What will the landscape of esports look like in 2022?

A new year is upon us. Hopefully you had a wonderful, stress-free holiday using some guides to surviving competitive gaming over Christmas. But now, it’s time to get a little more serious and pay attention to trends happening now, so we can prepare ourselves for what esports might look like in the near future.

Let’s get started.

Esports will live or die by netcode

Ignoring the already thriving and well-established titles, a big selling point to new titles (besides popularity of IP) is going to reside in netcode.  How much is latency going to affect the competitive integrity of the title?

Before we discussed lag in the top esports titles, and while people cope with these because they’re pre-established, it’s not going to be tolerated for up and coming games. The best competitive example of this is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The netcode is archaic, and the tip-top players, if they must play online, resort to using an emulator (Yuzu) paired with streaming software (Parsec) to get the best possible performance.

Better experience tips

This occurs because the game uses delay-based netcode, while most modern fighting games that are doing well nowadays even if more niche are using rollback netcode. And while Super Smash Brothers has extremely recognizable characters and is well established. It also released pre-pandemic, when local play was a lot more achievable.

I believe IP will not be enough to save a competitive title in the post-COVID era. Do you think Riot Games’ Project L will still succeed if it uses poorly implemented delay-based netcode even with the recognizable plethora of characters? Absolutely not. Or at least I wouldn’t bet on it.

Until things are more likely to get back to normal, competitive integrity online is a must. Your game could still be fantastic offline, and while I won’t shrug off the importance of that, you’re going to have a hard time developing a healthy playerbase for the game if people can’t try it out with their friends and not have a headache first.

Credit: VR League

Audiences will be an online/offline hybrid through VR

What are you talking about? That sounds crazy. Actually this sounds crazier than it is. Facebook’s Metaverse is blowing up and competitors will follow suit. Here’s the reality of the situation: The esports event ecosystem is becoming unsustainable. It’s only gotten worse since the beginning of COVID-19.

A big reason for the inflated salaries of professional players is the amount of exposure consumers get through sponsors seen on jerseys and PC setups. With online competitions, there’s going to be less value in that, as pros will be playing from home and either will or will not be visible on camera.

Lots of esports have been doing events with no audiences but still a live broadcast team and pro players or at least live pro players. If you incorporate VR into the mix, you achieve two things: Ticket sales in a different cost bracket, and more visibility of sponsors. Many don’t want to travel but still want the live experience, and let’s discuss the elephant in the room: Live esports events are not like live sports events. You’re in a cool stadium, but most visible player and gameplay elements are broadcasted via a screen that displays the game and the players via rotating cameras.

Credit: VR League

There’s tons of room for added value of live events through VR and thus solutions for sustainability in the esports event ecosystem. If this isn’t a thing in effect by 2022, rest assured it’ll be shortly thereafter.

Pay-per-View streaming experiences

This needs its own section as I’ll have to elaborate.  You’ll notice the overarching theme of most of this article is sustainability in esports, especially in these trying times. The problem is, you can’t fully shift from free viewership to paid viewership. Gone are the days where subscription requirements would fly like they did in the past with the likes of MLG, GomTV, and OGN.

Instead, picture player POVs where spectators learn through the eyes of the pro the entire match. You’d pay to live vicariously through a pro player throughout the entire tournament, any of your choices that are willing.  This offers a tangential option for viewers looking to pay a premium and learn as a competitor more so than just a viewer.

It doesn’t just have to be viewership premium options, though. It can easily be interactive premium options. We’re talking Twitch overlays to see buyouts, advanced stat breakdowns, or even something like a “bit donation requirement” to interact with chat.

Either way, the future is looking interesting, and while the area continues to evolve, it’s going to need the finances to stabilise and fund future endeavours.  Where sponsors may be more weary in the current climate, it’s going to rely on the viewer to pick up the slack. But in order for that contribution to take place, we need to not fall back on archaic subscription methods and offer something mutually beneficial.

Between my prospective look at esports with PPV content, VR-integration, and netcode determining the fiscal and popular success of products and the esports industry at large, things are changing, and for the better. Look forward to new opportunities, even if they aren’t free.

Hope you enjoyed our predictions for the future. Are you an esports fan? Watch the matches of the team you support and place bets on Luckbox.