Heroes of the Storm

The reasons why HGC failed to attract many viewers

HeroesoftheStorm 2 - The reasons why HGC failed to attract many viewers
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I see this discussion come up a lot and i wanted to make a post giving my thoughts on the matter. Many things has been said about it, especially after the cancellation of HGC, and now that the dust has settled, i can hop on my soap box and preach, lol.

First things first, why people are watching sports? We need to answer THIS question first. Not just esports, sports in general. To my mind, people watch real sports for 4 main reasons:

  1. They can see other people perform feats, they themselves can't perform. Whether it is because of lack of talent, lack of physical attributes, or simply put lack of the time needed to hone their abilities, they enjoy looking others do it.
  2. They enjoy a certain sport but lack the time or people to play it regularly. For example, people enjoy to play football(soccer for americans) but it is very time consuming and tiring and you need to find 21 other available people and a place to play it, which is hard and not something you can do regularly, while the TV is just in that corner ready for you while you are eating your pizza…
  3. People watch sports because it is a popular social activity that can connect people. Oftentimes people don't have something to talk about and they usually avoid talking about politics because it is depressing, so sports can be a thing to connect people, break the ice, give people and especially guys something to talk about, like soap operas for women…
  4. People often identify with their teams in real sports. They typicaly support the teams of the place they live, and to their eyes when the team wins they themselves are winning too, in a sense.

So, let's address HOTS as a sport now relative to these 4 things:

  1. While pros in HOTS can typically perform better than your average Joe, the difference is not much pronounced. It is not that visible. Watching HGC only rarely gives you the feeling that what you are seeing is something that you yourself could never perform if you just played the game yourself. Most of the time you are seeing stuff that to the untrained eye seem typical. Outside of some better stutter stepping and positioning and some better coordination for combos, there is not much difference from casuals, at least VISUALLY. Masters can appreciate the subtle differences from casual play, but here comes the oxymoron: Masters can more often do these things themselves in-game in some capacity… So we have the strange oxymoron that low skill people cannot appreciate the skill of HGC and high skilled don't have much difference with HGC people, so both of them don't have a reason to watch it for the skill…
  2. This in my opinion is the single most important reason HGC failed. HOTS, is an easier game to pick up and play. It is more enjoyable with less tedium and more teamfights and stuff. The games are shorter. There are plenty of in-game rewards if you play, while there are none if you watch. So why watch? League of Legends and especially Dota 2 (i have played both and now LOL is my main game after 4 years of HOTS) have longer games with a lot of routine in the laning phase. After a while, you get somewhat tired of laning yet another time, so you might as well watch it instead. Especially since Riot is kind enough to provide some in-game rewards if you do as well… I have said it plenty of times in the past, one of the main reasons HOTS players didn't watch HOTS was because 20minutes avg HOTS games were fun and people would rather play than watch. League and Dota are more like real sports, they take more time, are more tiring/draining, so you have more of an incentive to watch instead of playing yourself.
  3. Regarding to 3, i think all esports are kinda lacking in the sense that in the real world they are not much respected yet so they are not, yet, a society-wide social activity that can give people things to talk about and ways to connect, but in the subset of population (primarily nerds) who watches them they can act like this already. At least LOL has the benefit of a large population because it was the oldest (not counting original DOTA and AOF), so i think point 3 mainly benefited LOL because Blizzard was too slow on the market and half assed the whole thing…
  4. This is something that is lacking for all esports. We are not at the point of having locality matter for esports, so people do not identify with teams based on locations much. Overwatch League tried to rectify this but really, putting Koreans to play all around the world makes this a joke…
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Having watched enough LOL esports recently (after being prompted by LOL's mission screen which gives me missions if i watch LOL to earn in-game currency and stuff), i can't say they were much better production-wise to HGC. The differences were:

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  1. LOL gives me in-game incentives, HOTS does not. With LOL, when i have an hour of free time and i choose to watch instead of game, i can still get SOMETHING. With HOTS, if i watch instead of play, i don't get gold, i don't get loot boxes…
  2. LOL provides me with more info to understand what team performs better, like for example the amount of gold gathered. It is also a slower game, letting me understand the game flow better. It is easier to see which player performs well because you can see how he does compared to his opponent on lane. I can easily appreciate that the pros are better than me because their last hitting stats are insane compared to mine when i play…
  3. I came to understand watching LOL that teamfights are the least enjoyable part of a MOBA when you are watching. Mainly because they end so fast and are confusing to watch, you rarely understand what happened in a teamfight unless you see 2-3 replays in very slow motion. I was more excited to watch smart ganks, smart split pushes, the macro play in general, than watching the teamfights. Teamfights were a tiny part of watching a League game. On the other hand, HOTS is all about the teamfights, and those teamfights end just as fast (which is also a mistake, if teamfights are all you have make them clearer to watch, reduce damage across the board and increase HP…remember 2015 and the HP changes?), so in the end you are watching 10 toons hitting each other with no apparent rhyme or reason. It is boring. It is also hillarius that HOTS wasn't supposed to be like this, there were more split pushes and tactics initially, but the "pros" complained because they only wanted to teamfight, so the game was reduced to a huge clownfiesta that was unwatchable… In my opinion, listening to these kids was the largest mistake Blizzard ever made regarding to HOTS as an esport. People do not watch STRATEGY games for the explosions, they can watch first person shooters for that…
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All in all, i think a lot of mistakes were made. I don't think the game can be salvaged anymore as an esport, not without a HOTS II (not 2.0) with significantly different gameplay design. It is sad, but it is what it is. Anyway, thanks for reading, that was my 2 cents on the subject.

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