February 6, 2018
TOP TEN COMPETITIVE MULTIPLAYER GAMES OF 2017:
1. PlayerUnknown’s Battleground
2. Overwatch League
3. League of Legends
4. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
6. Call of Duty
7. Rainbow Six Siege
8. DotA 2
9. Rocket League
#1 PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUND
PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, developed by Brendan Greene & the PUBG Corporation and published by Korean company Bluehole, was a breakout success in 2017.The game popularized the “Battle Royal” genre where 100 players drop into a map and fight to be the last man standing. Consistently the king of twitch viewership, only dethroned from the top spot by large tournaments, PUBG is also the king of Valve Corp’s video game marketplace Steam. In January 2018, according to steamchart.com (a website that uses Steam API to track user numbers), PUBG broke the record for most concurrent players at a given time with 3.23 million. The next highest game is Valve’s own DotA 2 with 1.29 million players. The unbelievable popularity of the game even managed to attract popular streamer and professional Counter-Strike player “Shroud” to leave his team Cloud9 and become a full-time streamer. The prospect of PUBG becoming an eSportslowly increased, with small tournaments being held and a streamer-based invitational, “Twitch Rivals”,pitting teams of various streamers against each other.In August 2017 a PUBG invitational was held at Gamescom in Germany. Being one of the first large tournaments for the game, some issues occurred, namely the ruleset and scoring system which encouraged passivity and low-action. In November Intel Extreme Masters held the first “major” competition for PUBG with IEM Oakland. With event planned like the “Stream.me PUBG Invitational”, including both North American and European leagues, and Korean media outlet SPOTV organizing apremier event, “PUBG Warfare Master’s” tournament in Seoul, South Korea, the PUBG competitive scene should only continue to grow and become a major power in the eSports scene if they can control the cheating which has plagued the game towards the end of 2017.
#2 OVERWATCH LEAGUE
Blizzard Entertainment’s first-person hero shooter Overwatch was arguably a success before the game was ever played by consumers. With massive hype since its announcement at BlizzCon November 2014, Blizzard knew that Overwatchwas going to be a huge hit! Blizzard looked to build the hype for competitive Overwatchwith the “Overwatch World Cup” in 2016 with South Korea winning the event. Also, Overwatchimmediately earned a spot at Korean eSports mainstay OGN, and Overwatch APEX Season 1 was held in Korea. The first APEX season was won by North American organization Team Envyus. The name of the game when marketing Overwatch has been to advertise the characters more rather than the gameplay. Following this marketing strategy, Blizzard debuted their plans for a competitive eSports league, mirroring a structure like the NFL’s, titled Overwatch League at BlizzCon 2016. The Overwatch League(OWL) looked to gain owners like the Patriot’s Robert Kraft and Ram’s owner Stan Kroenke. OWL’s inaugural season looked to have 12 teams take part. Looking to eventually become a global entity, teams are named off the cities they are located. Shanghai Dragons, Seoul Dynasty, London Spitfire and Dallas Fuel are 4 of the 12 teams located around the world, however 9-of-12 teams currentlyare located in America. The goal for OWL is to have teams globallypositioned and home-away style games where teams travel to various cities. With a $1 million prize pool, Blizzard will look to prove that Overwatch League can bring about more investors and have impactsimilar toprevious Blizzard titles, like Starcraft: Brood Waron the eSports scene by innovating and changing how business is done.
#4 COUNTER-STRIKE: GLOBAL OFFENSIVE
If League of Legends is the king of eSports, Counter-Strike is one of the royal families. The first Counter-Strike tournaments wereheld all the way back in 2000 and are still being held. With large viewership numbers for every major tournament, the current iteration of the series Counter-Strike: Global Offensiveis still an eSports juggernaut. 2017 was a massive year for CS:GO, with the firstELeague Major being played in January at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre. Turner Broadcasting’s investment in eSports was fully realized during the Major in Atlanta. Danish powerhouse Astraliswas able to defeat Virtus Pro, earning Dev1ce his much-deserved title of “Major Champion”. The PGL Krakow Major was full of surprises with two first time Major finalists in the Gambit, from the CIS region, and Immortals, from Brazil. Dubbed the “Upset Major” PGL saw the early elimination of the French dreamteam G2 Esports and the multinational powerhouse Faze Clan. In a year full of exciting tournaments and unexpected results, ESL made a huge announcement: the indefinitely banned members of the ex-iBuyPower team would be unbanned. Dazed, Steel, Azk, and Swag would all have a chance to compete competitively once again. Many fans rejoiced at the announcement that the perpetrators of theinfamous CS:GOmatch fixing scandal would get a second chance. Always a huge presence in the eSports scene, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive should continue its status as one of the world’s largest eSports in 2018.
While PUBG was the first break-out battle royal game, Fortnite has made the case that it is the better of the two. Developed by Epic Games, Fortnite, first announced at the Spike Video Game Awards in 2011, was released July 21st, 2017 as an early-access title. Fortnite was incredibly hyped at the time it was announced six years prior, as time went on however, and little news was released on its development, fans lost interest and thought the game had been scrapped. When it was released as early-access little reaction was had and Fortnitelooked doomed to fail, or at least fizzle away like so many other games with long development periods do. One announcement though completely changed the fate of Fortnite. Fortnite Battle Royal was released free-to-play September 26th, 2017 and immediatelyPUBG had gained a direct competitor. Like Saints Row is the humorous form to Grand Theft Auto’s open-world game, Fortniteis the more cartoon and silly version of PUBG. Going as far as to file a suit against Epic Games for copyright, the developers of PUBG knew that Fortnite could be a major rival in the Battle Royal space. With consistent updates and support from the development team at Epic, Fortnitelooks to eventually dethrone PUBG by catering to the fans’ wants and making a game with an easy-entry level but high skill ceiling.
#6 CALL OF DUTY
Possibly the most popular first-person shooter franchise of all-time had some difficulty with its release of Infinite Warfare in 2016. Many lambasted the idea that Call of Duty would once again take place in a futuristic setting and despised the fact that game publisher Activision-Blizzard would bundle the remaster of the original Modern Warfare as a pre-order bonus. According to Statista, sales for Infinite Warfare are only $12.69 million, earning less than half the prior entry in the series Black Ops III earned. Despite a catastrophic decline in sales, the Call of Duty eSports scene was still alive during 2017. Since Call of Duty games are annually released in November, each season of the eSports series plays the previous year’s entry. 2017 was filled with Infinite Warfare tournaments organized by MLG and other organizations, one tournament occurring each week. In August the 2017 Call of Duty World League Championship was held in Orlando, Florida. Spanning over the course of 4 days, Optic Gaming took home 1st place and a prize purse of $600,000 by defeating Team Envyus. To follow the futuristic Infinite Warfare, Activision-Blizzard announced that the next entry would take Call of Duty back to its roots with another iteration of the game set in World War II. Deciding to go with a highly uninspired title, developers Raven Software and Sledgehammer Games released Call of Duty: WWII in November 2017. Already almost matching Infinite Warfare’s sales with $12.12 million, the franchise hopes that WWII can bring back the prestige it once had. However, the decision to add loot crates may dash those dreams.
#7 RAINBOW SIX SEIGE
Ubisoft’s first-person shooter, Rainbow Six Siege, is a blend of Counter-Strike and Battlefield. With the classic 5 versus 5 defend-and-attack style gameplay, Siege had a feeble2015. With little expectation at release and receiving average scores on review aggregate site Metacritic, from both fans and critics alike, Siege was not able to capture the attention of mass audiences.The player count fell by 50% from its release a month after. Microtransactions, poor gameplay design, difficult to master mechanics, and low map and character variety led to this rapid decline. Ubisoft knew that it needed to fix this decline, and quick. Their decision: allow players to experience Siege for free or for large discounts. Regularly Siege would have free-to-play weekends or a 50% discount on online marketplaces (Steam, PS Store, etc.). The newfound availability of the game inspired gamers, who had previously not considered playing, filling servers and gaining new support. Soon, Siege started gain a large and loyal player base. With good support from the developers, fairly priced operator packs, and fast-paced action-packed gameplay only led to more support from the fans. Also, given the competitive nature of the game, a small, but active, eSports circuit was spawned. Publisher Ubisoft and tournament organizer ESL held seasonal championship throughout 2017 through the Rainbow Six Siege Pro League. Other smaller tournaments also filled the calendar. Despite the small eSports presence Rainbow Six Siege has, it is undeniable that the 70,000 average players on Steam and the 25 million total players across all platforms, according to Ubisoft, makes Siege a contender in the competitive gaming scene.
#8 DotA 2
Always the second most, or before PUBG the most, played game on Steam, Valve’s MOBA game DotA 2 had another good year in 2017. The sequel to the Warcraft III mod, Defense of the Ancients, DotA 2 maintained its place as the third or fourth largest eSport in 2017. With massive support in China and a healthy eSports scene, DotA 2 is always a rival to League of Legends for gaining recognition as “the best MOBA title”. The game had 14 major updates, starting with the 7.02 update in February and ending with the 7.07d update in December, the constant updates helped sustain the healthy competitive environment fans love. Along with support though, DotA 2 is best highlighted by it thriving eSports scene. Contrasting heavily to LoL’s NFL-style leagues, DotA 2, like CS:GO, relies on an active open circuit of tournaments along with leagues to keep the title’s competitive presence alive. ESL, Starladder, WESG, Epicenter, Valve themselves all organized events with large prize pools throughout the year. The main event of the year for DotA is always The International. With a prize pool of almost $25 million dollars, The International is without a doubt the most lucrative eSports event of the year combining both Valve’s prize contributions and fan contributions from buying in-game items related to the tournament and the teams competing. Played in Seattle Washington, The International 2017 was played between 18 teams, whom qualified for the tournament throughout the year with Team Liquid and Newbee fighting for first place in the finals. European team, Team Liquid, won the finals 3-0 after fighting their way from the loser’s bracket into the finals earning them almost $11 million in prize winnings. While not on the same level of League of Legends in terms of player numbers, DotA 2 is without a doubt the premier competition to LoL. It will be interesting to see if League’s popularity will decline in 2018 and if DotA 2 will be able to take its place as the most popular MOBA eSport.
#9 ROCKET LEAGUE
One of the most popular games of 2015 was a blend between cult classic racing-game Twisted Metal and the soccer-game Fifa. Rocket League, developed by California based studio Psyonix, became an instant hit at release and continues to maintain huge popularity two years later. Playable on all of the three major platforms, Rocket League is the perfect combination of fun, exciting, and challenging gameplay. On Steam, Rocket Leagueboasted a 33,000-average player count for 2017. Along with developer Psyonix announcing January 2nd, 2018 that Rocket League had a total of 40 million players, across all platforms, worldwide, Rocket League has earned its place as one of the most popular competitive multiplayer games on the market right now. While Rocket League does boast a massive player base, it popularity as an eSport has yet to take off. The major events for Rocket League are organized by developer Psyonix and streaming service Twitch TV. Seasons are played online in a North American and European league format where the top 4 teams from NA and EU league play in the offline-LAN finals. Two seasons were played this year with European teams Northern Gaming and Gale Force eSports winning the season 3 and 4 finals respectively. ELeague did host a major tournament for Rocket League also in Atlanta December 2017. Other than that, most tournaments outside of the Rocket League Championship Series are hosted by small organizers and not very often. Given the lackluster state of Rocket League in the eSports realm, its popularity more than makes up for its one deficiency. As long asRocket League can continue to keep the core gameplay fun and add fun twists to the game in form of new arenas to play in or with new game modes, it will continue to be a staple of the casual and competitive multiplayer space throughout 2018.
This online competitive card game has been a staple of the Blizzard library since 2014. The Warcraft spin-off, Hearthstone has maintained a sizeable player-base. A game largely based around random factors and chance, has found little success in becoming a truly competitive eSport or card game. Also, few would argue that Hearthstone is, in any way, a competitor to the king of the competitive card game scene, Magic: The Gathering. Despite the negativity, Hearthstone has tried to innovate and become more accepted as an eSport. Changes in the competitive ladder of the game were made with the introduction of the “standard” and “wild” formats, Blizzard added limitations to the immense deck combinations possible by phasing cards out each new season or the release of a new pack or solo adventure release. Blizzard and DreamHack Company have both kept the competitive Hearthstone scene alive by organizing 13 events throughout 2017. Along with other tournament organizers holding events throughout 2017, Hearthstone is by no means a dead eSport, it does, however, have a lot of catching up to do if any hope remains that it can rival games like DotA2, LoL, CS:GO, or Overwatchin the near future.
-Blogger David Che Orosco