Diggity on eSports: StarCraft 2, League of Legends, NASL Finals (Interview)
With Europe’s DreamHack setting records for the world’s largest LAN festival, and South Korea’s televised professional StarCraft competition circuit enjoyed by millions of fans, many North American gamers are left wondering: what about us?
Last week, I had the opportunity to chat with veteran eSports commentator Diggity about the state of eSports in North America and what it’ll take to reach the level of success that South Korea has enjoyed for years.
Starting his casting career in late 2007 with StarCraft: Brood War, Diggity transitioned into StarCraft 2 commentary and has recently branched out into League of Legends and Fallout 3. He has cast for StarCraft 2′s North American Star League, whose finals are coming up in July.
Has branching into games outside of the StarCraft series helped bring in new viewers?
Diggity: I’ve had some success with Fallout 3, though I don’t know how much cross-viewership I’ve gotten. But I think LoL is turning out to be an even larger eSport than SC2 at the moment. DreamHack hit 900,000 concurrent viewers on their stream. LoL is a great game, and I don’t think it needs to have an isolated viewership, so I’m hoping it makes it and we’ll get some side interest in SC2 as well.
South Korea is the Mecca for StarCraft; where is League of Legends most popular?
I’m fairly certain it has a gigantic popularity-base on China. I know it’s also very popular in Europe and the United States. It seems to be growing very rapidly. In fact, I was trying to take a nap in my car the other day and I heard a guy just wandering by, talking to his friend, ranting about something LoL-related. Honestly, I think the way LoL is crafted, the friendliness of the user interface, and its team-based nature, appeals to a broader audience than SC2. Currently, it just looks like it’s popular everywhere.
Do you think League of Legends may pave the way for professional eSports leagues in North America to really kick off?
I would really hope so. I think that LoL has a couple advantages over SC. First, it’s developed to be a permanent fixture. You’re not waiting for LoL 2 to come along, like with SC2 where you have the patches and you don’t know how that’s going to affect game balance. Second, LoL is not supposed to be a perfectly balanced game, where any two heroes are somehow perfectly balanced.
I definitely feel like LoL is growing interest in eSports; it’s getting huge numbers absolutely everywhere. It has a different crowd than SC. The 1v1 SC crowd tends to include very opinionated individuals who are very particular about what they want their content to be. So I think they’re really hard on tournament organizers and demanding on the people putting effort into the community itself. I don’t know that LoL has that same problem. In LoL, the higher ELO you go, the friendlier the players generally get, because they have to work in a team environment rather than 1v1.
That being said, I know that Valve is developing DOTA2, and that could put a big roadblock for LoL even though it’s a different game. DOTA2 might rip that audience or split it. But currently, it looks like LoL is outpacing SC2 as far as flat viewership goes and baseline user growth. The biggest factor is probably that it’s free to play.
Do you think the North American audience may be more receptive to League of Legends because it’s accustomed to watching team-based physical sports, like basketball?
Actually, I think SC2 is a much easier viewing eSport, because what’s happening on-screen is more apparent. Like in basketball, where there’s a player shooting a ball in a hoop, there doesn’t need to be a huge explanation of the rules, and information can be explained more easily and rapidly in a cast in SC2 than in LoL.
There are definitely people who have watched SC2 as an eSport who haven’t played SC2. I don’t know anybody that would watch LoL — at least competitively — who hasn’t actually played the game. But it has such a gigantic base of people who have played that it can still have that baseline viewer growth.