The esports industry will top $1 billion in 2018, and competitive gaming has helped ageing titles like League of Legends and CS:GO enjoy phenomenal longevity. Hundreds of millions of fans across the globe tune in to watch their heroes in action and these tournaments generate a huge buzz. Competitive gaming therefore represents a massive opportunity for developers to boost sales and a number of titles are bidding to make it as successful esports in 2019. Here are some of the leading candidates to break into this lucrative scene in the year ahead:
Doom is the one of the most iconic games in history and the series has always been a real pioneer in the first-person shooter genre. It has sold more than 10 million copies and spawned all manner of film and comic book spin offs since it was launched in 1993, with every new arrival greeted with excitement among large swathes of the gaming community. Doom Eternal will be first title since 2016 and the fifth overall in the series. It is due to be released later this year. Once again it features the Doom Slayer battling the forces of Hell and it places an emphasis on aggressive, push-forward combat.
The series has never really cracked the esports scene, but that could all change with Doom Eternal. Game director Marty Stratton has revealed that his team is developing a new PvP component to push Doom into multiplayer gaming and he is confident that fans will love it. Doom already has a huge following and entering the competitive gaming circuit could help it really kick on. CS:GO has enjoyed phenomenal success as an esport, while Overwatch is also going strong, and Doom Eternal could emerge as a serious rival to these titles this year.
Magic: The Gathering Arena
The popular table game is now part of the Hasbro empire and launched a digital version that went into open beta a few months ago. The toy giant has allocated $10 million in prize money in an effort to turn it into a major esport in 2019. The inaugural Magic Pro League pays the 32 finest MTG Arena players an annual salary of $75,000 to compete in high-profile matches throughout the year and this has instantly created a strong professional scene. There was a special $1 million MTG Arena Mythic Invitational event at PAX East in Boston on March 28–31, and there are further big tournaments and partner events slated for the rest of the year.
MTG Arena has enjoyed superb growth since the beta version went live and it has seriously eaten into Hearthstone’s market share. Hearthstone is the leading digital card game and it is a major esport, with large tournaments and leading betting sites offering odds on the action, but it has seen its Twitch audience seriously diminish since MTG Arena was unveiled. It already boosts a huge following and it has a great chance of becoming one of the world’s top five esports.
This game’s rapid rise to prominence in 2019 has caught everyone by surprise. Apex Legends was only released on February 4, but its player count topped 50 million within a month of launch. EA chief executive Andrew Wilson hailed it as “fastest-growing new game we’ve ever had” during a conference call after the developer published strong quarterly financial results and saw its share price increase 2%. It is piggybacking on the remarkable rise to prominence enjoyed by Fortnite, which became the world’s most popular game in 2018. The battle genre is exploding in popularity as a result, and Apex Legends has had a fantastic reception among critics and gamers since it was launched. Many feel it is a superior game to Fortnite and it has great potential for further growth.
Epic Games has put up $100 million in prize money in an effort to make Fortnite a leading esport this year, as it seeks to maintain its market leading position. It must be wary of the rise of Apex Legends, which already has a nascent competitive gaming scene. Prominent team NRG Esports announced it had signed Coby “dizzy” Meadows as an official Apex Legends player and he has already earned $39,000 in prize money this year. Several others, including Team SoloMid, are in the process of launching Apex Legends teams and the scene is sure to become a lot more organized and professional in the year ahead.
This upcoming title from Proletariat pushes the battle royale genre in a totally different direction by eschewing on gunplay and focusing on magic combat. It will see mages unleash spell combos and create buildings protected by magic in a bid to secure victory, incorporating elements of RPG and of games like Dota 2 and League of Legends into the battle royale format. It uses the Unreal Engine 4 from Fortnite developer Epic Games and the Proletariat team has added gorgeous artwork to make it a visual delight.’
This game could have real wow factor and it has a chance of becoming a popular esport as it is likely to appeal to a huge number of gamers. It should lend itself well to multiplayer competitive gaming. “We’ve been hard at work nailing not only the visceral feel of magic combat while keeping the skill cap high, but still being accessible to all sorts of gamers all while leaving players with plenty of meaty decisions to chew on both in and out of the game,” said Proletariat founder Dan Ogles.
Dead or Alive 6
The Dead or Alive series has now been running for 23 years and the latest instalment was released in March 2019. DOA has not quite hit the heights achieved by Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, but that could all change now that DOA6 offers more single-player and online content, which makes it suitable for competitive gaming. “I’m very happy to see that the esports movement has gotten bigger in recent years,” said game director game director Yohei Shimbori. “I really want to work with fans to help DOA expand and reach that type of stage. My dream is for the DOA fanbase is for it to grow even larger than from what it is today.”
Publisher Team Ninja has released details of the DOA6 World Championship 2019, which carries a modest $90,000 prize pool. Qualifying is underway and it will culminate in a 16-player grand finale event. The series retains a loyal fanbase and this new game boasts strong gameplay and fantastic graphics. New players can easily crack combos and that makes it an appealing game to the masses, but the skill ceiling is high and that ensures an elite core could dazzle fellow gamers with their brilliance. It is available on all major platforms and it has a free to play version, which should help boost its footprint, and it has a chance of becoming a top esport.