NBA 2k Leage Draft

The NBA 2k League Draft: What did and didn’t work

Yesterday was a pivotal moment for the NBA 2k League, and the Esports industry as a whole. For the first time ever, a professional traditional sports league has created and funded an Esports league in its image. While it was a great step in the right direction, not everything the league did was a slam-dunk. Let’s review what did and didn’t work at the inaugural NBA 2k League Draft.

Pre-Draft Hype: Didn’t work

This league’s success, as commissioner Adam Silver indicated, will be determined by viewership. Currently, there are approximately 72,000 people worldwide who are NBA 2k enthusiasts. For the sake of argument, let’s round that number up to 100,000.

At its peak viewership on Twitch, the NBA 2k League Draft topped out at about 30,000 concurrent viewers. These aren’t bad numbers, but let’s put it in perspective. The broadcast of the draft was the eighth most popular stream of the day at its peak.

Meaning, individual streamers without the NBA backing and brand were garnering more viewership. To be fair, it might be too early to measure their success against other established streamers on Twitch. However, those people are going to be their competitors, and eventually, they will have to rival them.

There are two things they could have done to expose this event to a wider audience. First, the league could have put some type of content on their channel leading up to the draft to create some buzz. Even if they just post interviews or highlights of players, it at least lets everyone on Twitch know they’re here.

Second, there didn’t appear to be any advertising of this event on Twitch. Wouldn’t it make sense to sponsor a large streamer just to talk about the NBA 2k League Draft, or play with/against one of the top prospects? Wouldn’t it also make sense to have one of their NBA players do a similar type of event with a prospect on stream?

Overall, I trust the league to make good decisions and come up with smart campaigns. Since I have no idea what their promotional budget was, I can’t definitively say they made a mistake. But, it’s fair to say there were missed opportunities that could have helped boost initial viewership.

Pre-Draft Press Conference: Worked

While it was standard in terms of media press conferences, it was incredibly smart to broadcast it before the draft. For the first time, we had the three most important people in this league on record at the same time. The press conference did a few things well, but there’s one thing it did that was incredibly important for the entire Esports industry.

First, this event further legitimized the league because of the wide range of media outlets in attendance from ESPN, to the Washington Post, to the Sports Business Journal. Having members of different types of media outlets attend and ask questions signals that this league is legitimate and warrants professional coverage moving forward.

The second, and potentially most important, thing this press conference did was categorize these players as athletes. While it doesn’t seem like a big deal, the idea of Esports players being athletes has been a point of contention for both sides. It was monumental when Adam Silver said that he in fact views these players as athletes.

“I do see them as athletes…it takes a unique combination of physical and mental skills to excel. It’s not that different than the NBA, where you have to have incredible physical skills, but our very best players bring a certain mental focus and prowess to the court as well.”

– Adam Silver

If the commissioner wanted to dodge this question he certainly could have. His media training and experience would allow him to give an answer without addressing the question, like so many high profile athletes and CEO’s do. The point is, he felt comfortable calling them athletes, justifying why he thinks so, and putting on the record.

Event Production: Didn’t Work

Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room. While the concept of the NBA 2k League Draft was great, it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. For example, the twenty minute delay wasn’t good. Given the production value of the Overwatch League and League of Legends, this kind of delay is unacceptable if you’re trying to establish yourself as a premiere Esport.

Once the draft started, there were some things aesthetically that didn’t work. The NBA 2k League should be commended for their efforts in broadcasting this draft. It was well done in terms of its quality. However, there were clearly some things they would address if given the chance to do it again.

First, there needed to be some kind of background filler after a prospect was selected. Another way this could have been handled was to play highlights of each player until they reached the stage. It would have been a great opportunity to display their skills for all the viewers even if it was just a few clips.

Second, the interviews were lackluster. This was because the questions being asked were generic and there wasn’t enough time between picks to ask questions that would elicit a thoughtful, interesting response.

Draft Format: Worked

Plain and simple, the snake format worked. It was the best way to ensure a level playing field among all the teams. It also added another layer of strategy when it comes to team building. The franchises at the top got the best prospects, but as a result, they have to adjust the most given the amount of time between their picks.

Now, that can be applied to every team. However, it impacts the teams at the top slightly more because of the difference in skill between their best and their second best player. Thus, they have to have a strong strategy and execute it.

Moving Forward

Despite the initial technical difficulties and the awkward moments, the NBA 2k League Draft was a success. The next step in the process will be promoting the league and the players moving forward. If viewership is the key performance indicator of success, the league will have to find a way to compete for audiences’ attention on Twitch and tapping into a whole new audience altogether.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Darren Rovell Twitter (@darrenrovell)

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

features

The Laundry List of Missing Features

It’s been quite a few years since the official release of Hearthstone – and with Dungeon Run coming up as a brand new game mode, it’s perhaps worth going through the many, many basic features the game is still missing. Maybe it will help us figure out a few things about the developers’ priorities?

Welcome to the Grand Tournament

Perhaps the most egregious absence is the lack of a tournament mode for a game that has already crowned three World Champions and is quite close to the rise of the fourth. Anyone who even barely dabbled in the competitive scene could easily explain the problems with all the third-party organizations. This ranges from the incompetence and the downtimes to the downright sinister cases of collusion. People who don’t properly speak the same language trying to decode game states by screenshots will never be an acceptable alternative to something in the client – unless you are Team 5, that is.

The spectator mode is also full of problems: it is essentially useless for tournament organizers as it bafflingly flips the cards of the second player when you try to spectate both at the same time. Not only that, but the hand on the top is much smaller than what you normally see. Meaning broadcasters are still forced to run multiple instances if the game client and spectate both players separately, then mushing something together in their streaming software. It’s a mess. On the other side of the spectrum, there is still no way to spectate a friend’s arena draft or pack opening, and if I had to guess, probably never will be.

The lack of a disconnect feature has also been a major source of consternation for competitive players. With the current policy advocating for a replay in every case when a player drops out in an official event unless there is lethal on the board. This approach is both problematic and potentially abusable, and also something that other Blizzard games have figured out ages ago. There is no viable alternative to an in-game tournament mode with reloadable or at least pausable game states. These are the minimum features for a good competitive experience.

So many numbers

Another long-requested feature is a more detailed statistics display in the game. While there are multiple widely used third-party apps, the data they collect is nothing compared to what the Blizzard hivemind has available. Unfortunately they are only willing to display some minimal winrate-related numbers in the client  and maybe some other interesting tidbits via e-mail if you sign up for their marketing material alongside it. Again, not something that would be difficult to provide as the data is already collected. It’s simply something they don’t find valuable to share.

features

It’s also worth mentioning that a new player has no idea about the secret achievements like Chicken Dinner either. These are also something that the game could expand on along by being more transparent. The game is also sorely lacking a PTR, something that is commonly used for many Blizzard games. While it is understandable that the developers do not want to spoil cards in advance, these features would be useful to test botched game concepts like the synergy picks in Arena in a similar fashion.

There is also zero support in the client for the many content creators and streamers that are such a huge part of the game’s economy. We’re in an odd situation where the broadcasting platform has done more work with the game in that regard with Twitch’s Innkeeper app than the developers of Hearthstone have. It’s borderline ridiculous.

But hey, at least there’s always a new cardback every month…

 

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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The Tyler1 Championship Series is coming soon

Four ways to get your esports fix in the League of Legends off-season

If you spend a significant amount of time watching professional League of Legends (like me), then you are probably starting to feel a void where the LCS, LCK, LPL and other leagues used to be. You have caught up on watching everything at Worlds. Maybe you even went back and checked out VODs that you missed in Summer Split.

But now there is no more League to consume. Worlds is over, and every team is taking a much needed break from competition. There have been several announcements regarding changes to leagues next year, but what about now? We have two months before any professional leagues restart. How do we get our weekly fix of esports in the meantime? Here are my top four recommendations. Hopefully one of them will work for you.

Follow your favorite players’ streams

This is the most straightforward option. While the professional leagues are on cooldown, the individual players will most likely still be streaming on a regular basis. This form of viewership has several benefits. It allows you, the viewer, to feel more of each player’s personality, since the stream is built around them. You also get to experience the game from your favorite player’s perspective, which allows you to analyze their mechanics, builds, etc. For example, here are links to some of the professional players, coaches and casters that were streaming at the time of writing this article:

Watch your favorite player's stream in the off-season

Screenshot of Jankos’ stream on Twitch

Search for your favorite talents’ social media pages, as they usually update their fans when they will be streaming. Consider following and subscribing to their Twitch channels, as any advertisements directly benefit them. These sessions provide a more intimate setting for viewers, and players that stream frequently generally enjoy interacting with their audience. Tuning into streams lacks the casting and third-party analysis that professional broadcasts have, but story-lines and drama pop up now and again.

There are also plenty of top level League of Legends players who simply do not play professionally. They may prefer the casual nature of streaming, have a large enough following that financially they can stream full-time, have retired from pro play or may be a rising star in the making. Preseason is an ideal time to watch those streamers, because they are probably innovating with Runes Reforged, item builds and strategies. You might be able to learn a thing or two and apply it in your own solo queue.

Look out for regional/amateur tournaments and Scouting Grounds

Last year's Tyler1 Invitational was a huge success

Image from Tyler1’s Youtube

While there are regular amateur tournaments for League of Legends around the world, not many of them are actually broadcast. Expect to see some in the off-season, though, as they will not need to compete with the regular professional leagues for attention. For example, CompeteLeague will be hosting the Tyler1 Championship Series, starting on November 18. Last year’s Tyler1 League of Legends Invitational turned out to be a huge hit, so they will be back this year for your viewing pleasure. It is not an entirely serious event, so it may not be appealing to every esports fan, but the teams that were announced include some of the top Challenger-level players.

Regional leagues are also sometimes broadcast during this time period. For example, Ogaming is currently hosting Challenge France, the French national league that qualifies into the European Challenger Series. While the French casting may not be for everyone, the actual gameplay should appeal to viewers of the European LCS and CS. Europe has leagues for the United Kingdom, Spain, Poland and others too. Be on the lookout for announcements to watch these if they have not already happened.

For North American fans, this year’s Scouting Grounds are announced for November 26 to December 3. Riot invites the top Challenger players from each position to create four teams and compete in hopes of being drafted into the LCS and Academy teams for 2018. This is an event that showcases rising stars who may be among the 10 players to join a team following the matches.

Try watching another esport

Overwatch is an alternative esport to watch in the off-season

Image from Twinfinite.net

Yes, there are other esports out there other than League of Legends. The media is building up a lot of hype around next year’s Overwatch League (OWL). Overwatch combines certain aspects of massive online battle arena (MOBA) games with first-person shooter mechanics and game modes. Blizzard recently announced updates to make Overwatch more spectator-friendly and to create larger distinctions between the two competing teams. If the action was difficult for you to casually follow before, now might be a good time to give Overwatch another shot.

If you need something third-person, and much closer to League of Legends, then maybe give DOTA a shot. Summit 8 is currently pitting teams against each other from all over the world for a $300,000 prize pool. The draft, map, role-based gameplay and other elements of DOTA should feel right at home for League of Legends viewers. There are four DOTA tournaments in November and December, which should be plenty of content to help get through the off-season.

Hearthstone could be an option for League of Legends viewers who may not enjoy watching other MOBAs or first-person shooters. It is an online card game from Blizzard, which boasts being “Deceptively Simple. Insanely Fun.” Much like other card games, each player has a deck of cards to play with in hopes of draining the enemy’s health to zero. Spectating this game is incredibly easy. DreamHack is hosting a Winter Grand Prix December 1-4, which will be the last Hearthstone event for 2017.

Put more time into your own game

Everyone should learn about Runes Reforged in the off-season

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Of course, this is the best time to play more League, rather than spectate others. Maybe this could be your first time downloading your replays in the client. Rewatch your games and figure out what you could do differently to improve for 2018. Clip some highlights to show your friends, or just have fun playing a few more ARAMs that you missed during the LCS season.

Preseason is the time to adapt and innovate. Study the new Runes Reforged, watch out for Zoe’s release and figure out where they fit in the meta landscape. If you do not learn these elements of the game in the next two months, then you may be caught off guard when players are drafting next Spring Split. Get out on the Rift, get a feel for who and what is strong and weak, and compare.

Even if you have no interest in grinding more games, watching other esports or tuning into streamers, you can still just enjoy a break. Invest those extra minutes and hours into some other hobby. Most people will turn to exercise or catching up on music, books, movies and television. That is okay, too. If the professionals are taking a break, then why not you? It will be a while before teams return to the LCS, so make the most of it.


Featured Image: LoLesports.com

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