i disagree aswell, if you don't hammer down the most important things for esport in your design it is gonna fail. Enough strategic depth has to be there!
Look at hearthstone, it is fun to play and well designed in that aspect, but many people belive that it isn't really competetive and many pro players there are frustrated
I'll also do my best to respond to Strategos's post in my reply.
I agree with you both in the sense that good infrastructure SHOULD be there in today's world. What I mean by this is a good replay system, a solid observer mode, and the ability to reasonably easily play tournament matches (workable custom lobby system that isn't difficult to use and supports observation).
From a design perspective, the game just needs to be good, competitive, and fun to watch/play. It also needs to be easy to understand what is happening and who is winning for people that don't play the game.
Let's look at a few examples.
DoTA2/LOL: Probably the largest and most successful e-sports of all time. Neither game was DESIGNED to be an e-sport. DOTA: Allstars was already largely successful being just a custom map inside of Wc3. What DOTA2/LOL did was take the existing successful game and provide a better engine and (in the case of dota2) great observer functions.
SSBM (Super Smash Brothers Melee) and other fighters were e-sports well before the era of "ZOMG EVERYTHIGN NEEDS TO BE ESPORTZ." None of them were designed with e-sports in mind. Nintendo actually actively worked AGAINST the community of SSBM as far as competitive play went. The community still succeeded.
SC:BW/Wc3: Also not designed at all with e-sports in mind. Both were wildly successful in their time. Particularly SC:BW with being the father of modern RTS and e-sports as a whole.
CS/CS:GO: Not designed for e-sports. CS:GO added a lot of engine/infrastructure things that improve the viewer experience.
The biggest and most successful game titles in the e-sports world today all have this in common:
*They were NEVER designed to be e-sports.
*The community put in TONS of work prior to developer involvement to grow the e-sports scene.
*In today's world they have good observer functionality.
The game was clearly, CLEARLY, never designed with true competitive play in mind. There is still no replay system, there is still no observer mode at all, and the game is riddled with frustrating RNG beyond all the RNG that comes inherent to any card game. I don't think Hearthstone makes for a good e-sport and I predict that it will fail within the next 2-3 years in much the same manner that Diablo 3 failed because of Path of Exile being better in almost ever aspect. Hearthstone has been successful in terms of viewership thus far because early on the community ran lots of tournaments before Blizzard stepped in and threw money at the game.
Another example, World of Warcraft:
By all accounts WoW *should* be a hugely successful e-sport at this point. WoW is by far the largest MMO of all time, it has the best competitive PvP experience of any MMO that I've played (I prefer the more hardcore/full-loot style PvP MMOs like Darkfall, Albion, Eve, etc but these make for bad competitive titles). Plus the game has had tons of community support and community driven tournaments and Blizzard's support. The downfall of WoW has always been that the game is extremely obtuse to anyone who does not play the game. It's hard to tell what is happening, it is difficult to tell who is winning, and for a long time the infrastructure was lacking to truly support an e-sports scene.
Final example, SC2:
Designed with e-sports in mind. Failed pretty miserably when compared to what it could/should have been. The viewer experience in Heart of the Swarm in particular was miserable.
Keep in mind that a huge portion of viewers for any e-sport title do not actively play the game they're watching.
TLDR is this -
In today's world, the game SHOULD have functionality in place to support the title as far as e-sports goes. Observer mode and replays are easily solved issues for modern engines to implement. So are easy-to-use custom lobbies.
The game should NOT be designed exclusively for esports. Thus far there has been no correlation between a game being designed around being an esport and being a successful esport. Most evidence points to the contrary. Produce a quality game, provide the community with a few basic tools and if it takes off - provide developer support if it makes sense from a business perspective.
Final note regarding For Honor - I loved the game, played it a ton. The network issues were over-exaggerated. The biggest issues with For Honor were lack of reasonable observer functionality and major flaws in base game design. Defensive play was rewarded WAY too much because of a lack of chip damage, the insane strength of parrying, and a flawed stamina system. Balance issues aside.