ESL One Genting, billed as the first ever Malaysian Dota 2 Minor, has been overshadowed this week by the community reaction to the action being streamed on Facebook, rather than Twitch. Reddit, never the most reasonable place at the best of times, has been full of complaint threads about the streaming, and twitter seems to be following suit, with some going as far as to abuse talent over this change.
It should first be pointed out that anyone who thinks talent had a say, and should be held accountable, is absolutely worth ignoring, and deserves nothing more.
However, it seems as though there are also some people very resistant to change generally, and most likely not fully cognisant of why these sort of moves are good for the game. Add to that the multitude of folk calling out ESL for making ‘illegal’ DCMA takedowns on perfectly illegal streams, and it becomes obvious this has gone beyond the facts, to something altogether more mob-led.
To start with the final point, ESL are perfectly within their rights to ask to have any commercial restream of the event taken down, as you would expect from a company that just sold the exclusive rights for broadcast to a massive company. Commercial streams are defined as any stream with partner logos, sub buttons or donations active, which makes perfect sense, streams for profit, and the consequence of allowing them to continue is problematic long-term.
For those not connecting the dots, the sale of exclusive broadcast rights requires that broadcast to only be on one channel, meaning that if you want to watch the event, you have to go there. This has been made very clear in the case of Premier League football in recent years, and if the alternative, laissez faire way is allowed, it actually hurts everyone involved.
Money has to come from somewhere
In a world where exclusive doesn't actually mean exclusive, the rights are worth less to the broadcasters, who will therefore pay less for them, meaning less money for events, talent, prize pools and production. All in all, it damages the real progess esports has made in the last decade or so, and you can guarantee if the boot were on the other foot Twitch (and their owners Amazon) would be seeking to protect their investment.
To continue the point about the purple giant, the addition of these other firms to the streaming space can also be considered a positive for the Twitch viewer. No longer able to rely on a near-monopoly with only the Azubus of the world to ‘challenge’ them, Twitch will have to improve their service to keep up with YouTube etc, and that will benefit the end user more than anyone else, long term.
Finally, the move to Facebook may not please the existing esports audience, who are used to Twitch or YouTube at worst, but it does potentially open up the scene to an entirely new set of viewers, many of whom are older than existing fans. This is extremely attractive to sponsors and events alike, and they will obviously be looking far beyond the numbers in the first couple of days when judging the success of their endeavour.
The reality is that the court of public opinion, at least on reddit, has already decided the guilt of ESL and Facebook, with many threads filled with expletives directed at those two. However, so far both parties have acted well within their rights, and if those fans care about the future of Dota and esports they will support the event, for the reasons outlined above. A world in which Twitch dominate the stream scene is only good for Twitch and their owners.