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Titanfall and e-sports: Developer Respawn explains its position on competitive gaming

Above: Titans and pilots fight alongside each other in Titanfall.

Image Credit: Respawn Entertainment

The bombastic sci-fi shooter Titanfall is looking like gaming’s next massive hit, but hardcore competitive gamers are unsure whether it will have a place in the e-sports scene.

Developer Respawn is preparing to launch the shooter March 11 for Xbox One and PC (and March 25 on Xbox 360), but at release, it won’t have many of the features that people who compete in games professionally desire.

“[E-sports] really hasn’t been our focus,” Respawn spokesperson Abbie Heppe said in an interview with Microsoft’s Larry Hyrb. “Our focus has been to get a really solid foundation out. A game that is really fun, that will attract players, and keep them playing for a really long time.”

Titanfall is a first-person shooter that has players fighting in teams as futuristic soldiers. These troops can run on walls and double-jump. Titanfall also features massive mechanized walking tanks called Titans that players can pilot in battle. The game is currently in a beta for Xbox One and PC, which is helping it generate all kinds of positive buzz as a huge number of people are experiencing a small sliver of the game for the first time.

Naturally, gamers who compete in titles like Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 are keeping an eye on Titanfall. Many are wondering where Respawn stands on supporting e-sports. Heppe says that it’s getting “tons of interest” from pro gamers, but the studio didn’t have the time to support that relatively small group.

But this doesn’t mean that Respawn won’t ever turn its attention to e-sports.

“I know we’re not going to be shipping with all the features that they’re going to be wanting in the game, but we’re in our first iteration,” said Heppe. “A lot of the games that have developed good e-sports features and a competitive community, are ones that have had multiple iterations to get that done and to build in those things. So while that couldn’t be a priority for us here, we’re definitely listening to all of the feedback. We’re interested in what competitive players think when the game ships, and it’s definitely something we’ll look into, but not something that’s been our primary focus.”

E-sports is a growing market. While the number of pro players is relatively small, many amateurs compete in online services provided by companies like Major League Gaming. One of the biggest aspects of competitive is its potential as a marketing tool.

Publisher Activision is in the process of holding its second annual $1 million Call of Duty championship event. This has the best teams in the world fighting it out over the course of a few months to claim the top prize from a $1 million prize pool. The company uses this event to market its latest Call of Duty games.

Following Titanfall’s release, publisher Electronic Arts has revealed that it plans to offer up digital content similar to Battlefield 4. This means new multiplayer maps and potentially new weapons or Titans. In those updates, Respawn could add things like a broadcast mode that enables commentators to quickly jump between different players while offering a play-by-play voiceover of the action.

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