You ever watch a grueling team-based esports competition and wish you could go back and analyze the footage? Maybe gain access to video feeds showing the individual player’s perspective? I bet it would be sweet to hear their mic chatter as well.
Well, getting to play armchair esports coach is about to get a little bit easier.
One of the oldest esports organizations in the world rivaling Major League Gaming, Electronic Sports League (ESL), is collaborating with gaming-oriented video provider Plays.TV on the upcoming Intel Extreme Masters competition at this week’s Gamescom convention in Cologne, Germany (taking place from August 5 through August 9).
Pro esports competitors from around the world will face off in StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm and CounterStrike: Global Offensive. And Plays.TV is looking to host all of the event’s footage, including a first for Electronic Sports League: the player’s point of view angle and mic audio. This means that not only will viewers be able to see competition from a general spectator perspective, but they will also have the option to view exactly what the players are doing onscreen and listen in on team communications — something that’s been especially popular with broadcasts for basketball and auto racing.
Nik Adams, the senior VP of global sales and business development at Electronic Sports League, has been anticipating this feature for a while. “We’ve always wanted to have POV [point of view] videos available for all our competitors, but previously it just wasn’t feasible,” he said. “Plays.TV has made it fast and easy to capture and upload video directly from the tournament PCs and we’re excited to provide esports fans with a new viewing experience.”
From a spectator’s perspective, being able to hear what team members are saying in the heat of the moment is immersive. It adds an exciting dimension to an already intense tapestry of competition.
“Now, even if you followed the action live, you’ll also be able to go back and see precisely what each player was seeing and clicking on, and hear what players were saying to their teammates,” he added.
But, I also see how this could be potentially problematic for competitors.
Plays.TV cofounder and CEO of PC-gaming community Raptr, Dennis “Thresh” Fong, is not new to esports and knows firsthand the importance of team communication — particularly when it comes to preventing rivals from studying audible call-outs in a team competition, such as the first-person shooter Counter Strike: Global Offensive. I asked him to take off his CEO hat for a second and reflect on how he thinks pro players will take to this feature.
“We [Plays.tv] and the ESL believe that including that content will be a big hit with fans, and thus will be beneficial to the teams and players, indirectly,” Fong said. “Some recent competitions, including ESL ESEA [E-sports Entertainment Association League], I believe, includ[ed] some POV content such as mic chatter from players, and thus far, there’s been no pushback from teams or players.
“Further, there’s plenty of precedence in other pro sports such as the NBA and NFL [when it comes to] wiring player and coaches with mics. … in those instances, some strategy and tactics are divulged in huddles and on the sidelines generally, and it’s not something that’s creating controversy in those professional leagues; instead it’s viewed as the latest evolutionary step in providing access to fans and creating more engagement between fans and the players and teams they follow.”
We’ll have to check in and see how this feature plays out when it launches during the Intel Extreme Masters competition at Gamescom. The first matches kick off at 1 p.m. CEST on Wednesday, August 5 (that’s 7 a.m. Eastern and 4 a.m. Pacific).