As traditional sports become FULLY aware of the magnitude of esports they have begun to integrate esports elements into their marketing strategy. Hey, that's a good start, but let's be honest, this is in most cases a desperate move to "stop the bleeding" of losing a large segment of a fan base and of course the entire, future fan base itself... young people.
There is a video game version of every major sport in the world and most of these are made with the mission to be as, "true to life" as possible. That's cool, but what if it's backwards.
If traditional sports really want to stop their slide and ensure their longevity, perhaps they need to look at integrating esports elements into the SPORT itself, and not just into the marketing. The best and most popular esports are; accessible, fast paced, require a ton of skill, require a ton of strategy and are over quickly. In a word, they are... EXCITING. How can traditional sports grab onto that ideal and incorporate those elements into their own game, without becoming a fundamentally different game altogether?
Let's look at Formula One as a candidate for change. First let's analyze how it measures up to the eSports success criteria;
1. Accessibility - Nope, and never. F1 can certainly become more accessible to the fans and through eSports, but the sport itself is about as hard to break into as any on the planet and it's ok. It adds to the mystique that is Formula One.
2. Fast Paced - This should be a slam dunk, it's Formula freaking One for crying out loud, but frankly... it's far from it. How can cars that are this fast have such a hard time passing each other? At least the broadcasts do a good job showcasing the raw speed that is F1... oh wait, no they don't.
3. Skill - F1 regularly claims to have the best drivers in the world, and I for one am willing to give it to them. It is a shame that the skill required is not made obvious to the casual viewer (ie. future hardcore fan).
4. Strategy - Which tires and when? 1 stop or 2? Undercut or overcut? This is all fun stuff and the broadcasts do a good job highlighting the strategic elements of the race. This is a winning element, but I think it can be so much more.
5. Over Quickly - Another winner, of all the major sports in the world, F1 races may be the shortest time commitment.
The areas of focus clearly need to be; increasing the "action" that is happening on track, better showcasing the skill required to drive an F1 car and slightly enhancing the strategic elements in the race.
Here are some solutions from the esports playbook.
1. Better cameras - put the viewer in the cockpit a lot more, in fact let us choose who we are watching and from what camera.
2. Driver showcase - I want to see them working the wheel, adjusting the inputs and I want to hear them them talking to the team and spotter. Not a snippet here and there, but all of it. Make me love the driver, make me hate the driver, either way... make me care.
3. Invert the grid - This is the most controversial suggestion for sure, and the one that will make most "racing purists" have an aneurysm, it is also the suggestion that is most needed. There are a couple ways to do it, but my preferred method would be to grid the field based on Championship points and then invert them. This way there is no "tanking" the qualifying to improve your grid position.
Admit it, you love to watch Daniel Ricciardo move through the field after a grid penalty puts him down in the order. If you play any racing game, you love to start at the back and see if you can work your way to the front even it's just against a bunch of AI.
IT IS EXCITING and as importantly it is still racing.
Imagine the strategic elements that get added to the race by simply inverting the grid. You think the start of the race is exciting now? Times ten thank you very much. You think the middle of the race is boring now? No more. From start to finish, we will all be on the edge of our seats, wondering what is going to happen.
Thank you esports!