We’ve spoken to a lot of people about the state of the local gaming scene, where we are at the moment, how we compare to the international scene and what we need to do to fulfil our potential. But who better to tell us about our current situation than someone who is actively contributing to the growth and development of the local scene: Orena Man, Luca Tucconi.
He’s the guy trying to get us all paid by hosting local tournaments and convincing brands to sponsor them. So if you see that non-smiling face in the picture above around, be nice to it.
So what state does Luca think our gaming nation is in?
“In the past on our podcasts we might have sounded slightly depressing, but it’s really in a good space now compared to where it was. 2009 was actually a good year in terms of Call of Duty, but from then on things started to become stagnant. Things weren’t changing. There wasn’t much development. A lot of parties that tried to jump on board or get involved in the scene had one event and then fell out. It was difficult. There wasn’t really anything to get out of the events that you were competing in.
That’s why we only really had one event, because rAge was the only event really pulling in big numbers. But since then it’s seen a big, big difference, with the availability of casting, and all the tournaments we’re seeing online, guys like Billosoft hosting pick-ups. Now we have ESEA, an international tournament host, which is massive. And the user base has grown, which is a huge, huge bonus.”
The organic growth of local player base could be down to a number of things: the explosion of eSports internationally, gaming becoming part of pop culture, and people like Luca creating an environment in which gamers can get something out of the effort they put into their games.
Now we don’t just have one LAN tournament a year. We’ve already had one of the two rAge LANs for 2016, EGE in Cape Town is just around the corner and in the last month alone we’ve seen nAvTV hosting live gaming events in malls around Gauteng. Their inability to take screenshots aside, events like these are literally putting gamers and eSports on display for the South African public to see.
A key part of growing the scene is going to be continually growing the fan and player base. This is something that’s happened fairly organically so far, but Luca thinks we need to start finding new ways to talk to people.
“You have a lot more and easier access to people online, through Facebook and social media. But I think that’s where it hits its limit. A lot of the time we’re dealing with the same people. If you post an article, and you share it on every single Facebook page that everyone else has access too, at the end of the day you’re probably posting to the same 3000 to 6000 people. And that’s purely because we just have access to this one medium.
And that’s where funding comes into play. Where we start needing the willingness to take a risk from certain parties. To actually get involved financially and be the front players getting involved in the industry and be the mainstays as sponsors or partners in events.
Once they’re able to make those financial steps in our local events, I think that’s when we’ll start seeing a big change, being able to offer the production levels that we see overseas, so they can actually get the return that they want.”
Investing in eSports might appear to be a risk at the moment, but it’s not as risky as it seems. One of the benefits of being behind the international scene is that we can look into our future by looking at eSports in Europe, Asia or America. Brands investing there are certainly getting returns on their investments.
So what do they have that we don’t? Viewers. A massive audience for brands to talk to.
“Brands like ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI want to get involved in events, but they want to see a return in terms of viewership numbers. I don’t think you can really make money on sponsoring a team that’s going to an event that’s maybe getting a thousand to four thousand viewers. That’s pretty awesome in terms of our local standard, but in terms of what a company wants, that’s nothing.
We peaked at 30 000 viewers. That was our biggest, biggest, biggest stream in late 2014 for a Life Child Invitational. That was crazy. I don’t think we’ve ever had something like that locally again.”
That’s a brilliant example of the potential of local eSports. 30 000 suckers waiting to have products sold to them. Just kidding, you’re not suckers. In fact, you’re the opposite. By that we don’t mean you’re blowers, because that would literally be the opposite of a sucker, what we mean is that you’re intelligent. Bad branding slapped in front of your face isn’t going to convince you to buy a product.
Brands want viewers to sell their products to, but viewers don’t want rubbish brand messaging cluttering their streams and events. An impasse? No, just the need for understanding from both sides. Viewers will watch and buy brands’ products, but brands need to ensure that their content is good. It needs to be something the viewers want to watch. Agreed?
Good, moving on to one of the biggest reasons local viewership isn’t growing. Scheduling.
“We need to be able to market events long in advance and not just online and on digital media platforms. We’re talking physical forms, getting on TV, on roadside billboards, crazy things like that. That’s what you see overseas.
You arrive at an airport in Montreal for example, I was at ESWC last year in Canada, and there are straight up billboards in public areas regarding the event. People know about it. It’s culture. Same thing as MLG Columbus. Five to six months in advance there was news about MLG Columbus coming up, which is really weird. You don’t hear about that stuff here, it’s unheard of. That’s the kind of thing we want to start pushing.
Another thing is having schedules more set, so in advance people know when matches will happen, what days to tune in, what times the games are normally happening. Like UEFA Champions League, you know it’s usually late on a Wednesday evening. This allows us as viewers to base our schedule around the game to make sure we can watch.
That’s the kind of thing we want to start offering on our side. So you know when things are happening way in advance and you’re reminded about the broadcasts consistently.”
CS Sunday. Friday Night Dota. Overwatch Wednesday. Now that’s easy to put into your life schedule.
You: “Hey girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse, it’s CS Sunday so I’m going to watch some local Counter-Strike teams plant bombs and shoot each other.”
Significant other: “No problem honey, I was aware of your intentions because you told me well in advance. Enjoy watching your eSports in its scheduled time slot.”
But scheduling is out of the hands of the everyday gamer, it’s up to tournament hosts. So what can the everyday gamer, who loves playing and just wants to do their little part to help the scene grow, do to increase viewership?
“As a fan, we need to start talking to our mates and get them involved. Linking them to our local channels and say, “Check these guys out”.
If we have a stream that’s not on the Lounge it will maybe peak at 100 guys. Those 100 guys need to go tell all their mates, “Come and check this out. Come and watch the guys instead of watching some other streamer”.
I know it’s difficult to ask people just to go and watch a local because it’s local, we want to go watch what’s good. And the quality of what we see overseas is much better, so it is difficult to just ask people to come and watch what you’re producing, but at the end of the day, when we do get a lot of the guys watching, we’re able to start putting in much more in terms of financial investment from parties that actually see numbers.”
It’s true that the quality of international events and players is still well ahead of what you get locally. We can’t argue with that and it’s pointless trying to convince people otherwise. But there are other reasons to watch local gaming, aside from just helping the scene grow.
You can watch a local gamer and say, “I’m better than that”. And then you can literally go and prove it by competing against them. In fact, go do that, because that’s how we improve the local scene. Find local pro-gamers, and go prove that you’re better than them.
Tell people you’re better than them. Show people you’re better than them. Then encourage others to be better than you and work your ass off to prevent it from happening.
Local gamers are passionate about their games. Just play a Dota or Counter-Strike game online and you’ll be bombarded with opinions. Not all good, we know, but the passion is there. So where is that passion outside of the game? Why do we not share it on social media or in conversations?
“I think a lot of that comes from the stigma that we still have to deal with here. I personally even deal with it sometimes. I’ll look at something and I won’t want to share it because it seems completely game-y. And I’ll think a lot of my mates will think it’s corny. It has to be said, if I’m dealing with that, I imagine a lot of other people are.
That might not be the only thing, but I think the culture just isn’t there yet, we aren’t comfortable enough to start making that our “common” thing. You know, like it’s really our thing and we want other people to know about it. I think the mentality will slowly change with having discussions like this and guys like yourselves posting out relevant content. Hopefully we start seeing the changes sooner rather than later.”
So Good Luck Have Fun has its first piece of homework for you. Go write or share one post about local eSports on the social media platform of your choice. We won’t punish you if you don’t, but you will be letting down every other gamer in South Africa. How’s that for a guilt trip? We told you we’d do anything to help grow local eSports.
Speaking of, as the scene grows, the status of local professional gamers will too. With that comes a responsibility to act like a professional.
“I’m sure we are getting to that stage where guys are willing to enjoy being under the spotlight. In my opinion, they need to start getting used to it and start accepting that they have to start communicating with their fanbase and start making that sacrifice. Don’t shove people off and treat them in a condescending manner. We are still very young in that sense. We don’t understand the professionalism that must go into what we do as players.
I think that’s a big step. Don’t get into personal quarrels online and things like that. Deal with things in private. Being more accepting to the viewer, to the fan, trying to teach the guys as much as you can if they ask questions and the fans must get more involved.
Start following the guys who are putting in effort and putting in those hours, topping the logs. You know, if they are doing that then it’s because they enjoy it and we shouldn’t feel jealous.
Support the guys that are actually putting in a lot of time to get good at what they are doing. Go and ask questions and comment. Talk about their content and ask them to reveal certain things.”
We’ve heard this advice before from Miles Regenass of MSI. Hearing it again from Luca only makes us more sure that it’s what needs to happen to take South African eSports to the next level.
That’s more than enough for this week. If you’ve made it this far, well done and thank you. As a reward you can have one last quote from Luca, from a conversation he had with the guys from Riot, makers of League of Legends.
“I met with some guys from Riot. They’re so amazed, they’re so surprised by what they see here. They said it’s like a hidden paradise. We’re like a little paradise island in the middle of nowhere that has this really developed gaming culture and community, but we’re totally on our own, terribly connected to the rest of the world in terms of internet, because we’re so far away. But we’re here. And we’re alive. And we’re vibrant.
They said we have up-to-date competitive tournament formats, far better than some of the communities overseas that have huge player numbers.”
Check back next week when we’ll be talking to Luca about ESWC and EGE. Until then, be good little islanders.