Building the Foundations
How We Can Make Company of Heroes Huge
It's something that a lot of people who play video games dream about. To see their favourite video game being played on a big stage. People want to see big prizes pools on the line and the event streamed live to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
Something that a lot of gamers don't realise however is that there is no 'e-Sports Illumanti' that decides which games are included in e-Sports. The games that are supported by outfits such as IGN Pro League (IPL) and Major League Gaming (MLG) gained that support based on two things. Namely that a demand exists from players for these tournaments and that the game is enjoyable to watch and thus brings in a large audience. Those two companies are there to make money. The guys that run these events have huge egos and ambitions. They want to put on a sick show, so they choose the games where they can get the most bums on seats, sell the most pay-per-view tickets and sell the most spectator passes at the venue.
Personally I think Company of Heroes is great to watch, however, I am not entirely certain that these organisations will be willing to put COH2 on their cards initially. THQ could throw a load of money at the competitive scene but that would not be sustainable. We only have to take a look back at Command and Conquer 3; released in 2007, C&C3 was in the World Cyber Games (WCG) for two years because EA threw a substantial amount of money at the WCG committee to get their game in. The game was subsequently dropped as inevitably the money from EA dried up and Red Alert 3 was released in 2008, one year after C&C3 causing a drop in the number of people playing Command and Conquer 3.
The other route and my preferred choice is to make our scene desirable by these big organisations. People who know me are now going to stop reading and e-strangle me but we should take a look at the Fighting Game Community. It's a grass-roots scene made up of content makers, tournament organisers and players and it has been growing steadily for nearly 20 years! It really started to grow exponentially after the release of Street Fighter IV in 2009. Their flagship event, EVO, is huge - it lasts three days! In 2012 they had over 3000 competitors from all over the world take part. It also boasted an impressive peak concurrent of 100,000 viewers and around 6,000,000 unique views for their streams.
Video from the EVO event
The big e-Sports organisations have been trying their hardest since 2009 to get in on the action, however, up until recently Capcom has not given permission to let any big US organisation run tournaments for their games. Capcom felt that the grass roots scene was doing an amazing job and they didn't feel comfortable allowing the big organistations in to potentially disrupt or usurp the grass roots community. Recently, following many years of negotiations, IPL finally signed a deal with Capcom for their games however IPL aren't allowed to run their games if their events fall on the same day as a grass roots event.
So what can the Company of Heroes community do? Currently Sunday Night Fights is doing really well but we can't rely on just one show and one outfit of content producers. We need more people to do what they are doing by either putting on some great show matches or alternative content such as in depth match analysis, videos for beginners etc. The viewership is slowly growing but I think we really need to kick it up a gear, especially as COH2 is around the corner.
We need community made maps. Patches can help shake the game up, but so can a fresh set of maps. I appreciate that making maps is not easy, Whiteflash and Onkelsam have talked about the difficulties they have faced using the World Builder tools. It is also true that making maps is not everyone's cup of tea, but you can always help map makers with feedback and play-testing. So do your part and help the map makers by playing their maps and giving them feedback, positive as well as negative!
We also need more people to step up and host their own tournaments, with sites such as Challonge and Binary Beast, it's never been easier for anyone to host their own tournament. In the past it used to be only GR.org hosting a tournament every quarter but I’ve been impressed by the new events that have been appearing over the years; such as Sunday Night Fights show matches, Sandland’s Invitational and the Reddit Cup. More events gives our content producers more material to work with, to create content that helps improve our visibility in the larger gaming community. As our community gains more visibility it will be easier for us to get sponsorship for our events and we can get bigger and bigger.
What if you don't want to be a tournament organiser or a content creator?
There is still a lot you can do. If you use other forums such as somethingawful, NeoGAF, or any forum related to gaming, then make a topic about competitive CoH. Share links to streams, videos and articles and it will do wonders to increase the competitive scene's visibility. Use Twitter, it is a fantastic tool. If we get enough people talking about CoH or using hash tags, it will trend, and then it will appear on the twitter front page to bring in new unique visitors. Follow everyone in the community, re-tweet the tweets you like. It's also a great network for the community to use for sharing links and ideas. If you have some spare cash, buy a copy of Tales of Valor on Steam and gift it to a friend and play the game with them. Maybe they will recommend the game to other friends.
Most importantly, play the game and take part in community events. Even if you go 0-2 in your first round match, the event organiser will be thankful because their brackets were filled up and it tells sponsors that there is demand for more events. I believe Company of Heroes 2 can be a big game in 2013 but we have a lot of work to do to accomplish this. Help is appreciated and as we all know - many hands make light work.