into competitions to learn advanced tactics and support their favourite teams and personalities. Over 134 million individuals watched eSports events across 20153. Business opportunities exist across not just the hardware the games are played on, but the culture surrounding them too with online streams, social influencers and competitive events all seeking corporate affiliation.​