Last weekend Major League Gaming held one of the biggest competitive gaming events that North America has ever seen. This event brought together some of the worlds best gamers, as well as thousands of fans, all to watch some of the most exciting action eSports has to offer. Watching the multiple games played at this event made me think to my self, “Why isn’t World of Warcraft an eSport?”. Well, technically speaking WoW can be considered an eSport, since there are Arena tournaments played with cash prizes, but what is keeping these tournaments from happening on a larger scale, similar to League of Legends and Starcraft? To answer this question, I thought about the two most obvious forms of competitiveness that World of Warcraft offers, Arenas and Battlegrounds, as well as the impact that having tuning this game into an eSport would have on the average player.
Ever since their release in the Burning Crusade, Arenas have been a very popular end-game activity for players of all abilities. Players fight death-matches in either 2v2, 3v3, 5v5. These games are fast paced and extremely heart pounding, everything fans would want when watching an eSport tournament. The only problem is these games are too fast, and unless the viewer is an Arena veteran themselves, they will most likely not understand what happens. Though games can often last a good twenty to thirty minutes, the only excitement is when one team is finally able to burn down one of there opponents, and once that happens the game is basically finished. Basically, unless players have a great understanding of the game, they will not appreciate the strategy and excitement in Arenas. This greatly reduces the amount of potential viewers that Arenas would have, thus making it a less promising eSport.
The other option that World of Warcraft has in becoming an prominent eSport is Battlegrounds. With the new Rated Battleground feature implemented in Cataclysm, players are able to form ten-man groups and go toe to toe with other pre-made groups. This type of competition would not have the same problem as Arenas. The strategy in Battleground revolve much more on certain objectives, rather then simply killing each other. For example, even if viewers do not have a great understanding of the game, they would still be able to follow what is going on in a battle in Warsong Gulch with a capture the flag objective. In a way, this allows Battlegrounds to potentially have a huge amount of viewers, however, there is a down side. Most eSports have players that practice as a full time job who earn money from winning tournaments as well as sponsorships. In order for a player to earn a substantial amount of money from a tournament with ten player teams, the prize pool would need to be ridiculously big. It is possible, yet very unlikely that there would be enough money to attract players. Even though Battlegrounds would be an exciting eSport, it is very unlikely for it to happen in its current 10v10 state.
Even if World of Warcraft had a perfect system to set up as an eSport, it would still be unlikely to ever happen. Unlike games like League of Legends, WoW has a very strong PvE player base. In order for the game to be balanced as an eSport, PvP balancing would need to be the very top priority for Blizzard. There would never do this however, since that would alienate a good part of the player base. Simply put, World of Warcraft will never have the greatest PvP in gaming, nor will it have the greatest PvE. It is simply too big of a game, with too many players doing different things. This spread of players is the main reason why World of Warcraft could never become a major eSport. For that we must still look towards Starcraft and League of Legends.