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Project A: Has Riot produced the fabled 'Overwatch killer'?

After last week’s mess of mediocre headlines for esports and gaming, Riot came roaring back to rescue the scene this week with some big news, front and centre of which was Project A, a new first-person shooter from the esports juggernaut. Early shots revealed in the LoL 10th anniversary announcement, can be seen in the video below, with the title looking like a cross between CS:GO and Overwatch and Riot has promised more details in 2020.

With the design of Project A so reminiscent of the dominant esports FPS titles, there was obvious speculation that it could be the fabled "Overwatch killer", or game that does what Blizzard tried to do with their first FPS esports attempt. Others, such Paladins, have also come into the space with the FPS/MOBA crossover idea, but so far haven’t come close to challenging CS:GO’s dominance.

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The comparisons with CS:GO make a lot of sense, and Project A looks like Valve’s shooter, right up until the point one of the characters starts flying, or throwing green fire, and then it doesn’t. The added MOBA elements mean it is unlikely to take huge numbers away from Global Offensive in the short term, but the introduction of Riot to the space could have a beneficial effect for CS:GO down the road.

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At present, there is no real challenger to Counter-Strike at the pinnacle of esports, at least when it comes to pointing and clicking on faces. Games such as Rainbow Six Siege and Call of Duty have good audiences, but the lack of real challenge to CS:GO has been a factor for years, as has Valve’s lack of interest in pushing real innovation in the game itself.

The existence of a competitor with the power of Riot - and therefore parent company Tencent - behind it should force Valve to work harder on CSGO if it does in fact cherish their place as leaders of the pack. While it’s obvious Dota is the favourite child, Valve is more likely to be stung into action by this release than a thousand angry tweets from professional players, meaning that Project A could end up being A-ok for CSGO. But what about Overwatch?

Your move, Blizzard...

We spoke to Sascha 'Yiska' Heinisch, one of Overwatch’s finest writers and analysts, about Riot’s new game, and the effect that it could have on Overwatch over the course of the next few years. In his opinion, the Project A trailer was pitched in such a way that it can’t help but attract the attention of the Overwatch crowd, even if that wasn’t the main focus of their trailer.

He said: "Interestingly, Project A came out of the gate in their announcement focusing heavily on the FPS portion of their game and dispelling the idea that it would be presumably MOBA-centric because of its League of Legends connections.

"As such, the announcement trailer of Project A seems to be intentionally tailored towards at least the vocal Overwatch hardcore audience. Add anti-cheat measures and netcode improvements, and you will be assured of this audience’s attention."

On the topic of Project A "killing" Overwatch, though, Yiska was happy to wait for more information, sensibly so.

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He said: “If there is indeed a significant share of players with interests in FPS-mechanics even down to the casual player base of Overwatch, Project A could become a scary competitor for Overwatch as it is.

"However, keep in mind that Overwatch itself is likely to receive big announcements in two weeks at Blizzcon. It’s only fair that we compare the creative visions for both games once we’ve at least a rough outline what the next year will hold.”

There is no doubt Blizzard needs some good headlines right now, and if it comes out swinging at Blizzcon it could set us up for a FPS battle the like of which we’ve never seen in esports before.

Whatever your preference, though, it’s fair to say next year is going to be a massive one for fans of shooters, with Blizzard, Riot and Valve all in the FPS space at least. “The battle for the FPS genre will be fought in 2020,” as Yiska so wisely put it, and we can’t wait to see who comes out on top.

Pictures: Riot games

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