3 years, 170 million: Dota Builds Project Year in Review

This is a continuation of last year’s article, “2 years, 100 million: Dota Builds Project Overview” and 2014’s article: “1 Year, 40 million: Dota Builds Project Overview

**some images may appear smaller than intended, click the images to see their full resolution/detail**

It’s now been three and a half year since this project started in February, 2013. I do this ‘year in review’ article once a year in October as that is when I started collecting statistics for these hero builds. In 2015, we achieved a remarkable feat: 100 million total subscriptions. I persevered in updating the hero builds despite the system being completely system. Begun implementing a better hero builds tooltip system and established a proper policy in what direction and emphasis I want the hero builds to go towards.

2016 was challenging in and outside the project and the public recognition for it has been the highest it’s ever been – with all of its appreciation and harsh criticism of character.



For those new to Dota 2, Hero Builds are an in-game guide system for users to learn on how to play a hero. These guides suggest in what order a hero’s ability should be leveled, which items and in what order should be bought and guides can include tooltips to give contextual value on how best to use a hero’s set of items or abilities throughout the game. This 2013 integral feature has been useful for many new players along with other Valve-released tools including the ‘coaching’ feature and robust tutorial system. This project was created to establish and maintain a ‘standard’ way of playing each and every hero in nearly all roles or forms.

Today we celebrate reaching over 170 million subscriptions across 150 guides (177,425,506 as of November 17, 2016). This article will take a look at the relevant statistics of our growth, discuss the continuing motivation to maintain these guides and the future goals and challenges for 2017.


100 Million to 170 Million – A Year of Statistics

In summary, this project has gained 70 million new subscriptions since last year. In fact, approximately 5 million a month since late-May 2014 (30 months consecutively). Hero builds have risen from 145 builds to 150 hero builds thanks to the release of the final DotA-Allstars hero: Arc Warden & Underlord.


In October 2013, we started with less than 5 million. Since 2014, our growth has been consistent of 4 to 6 million a month. In 2015, 37 guides have reached 1 million unique subscribers individually. That number has almost tripled with now 100 guides with their own 1 million unique subs.


Forecasts project that the project will achieve 200 million by February, 2017 and 234 million by October, 2017. Last year, we missed our prediction by a good margin and it might be safe to assume the same here. That said, we’ve achieved new milestones today with individual guides now breaking into the 2 million unique subscribers mark. Lifestealer, Sven, Juggernaut, Phantom Assassin, Phantom Lancer and Faceless Void have all recently hit their two million milestones and there are many other guides nearing it.


Observed is the incredible growth the Sven Hero Build achieved to reach and surpass Lifestealer Build’s subscribers. Lifestealer achieved 1 million by August 2014 whereas Sven achieved similar by April 2015. By June 2016, both guides achieved two million simultaneously.

Though it isn’t definitive, I firmly believe that because Sven has been more relevant in more patches and professional competitions than Lifestealer, its growth rate followed suit. This growth is not unique to a couple of builds. The average has grown from 716,000 to 1.16 million. The majority of hero builds have 1 million or more in unique subscribers. The distribution of subscribers is also much more ranged than before where guides can have as little as 150,000 subs. to as much as 2.4 million.



Achievements and Challenges

 This year was the most revolutionary year for this project yet. Not only did the project see a complete overhaul in title classification, but it was also the first time the Valve Dota 2 Development team acknowledged, communicated and fixed some of the longest standing issues that plagued the system and caused many users to outright quit making builds. Here is the list of achievements this year:

  • Expanding the Hero Builds Catalog from 145 to 150 hero builds
  • Streamlined Patch Changes Accountability and Changelog for future reference
  • Finished overhauling the entire hero builds item and ability texts to better denote contextual value for each.
  • Released a Patreon campaign after years of users asking for a way to support the project
  • Transitioned the hero builds title system (Lane/Middle/Jungle) to less antiquated system (Core/Offlane/Jungle/Support) with sub-title specifications (Roaming, Safe Lane, Middle, etc.).
  • Released /r/HeroBuilds & PlayDota.com to better curate user feedback from more community hubs.
  • Released an All-Subscribe Tool, a long-awaited feature asked by users (thanks LemonWarlord)
  • Established a direct line of communication with the Valve Dota 2 Team
    • After years of problems, Valve took the initiative to fix some of the most glaring issues that outright halted the ability to make and publish hero builds. Even more so, they have been very responsive in any new critical bugs reported to them.


Before Valve, a user named Parnakra literally saved this project. I was on the brink of giving up before he helped not only fix the Dota 2 Hero Builds Cloud Server, but improve it in many ways.
Thank you Parnakra.


Now with a direct line of communication with Valve and their promptness in fixing any new critical bugs, I hope to see more hero builds created and updated regularly without anything preventing users in doing so.

In terms of challenges, there are very few from the outside. There is still no real competition in terms of valuable hero builds currently in the database as the ones that are newly-created and maintained cannot break past some of the outdated versions from 2013 who continue to be rated up, regardless of accuracy or attention to relevance of the current patch (e.g.: heroes that get completely remade). Heroes such as Faceless Void don’t have any updated hero builds in the year 2016 except for my own. In terms of competition, the top guide creators are still the same as last year with some emerging players such as EDJE and EZ MMR.


Across the board, we can see growth in all hero build collections from the most popular catalogs of hero builds. This can be indicative that there are just more or rotating new users subscribing to hero builds as a whole.

Future Goals and Motivations

In December 2015, after much hesitation, I released a Patreon campaign for users who asked how else they can support the project. Generally, feedback was always preferred, but with the support of these great people, I can start to think about expansion into other medias to help players of all kind.


Alfred Vogl, Pearson Mewbourne, Leonardo Lambertini, Scott MacDonald, Sutas, Nicholas Chlumecky, Dice, Bartlomiej Jan Pasek, Graham Bullard, Daxdiv, Mikey Kaminski, Ryan Goss, Startracker, Freeze ray, Nate Hubbard, The WLD Crew, Benjamin Miller, Kistaro Windrider, Elliot Cuite, Daniel Thackray, Jose Cacho, Matthew Nami, tale, Joel Absolom, Tyler Reid, Hursha, Aaron Bell, Jason Davis, Cooper Johnson, Samuel Enocsson, JimmaDaRustla, slashershot, Igor Dolgiy, Ramona Brown, Duncan, Alishams Hassam, Leon Traill, Josh Laseter, Genc Musliu, Joshua Rodman, Moe Foster, Steve, Oliver, Vinzent Steinberg, Cabanur

Thank you so much to the many people here for their generosity, support and care. They saw something that was made entirely for free and still wanted to provide support with the money they’ve earned. It’s a great honor to receive this kind of support.

With the amount earned, I will be giving a portion to long-time feedbackers (though many have opted out or did not respond to request for their owed amount) and the rest will be going towards hiring a proper website designed to brand a website for the Hero Build Project and all the tools available. It will serve as a valuable hub to redirect users in being aware of all the hero builds available, tools, and statistics relevant to its growth and achievement. As always, no amount will be used for purposes other than to continue building this project.

In terms of future goals, the website hub is the first immediate one. Other cloud-level dreams would be expanding to content creation, meeting with the Valve Dota 2 team to suggest a variety of quality-of-life expansion to new player initiatives and/or newbie casting (this one’s iffy – haven’t casted since 2011 in StarCraft II).

In terms of motivations, 2016 turned out to be the year I receive the most recognition, appreciation, condescension and character criticism. Most of all, this year has been the most emotionally taxing where the hours of work remained consistently the same as last year’s: 2-3 hours a day, 28 to 35 hours a week and 9 to 24 hours within two days when a new patch releases. This is nothing new and I’ve made my concerns about it in the past as I juggle work, a personal life and this project. Somewhere along the way, I’ve also noticed my anonymity was lost, where I would be recognized in-game and my words, actions (or inaction) would paint how people speak to me or about me.


My favourite flattery/criticism in recent times. Some others have been less than comedic and more personal.


If I was overly-critical towards someone in-game, it would persist past the game and try to demonize me as some two-faced person (rather than a person who does get mad when we lose and excited when we win). If a new patch hits and I did not update the guides by their expectations, the amount of spam and private messages received would range from begging to rude demands and threats (non-lethal versions). There is a lot of expectation for me to be a public model citizen and I suppose that comes with this newly-found recognition. I do not make a living off my personality, project or appearances – yet I have this new responsibility I was not prepared for and maybe selfishly feel I do not owe towards others. I don’t think it’s something I can rebel against, but I will be taking active measures to either not talk in-game or start using an alternate account for all my day-to-day test games. Come December, I may also slow down the amount of updates and testing, as I’ve recently found myself prioritizing the project over, say, enjoying an overdue vacation with significant partners (at one point, I was updating guides while on the bus to The Grand Canyon due to increased public pressure) or ruining my sleep schedule to keep up with the latest patch. In 2017, I will also be starting something very new in my career, which may cause an impasse on continuing the project at its current level of dedication or something less attentive.

Depsite this rant, I always go back and read previous topics, smile at the appreciation I receive and know there are people thankful. The numbers say it all and the words of the many drown out the negative few.

Thank Yous

Without the help from the community at PlayDota.com, LiquidDota.com and /r/HeroBuilds, this project would not be able to be even remotely as close to its goal as it is now. I would never have the knowledge, expertise or understanding of the game that some of these people have provided throughout the years and for that, I thank them for completing this project in so many ways and keeping me on top of the most glaring inconsistencies with this collection of hero builds.


Recently, I’ve noticed more and more iconic people using my guides. People I’ve admired or see as incredibly talented. Moonmeander, Arteezy, Totalbiscuit, Day [9], Dimitri (GodBlessMali – MarsTV) and Hector Rosario (HelixFrosT – Founder of Flipside Tactics)


This project has been my pride and passion for the many years I’ve changed jobs, countries and lives. It kept me feeling personally successful no matter what low point I’ve hit. That kind of support is immeasurable and I sincerely thank you.
See you next year,

Michael ‘Torte de Lini’ Cohen

Twitter: @TorteDeLini



Dota 2 Hero Builds Hub


PS: thank you James Hu, Tam Vu and Foad Ghafor for the help with the website, graphs and this article.

2 Years, 100 million: Dota Builds Project Overview

This is a continuation of last year’s article: “1 year, 40 million: Dota Builds Project Overview”

It’s been two years, well, actually two and a half year as this project started by in February 2013. But the project has been collecting data of its growth since October 2013. A lot has changed since the 40 million mark/1-year anniversary and where we are today. Growth has skyrocketed, my understanding of the game has expanded but my time has also shriveled; straining updates and ability to stay on top of changes.


For those new to some of Valve’s Dota 2 features, back in February of 2013, Valve announced a feature called Hero Builds: guides that can be accessed directly in-game and during a match, you are suggested what items to buy and what skills to level. For each selected hero, you were given explanatory prompts that made learning a hero or the game incredibly easy, accessible directly during matches without pausing or needing another window open. Overall, it was a part of Valve’s approach towards approaching Dota 2 easier alongside their other features, such as coaching and their tutorial.

Today, we celebrate reaching over 100 million subscriptions across 145 guides (101,613,471 as of October 14th, 2015) and a full of year of statistics to inspect and analyze.



As a summary for this portion, we’re still growing. In fact, consistently 4 million a month since Late-May 2014 (19 months consecutively). Total number of Hero builds have remained smaller in expansion (5 new hero builds compared to 34 of 2013 to 2014). Reasons for this will be explained further.


After the initial growth to Oct. 2013, there has been a steady growth rate throughout each month of 4 to 5 million new subscriptions a month. Individual guides hitting 1 million unique have skyrocketed in 2015


Not including the 5 new hero builds planned (Arc Warden and Pit Lord minimum), we’re expecting an additional 109 million (2.1 million minimum unique) new subscriptions in the next coming full year (210 million total). It is assumed that Valve intends to implement a more robust guide system, potentially expanding the subscribing userbase (estimated currently at 1 to 2.7 million depending on the hero).

As opposed to last year, fluctuation of new subscribers is relatively unchanged regardless of a new patch release or a major event. Monthly growth has not risen beyond 5 million or dipping below 4 million. Largest growth seen is when a new hero is released such as Techies, Winter Wyvern or Oracle. What is more remarkable is both the average subscription number per hero build has risen from 300,000 to 700,000 – further emphasizing consistent growth for the past year.


The average number of subscribers has shifted from being around 300,000 to now 700,000 in a year’s time.


In addition, specific hero builds hitting their own unique 1 million active subscriber base underlines that consistent growth across the board; heightening the average and displaying a regular consistent group of users relying on all builds within the project; not just one in particular. From 2014 to 2015, over 23 new hero builds have hit 1 million unique subscribers; something unseen from 2013 to 2014 (only 1 hero build has reached its million unique). 14 more hero builds are looking to hit 1 million before the end of 2015, bringing the total to 28.

Without accounting for any future hero builds, we can hope for over 200 million total subscriptions; about double of this year’s current total.


That consistent growth is met across the board, but at a slower pace as the leading competitors: Greyshark, Purge and eXplosion still show signs of doubling their user-base. This is both a good thing and an issue as these hero build creators have not updated their builds (with the exception of Greyshark, who continues to just create new guides) since 2014 at the latest. This is an inherent flaw with the system that neither rewards nor punishes users for not creating/updating their Hero Builds. Another flaw with the system is that it still promotes guides that were ’early enough to get the worm’, deterring new guide creators from putting in the effort to support their work (since it may never receive enough exposure/ratings to be integrated within the Dota 2 client).

On the subject of ratings, user ratings have been marginally on the decline from 30% last year to 27% this year (despite the average nearly doubling from 99,000 to 200,000).


Both eXplosion and Purge are inactive, however Greyshark has recently restarted in creating new builds, never updating his old ones. His growth has matched our own.



When I first started this project, it was both for educational purposes and frustration with the current player base. 7 years ago, I relied heavily on the PlayDotA Guides to break into the scene and now the project is taking that mantle and ensuring a consistency that is reliable; as reliant as I was to the PlayDotA community then.


It remains a strong motivator to read past and new comments about how the project has helped people get into the game, Dota 2.


As of late, it has been difficult to find time to keep up with all that is changing with the game and how it affects heroes both coming into each new meta and those who get left behind. With my career still taking a good portion of my time (incl. travel and day-to-day expectations), the guides have taken a backseat unfortunately. Thankfully, there are still proactive members in the community giving me feedback and reminding me when things are becoming dated or flat-out wrong, but the changes and initiative is still spear-headed myself; both due to how hero builds can only be changed by the original author, but also a lack of consistent help to share the workload.

In terms of challenges, it remains the same. Valve’s lack of attention to key bugs within the guides makes updating them a real chore. From having to publish and confirm each hero build individually, to having specific guides completely bug out, making them impossible to fix (e.g Beastmaster, until a user created a script to correct it thankfully). I have been trying to keep this dev.dota bug report up for visibility for the past five months (with issues dating as far back as Feb. 2013) but Valve’s inattentiveness to the system continues to bog down following-through on interest (for both current guide creators as well as new ones).

In terms of work load, the hero builds have expanded to the point of it consuming either my evenings or mornings. To break it down:

  • Daily: 2-3 hours for feedback collection, evaluations, application and, if possible, testing.

  • Weekly: 28-35 hours demanded if a crucial part of the project becomes dated: for example, updating hero text for all heroes/items/abilities, approximately: 188,500 words to be rewritten in a month).

  • Patch Release: 9 to 24 hours (within two days) depending on its size, the work ranges in a two-day period, with the following two weeks’ time reaching up to 28 to 35 hours as the meta rolls out and standardizes.


Time constraints remains a challenge in my life since 2014 and also a reason why the system keeps the “Lane/Jungle/Middle” categorization to reduce the number of builds created. I am also hard-capping the number of hero builds under my account to 150 to avoid being overwhelmed.



Last year, we underlined expectations from our targeted audience ranging from “trusting and appreciating their ability for choice” to “mixing popular playstyles into expected builds”. The project has expanded on that and has incorporated key polices to ensure consistency in quality and direction. They aren’t necessarily rules in that there is as much flexibility and consideration in them as the heroes’ playstyle themselves. Overall, I try to maintain and execute them when receiving conflicting feedback that needs a definitive direction.



  1. General descriptions must outline a hero’s role/strengths and one line for their weakness.


  1. Tooltips are currently being updated to almost always include a “cheat-sheet” in the ability’s pop-up textbox to help players learn how to be effective with a hero.



  1. Tooltips avoid repeating anything written from the item itself and aims more to explain the overall goal of purchasing X/Y item or ability.



Skill and Item Builds:

  1. Initially, hero skill builds were accounted for how difficult a hero was played, thus their skill build would be leveled in a way that was easier to understand or execute for the hero (Storm Spirit, Meepo, Invoker). That’s been changed to how a hero is just traditionally played instead of the best entryway to play a hero. The balance between deciding what new subscribers wanted and what purposes the hero build were for made this an especially difficult decision.


  1. Different tabs of an item build have different purposes and order:
    • Early Game and Core Items are placed in sequential order of purchase.
    • Situational Items are items intended to be bought before, during or after the Core Items sequence.
    • Situational and Extension Items are ordered by cost and not by priority due to too much difference in opinion and fluctuation in how fluctuating matches end up being. Users are to read Extension Items as choices depending on what’s needed.
    • The Luxury Items tab seldom appears in a guide, only when a hero is especially diverse late-game and there is a dual-stage priority in the items suggested.


  1. ‘Safety items’ are always promoted (Stout Shield [for melee heroes], Black King Bar and Magic Wand). This is due to the common issue of players often skipping smaller items to go for their Core. It’s important to instill good practices when choosing which items to purchase.



  1. All hero builds are built under the assumption that the player is doing well (and if not, an item in the Situational Tab should alleviate initial challenges faced). The assumption is based on confidence and reassurance that the player is playing more comfortably thanks to relying on a guide as well as the instructions concisely written out both in the order of item-purchase sequence as well as the helpful text that pops up.
  1. Dual builds that was promoted last year, have nearly all been removed and a singular build has been kept in-place.
  1. All hero builds are updated immediately within 48 hours of a patch released despite the patch going relatively untested throughout the public. The reason for this is two-fold:
    • I want to remain consistent in being prompt with updates.
    • I want to avoid users going to other highly-rated builds when there is no guarantee the build creator accepts outside feedback nor may continuously update their builds as the patch further evolves.
  1. In that same vein, I create guides for newly-released heroes that can be played in multiple positions, despite only one being traditionally played. This is a question of covering all my bases to avoid losing
  1. If a hero build is in a position that is no longer played or is suboptimal, we either repurpose the build, swap it with what is currently being played or simply delete it. Examples of this include:

Some guides are maintained despite being dated in terms of playstyle (Ancient Apparition – Middle). A reason very few guides are removed, despite low numbers or being suboptimal in the current meta, is because it is difficult for newer guides created to gain any ratings, thus will not be found in-game. For example, the Leshrac – Middle guide has been around since late September 2014, but did not gain popularity until June 2015. That’s a challenge with the system and removing a guide only to have it be potentially played in the future makes deleting, then returning, guides an annoying process.

Another example is the Lifestealer – Lane guide which has been around since February 2014, but has not remotely reached popularity of its Jungle counterpart (230,000 to 1,600,000 respectively). We have not swapped the two builds because their difference in numbers is far too great and may alienate subscribing players. A final policy I try to ensure is not to force players in telling them what is the ideal way of playing a hero, but redirect them to the most suited. For some previous hero builds, it was simply unplayable or contrary to how a hero is played (e.g. Legion Commander – Jungle), for others; it is just a question of preference (both for the player and his matched teammates).



As always, the project remains a prideful part of me. No matter my situation in life, I think about this project every day and it fills me with a satisfaction that I’ve completed something and followed-through with it. This initiative started small and ambitious, but has now exploded as a beacon of trust and reference for newer players. Whether it was meeting professional players who recognized and commended my work (which was a huge boost of confidence) or day-to-day talks with public players who reach out to help in any way possible, it feels good to remain an integral part of the community and a direct contributor to a game that’s been with me through some real alienating parts of my life.

Pro Gamer using Guides

Arteezy trying out Hero Builds for the first time to play Pudge. He did not like the distraction of ability icons flashing when leveling up


Of course, this project would not have succeeded with as much reverence without the knowledge and feedback from these users and more (if you have made a suggestion in the past and did not receive credit, please let me know). These users come on a near weekly basis to give their thoughts and opinions on how a build is structured, build and communicated to hundreds of thousands of new users and without their instruction, this project would not be as accepted as it is now.

Thank you – TheYango, Doomblaze, Dead, Sn0_Man, maru~, a slow decay, lazyfailkid, ChrisXIV, Synapse, Cragus, Chaosquo, Vaelone, Jetaap, Rayeth, Comeh, Nevuk, Firebolt145, CatNzHat, Skamtet, Whole, Pokebunny, cecek, idonthinksobro, Tobberoth, LonelyCat, Coil1, Decency, LuckoftheIrish, SpiritoftheTunA, Alurr, BluemoonSC, tehh4ck3r, Logo, Buckyman, BluemoonSC, Belisarius, LemonWarlord, SKC, CosmicSpiral, Laserist, Evilfatsh1t, Nevuk, ahswtini, Velzi, nas, Get In The Robot, Harbinger_of_Llamas, eieio, Thetwinmasters, Doctorjoke, Pankra.

Sincere thanks to the following communities and its staff: Team Liquid/LiquidDota, /r/Dota2 and /r/LearnDota2, Steam Community
Dota 2 Hero Builds Main Hub
Twitter: @TorteDeLini
Steam Profile: Torte de Lini

The Imperative Feeling to Legitimize eSports

When Forbes wrote the heated headline: “Why eSports Doesn’t Need ESPN“. There was some debate coming from both sides on whether or not the author, Paul Tassi, was making a valid point or simply coming at the topic too strongly. The author’s main argument was that the idea of eSports “needing to make it to television in order to become legitimate” was complete hogwash. When it came to whether eSports will ever be televised, the article gave a more moderate answer in which eSports may, someday, be on television, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be.

That is a key highlight in regards to outlets in which eSports can be publicized. While there are a variety of avenues to produce eSports broadcasting, it goes without saying that they are not all necessary and yet, we value them even if they are an outdated form of how fans consume their favourite games. The discussion of whether eSports necessitates being on television, radio or even in the paper is pointless when businesses are already embracing the opportunity to expand, and the benefits from these efforts are already accumulating. Unfortunately, vocal communities translate eSports expanding on any outlet other than via internet streaming as a step into a heightened environment of [uptight] professionalism and an influx of curious (and sometimes skeptical) newcomers. These concerns about eSports changing and merging into mainstream expectancies is moot. It is undeniable that eSports will change as coming generational cultures shift into more technologically-focused traits; this shift also includes competitions, incorporating practices of the old into the new medium. Those who question the importance of legitimizing eSports are opinionated, and do not take into consideration the companies who have already been trying to legitimize it for many years. The author, Paul Tassi, is also victim of this narrow-minded view in which he dismisses cable television as an outdated media platform without understanding that although the current demographic consumes their favourite tournaments in-person or online, large consumer companies and products go through mainstream television to access their audience. Not to mention the cultural significance of television and that viewing habits still favour TV-watching by nearly 20 hours more than online viewing a week (MarketingCharts.com – 2013).

As the internet becomes more widespread, advertisers are turning to online livestream channels but that doesn’t mean efforts to access television should be halted; on the contrary, they should be continually pursued. The disconnect between how advertisers reach their target demographic and how fans enjoy their favourite events can become further minimized. To add, broadening eSports’ horizon will only create more opportunity for organizations currently starved for financial support, hopefully avoiding taking up offers from explicit companies such as from the pornography industry who have been losing advertising options more and more. From a business perspective, your produced events will have stronger marketable points by being live on national television (whether it is Sweden, Finland or North America – ESPN) than by just livestreaming for the sake of maintaining a semblance of “legitimate eSports”.

A preview show for ESPN2 was produced during Valve’s Dota 2 The International 4 which, prior to its announcement, urged Forbes contributing writer, Paul Tassi, to dismiss both the television medium for eSports as well as calling it needless to expand to when your current fanbase relies on internet live streaming

It should be stated that legitimizing eSports and expanding the brands of our currently established production companies such as ESL, DreamHack and Major League Gaming are naturally one of the same. These flagships of eSports production are both representative of how attractive eSports can be for the average fan as well as the bridge to the mainstream gaming industry. While eSports doesn’t need validation from mainstream networks in a nearly exclusive online entertainment; it is heavily sought after regardless.

  • For DreamHack, the transition from being one of the largest LANs in the world since the 90s to becoming a fully-fledged studio as well as competitive event, has the interest of national television channels within their own country,Sweden – SVT (2009/2012) and now Finland – YLE (2014).
  • Likewise ESL has enticed similar national television interest with their advertised recent Dota 2 ESL ONE event at the Commerzbank-Arena World Cup Stadium. For years, they have widened their the two brands, The Intel Extreme Masters and their ESL ONE, previous EMS One, with massive events across North America and Europe. More specifically, they have been using mainstream gaming conventions to both advertise their brand as well as draw mainstream audiences into the excitement of competitive gaming including Gamescom (Cologne), SITEX (Singapore, Convention Centre), Comic-Con (New York), CeBIT (Hannover), and Fan Expo (Toronto). It’s a sort of ‘two-birds-one-stone’ plan in which ESL heightens the recognition of their branded events while also intertwining the conventions’ mainstream appeal to improve the marketability of eSports and the viewership of their own competitions.

Let’s not also discount the fact that ESL has been the frontrunner for game developers/publishers to rely on for hosting competitive events such as Blizzard’s StarCraft 2 World Championship Series (2013/Europe, 2014/North America) Titanfall at IEM Katowice (2014), Battlefield 4 at IEM Katowice (2014) and Halo at Gamescom (2014), Riot Games LCS Europe (2013), Firefall (2012), SMITE (2012) and Hawken (2012).

What’s also interesting about ESL is their Intel Extreme Masters events attracts many technology and mainstream game booths/kiosks marking that not only is competitive gaming using mainstream conventions to draw in new fans but also that technology and mainstream gaming companies can take advantage of eSports events in-person.

  • The progress publishers are making ranges from Riot Games’ massive budget and staff dedicated to all things LCS-related to Valve’s more long-term approach in meshing consumers with eSports fans to create cooperative businesses within competitive gaming (tickets and cosmetics that contribute directly to players, organizations or prizes at events). Together, they alleviate the risk with becoming involved in competitive gaming while also establishing a strong front for mainstream media to cover and expose both scenes (as we have seen with ESPN and The International 4 in addition to LCS World Championship on a variety of news sites)

The history in which competitive gaming has reached mainstream media stretches even farther dipping into its highs and lows with companies such as ESWC, CGS, WCG and more. This is especially true when it comes to national televised events as it is becoming the accepted norm in Asia (China, South Korea). Calling television a “dinosaur” when it has had such a relevant cultural impact in Asia for nearly a decade is just flat-out silly. ESports on television leads to better marketable numbers for tournaments, potentially more legitimate understanding and exposure of players and a step forward for generational values as generations are becoming born with access to the internet and outdated perspectives fall out. We can say that the value people put towards television is misguided especially with how impactful competitions are at conventional gaming expos. But the advantages of broadening our horizons among two audiences (mainstream gamers as well as the general population) are crucial for expanding eSports to greater heights. It answers the original article’s short-sighted question: “Why do all this work to try and expand to a medium that the majority of your fanbase may not even want or be able to access?“

iem-katowice-2014-2What you don’t see in this image is the massive lot behind for all the booths and kiosks for other games and technology companies using eSports events to market and showcase their products.

The pitfalls from the past are always seen as two steps backwards and lessons to be learned. But these consistent outreaches from developers and eSports production companies to conventional media platforms and established gaming conventions tell us that there is a gain from continually trying to reach a wider audience; that the benefits outweigh the flaws to morph eSports to a wider accepted form of entertainment.

To Summarize:

  • To dismiss television is to be caught in the progress of internet livestreaming without admitting the cultural significance and habits of those who still consume a vast amount of television (not to mention how it is best to show eSports to newcomers via television, a more shared media medium) and where television still has an impact on national societies.
  • eSports businesses and publishers are making major headway in developing eSports into a professional, long-term and stable interest for players and fans alike. This includes integrating mainstream consumers and gamers with the hype and excitement of eSports via live interaction at mainstreaming gaming conventions: Chinese, Korean, Finnish and Swedish national television. Whether the public dismisses television or not is superseded by these years of established action.
  • In many aspects, eSports is a legitimate marketing platform for many companies, audiences and businesses as there is an intertwining of cross-marketing for both sides (developers to eSports and eSports with developers; discounting technology companies). That content can be further outreached to advertisers still prioritizing television over any other entertainment outlet – sustaining businesses further.
  • Placing competitions at conventional gaming conventions may have a stronger interaction and impact on the gaming mainstream audience.

However, the question remains: at what point is eSports considered “legitimate”? What kind of measurements should it rely on to mark achievement: prize amounts? Media coverage (news, television channels, gaming conventions)? Or its influence on development companies’ business practices? It may very well be a combination of those areas and more but it goes without saying that the more eSports spreads, the higher its peak of interest and ultimately, acceptance as a showcase of the values in competitions, sports or not.