How EA has Hindered Their Growth in eSports From Years of Neglect

In December of 2015, EA announced that they had opened up an eSports division in order to help jumpstart one of their games as the “next big eSport”. The problem with that announcement is that EA waited till the end of 2015 to finally try to crack into the eSports scene. The first recorded eSports competition was held in 1972 at Stanford University where players of the game, Spacewar, competed for a prize. Fast-forward 44 years to 2016 and there are gamers making a living by competing in eSports across the globe. The eSports business is a booming one, yet EA has been nowhere to be found. They have left their community members with questions time and time again. They just want answers.


 

EA’s Lack of Involvement

Image from lazygamer.net

Image from lazygamer.net

EA has run small tournaments in the past with a focus on the 1v1 play for games like Madden and FIFA, yet they have drawn in little to no audience to these events. Their Battlefield series in eSports was decently run, but Battlefield crashed and burned faster than Ray Rice’s career. They have not offered many prize-driven tournaments throughout the past couple of years across all their games. Even the prize pools for the current “eSport tournaments” that EA runs are very minimal. A comparison of the prize pool money provided by EA for their most popular game, FIFA, compared to other gamers was made by Adel Chouadria, an eSports section writer for ESPN.

FIFA 15’s total prize pool ($143,283) pales in comparison with the highest recorded earnings for a Dota 2 (Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan’s $1,730,076) or League of Legends player (Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok’s $207,158, not counting salary and endorsements).

Those were winnings by those players from tournaments throughout the year. Professional gamers in eSports make plenty more money from their gaming organizations that employ them and their sponsors. It’s pretty clear that League of Legends’ developer, Riot, and Dota 2’s developer, Valve, have a good amount to do with these numbers as well. These companies have invested time and money into their game to see it grow into an eSport. EA has not come close to other companies when it comes to supporting their games on an eSport level. Having a couple FIFA and Madden tournaments a year isn’t going to develop an eSport. A sound structure is needed. Investors are needed. Leagues are needed. Motivated gamers striving to be the best are needed. Most importantly, an audience and community are needed and a connection with that community is needed. EA’s creation of an eSports section is very much needed and long overdue, but it may be too late for the community that supported EA the past 5 years. Is it all EA’s fault? No. However, certain decisions they have made directly affected their eSports aspirations.


 

How EA is Approaching This the Wrong Way

vonmillermadden

Every year EA makes tweaks to their games like FIFA, Madden, and NHL, but their focus has been obvious for a couple years now. EA is all about making money off of its community members by having the most improvements to their games occur in the “Ultimate Team” sections. Even the EA Access pass is just so EA can earn some more cash from the gamers that wish to play the game they love. EA thrives off of add-on content as well and they continue to withhold that content from the original game in order to make money off of their customers. The numerous add-ons for EA games such as Battlefield and Need for Speed that could have come with the original game purchase are absurd. EA needs to improve their focus when it comes to improving their game and listen to the community instead of trying to figure out more ways to earn money.

Another issue with EA’s recent approach to eSports is the lack of a team element to their tournaments. StarCraft 2 is a very successful eSport that is a 1v1 centered game, but even those single players are a part of teams. The other top eSport games like League of Legends, CS:GO, Dota 2, and Halo are team based games with multiple players that work together. EA has had great opportunities with game modes like Pro Clubs for FIFA and team-up in Madden and NHL. These are team oriented game modes that require skill and practice with other teammates to become good. EA has turned their shoulder to these “Team-up” game modes and either has neglected them to the point where it hasn’t improved in 4 years (FIFA) or the game mode was removed altogether (Madden). There is a community for these team-up game modes that can potentially grow into a large enough group to support an eSport, but for that to happen EA would be required to put more effort into getting to know the community and make changes that could help them. EA has given little to no support in this area for each of the 3 major sports games and it has affected each community in a negative way. Even the company, 2k Games, created the “Pro-Am: Road to the Finals” event this year that rewards the winning team with a quarter million dollars and a trip to the NBA finals. The format of their event was terrible, but they took a step in the right direction when it comes to eSports. 2k Games showed that they are interested in their community and are introducing them to the fact that eSports is a possibility if they want it to be. EA has not delivered, in that sense, to their community and instead chose to add a million changes to Ultimate Team each year and leave their other game modes out to dry.


The Big Question: Will EA Make it big in the eSports Scene?

madison-squarefinals

Thousands gathered for the 2015 LCS Summer Split finals (League of Legends) at Madison Square Garden.

It is very difficult to say that EA will succeed or fail when it comes to eSports. The eSports business is continuously growing and EA has an opportunity to set up one of their many games in a way that can attract many viewers to an eSports league/tournament set-up. They are behind the curve as a major game developing company, but they have the resources and money to make a breakthrough. It’s all a matter of how they go about making that breakthrough now. It will be difficult to crack the major eSports threshold with games like Madden, NHL, and FIFA simply because they are sport simulation games. Many people including myself would rather watch Aaron Rodgers throwing a game winning hail mary as time runs out live than watching it happen in a Madden game. Though both would be exciting and great to watch. Sport simulation games are built to represent their respective sport in real life. There are many instances of randomness that may hurt the game on a competitive level. At the same time, if there are people willing to compete for a prize, there will be people willing to watch it happen. It’s human nature to watch humans do battle with one another, no matter the competition. EA will need to increase their support and develop some great plans with their new eSports department in order for these games to take off and create job opportunities for members of their communities as players, organizers, casters, analysts, and much, much more. The possibilities are endless and EA knows this. The coming months will tell us how serious EA is about their entry into eSports.

By: Jeff “Gravy” Miskin

Twitter: @BigBadGravy

One Comments

  1. Fuck EA

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