ESports is seeing a period of incredible growth, thanks to immensely popular games likeLeague of Legends, DOTA 2, and Counter-Strike. As the industry grows, so does the selection of games ready to step up and played as professional level competition.
Here up and coming games of 2016 that could expand eSports in new and unexpected ways.
Blizzard has practically become synonymous with eSports, given how StarCraft essentially started the industry back in the 90s. The company went on to make eSports history again when Heroes of the Storm became the first game to be televised as an eSport on ESPN 2. Even Hearthstone, Blizzard’s first effort at a collectible card game, became a popular eSport that brought mobile games onto the scene.
So, there’s a great deal of anticipation surrounding this year’s release of Overwatch, a competitive shooter that involves superpowered heroes and villains going head-to-head. The game’s cartoon aesthetic may help it stand out among existing eSports shooters, while its wide selection of characters and fast-paced gameplay make it ideal for competition.
Overwatch is currently in the closed beta phase, but fans got a taste of the game at last year’s Blizzcon, and the spectacular trailers have left them clamoring for more.
There was a lot of hope that last year’s Evolve would become an eSports hit for publisher 2K, considering how much fun the game is to watch, but the game never managed to grow into that potential. However, that means more opportunity for Battleborn to become an eSports hit this year.
Developed by Gearbox Software, famous for the Borderlands series, Battleborn is a team based shooter where players can select from a variety of characters, each with special abilities, to battle against one another. Its unique characters and plot is expected to draw in a large fan base, and that popularity could transform the game into an eSport.
Madden and FIFA
The debate over whether eSports are actually sports are bound to grow more confusing once the Madden and FIFA franchises enter the scene. Last fall, EA announced that it would form its own eSport league, similar to Activision Blizzard’s efforts. Among the first games up for the eSports treatment will be the best-selling Battlefield series, and the immensely popularMadden and FIFA sports games.
Eventually, ESPN.com’s traditional sports and eSports pages could grow to look strangely similar.
When Epic Games, creators of Unreal Tournament, announces development of a high action MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game, then it’s time to sit up and take notice. InParagon, players choose from a variety of heroes with powers that can be enhanced using cards that are earned while playing.
Epic first revealed details about Paragon during the PlayStation Experience last December, accompanied by some stellar trailers that demonstrate the gorgeous power of the Unreal 4 Engine. If any game has the potential to reach Unreal levels of fame and popularity, Paragonwould be it.
Paladins: Champions of the Realm
Developed by Hi-Rez Studios, creators of the already successful eSport, Smite, Paladins could be some heavy competition to Paragon. The game, which is still in beta, involves teams of diverse characters with special abilities that are enhanced using collectible cards. Whether or not the game will grow as an eSport will largely depend on how popular the game is, and how well it balances between accessibility and challenge.
A little name dropping goes a long way when promoting LawBreakers, the debut game from legendary game designer Cliff Bleszinski (Cliffy B), who designed games like Gears of Warwhen working at Epic Games. His new video game company, Boss Key Productions, is hard at work on developing the mind-blowing, free-to-play sci-fi competitive shooter, LawBreakers, which will be published by Nexon.
Although little is known about the game outside some plot points, and how there’s gravity manipulation abilities, it’s already (by virtue of its pedigree) a game to keep an eye on.
Ark: Survival Evolved
Although the independently developed Ark: Survival Evolved is still in Early Access development, it already has high aspirations. Normally, no one would consider a sci-fi themed survival game, even one with tamable dinosaurs in it, a viable eSport. However, its developers want to change that perception by turning Ark into an eSport. In it, players will have to survive against the elements, hunger, wild creatures (including dinosaurs), special events like acid rain, in addition to each other.
It’s a tall order, but one that could change the way people think about survival games and eSports if successful.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
Although EA will no doubt put Battlefield and its sports games at the forefront of its eSports efforts, there is always a chance things could take a turn for the weird. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is a competitive shooter based in a zany world where mobile and heavily armed plants compete against the technologically sophisticated forces of the undead.
Given the popularity of the Plants vs. Zombies brand, promotion from EA’s developing eSports division could turn the upcoming sequel into a highly competitive eSport that will entertain both players and viewers with its humor and challenging gameplay.