Want to make a living playing games? Start practising these games just about to hit the big time.
Make no mistake, eSports are taking off. Viewers tune into watch the world’s best gamers go head to head in their hundreds of thousands and the world’s elite players are earning huge sums in prize winnings alone.
Want to be one of them? Itchy thumbs and fast reflexes help, but you could also try and make a name for yourself in the next hot title, rather than an established event like StarCraft 2. Here, we take a look at the next games that are about to blow up.
You might not have heard of DotA 2 (Defense Of The Ancients 2), but that’s OK: it’s technically not even out yet. But its creator, Valve, has already turned the beta into the next big thing in eSports, with hundreds of thousands of eager players and fans.
If people can grasp how on earth it works, that is. “It’s insane,” says video game journalist and writer Quintin Smith, who admits to having poured 100 hours into the game himself.
“Dota 2 is ultimately about two teams of players in something like fantasy five a side football going at each other. Each player controls a hero who supervises entire automated armies. The object is to destroy the enemy base, and get into enormous scraps with other enemy heroes.”
It sounds simple, but the bewildering variety of heroes you can control (108 and counting, all with different bonkers abilities) makes it incredibly complex. But the fact that it’s a free to play game, with live streaming of matches available right inside the Dota 2 application means it’s destined to be the Next Big Thing.
“I think it's going to be a big spectator sport,” says Smith. “Everyone I know who plays it also watches it, and you've got these super talented commentators [already].”
There’s some serious moolah to be won if you get particularly good, too. The top prize for Valve’s The International competition, which took place in the US last week, was a cool million dollars (£628,000): Chinese team Invictus Gaming scooped the jackpot, splitting it five ways. Not bad, not bad at all.
Halo 4 isn’t out yet, but it’s already a confirmed fixture on the Major League Gaming (MLG) circuit. The next installment in the legendary Xbox shooter series goes on sale on 6 November, but the weekend before, will make its professional eSports debut at the Fall championship in Dallas, Texas.
You can expect this to become a mainstay in big name tournaments, just as its predecessors have. But if you want to get in on the ground floor, you’d better start training. You can expect fierce competition from the world’s best Halo: Reach players, like Red Bull’s Dave Walsh and Ian “Enable” Wyatt.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
While strategy games are coming to dominate professional eSports, the good ol’ fashioned beat’em up tournament continues to attract a loyal grassroots fighting following. If you want to take your button mashing skills to the next level, right now Soul Calibur V and Mortal Kombat are the titles getting the biggest audiences online. But that could be about to change, says Tim "Bibulus" Fennessey, a veteran of the the fighting game competition circuit and commentator for Major League Gaming.
“Tekken Tag Tournament 2 should be added to the MLG circuit soon and will be the staple Namco game there for 2013,” he says. The game isn’t out on consoles until next week, but has already attracted much hype as it has been available in Japanese arcades since last year.
You might just be able to catch those players if you start now, but you’ll need some dedication. “For everyone it has to start as a passion project. If you really want to make a splash in a new game you can practice like a beast. Without the competitive experience in other similar games you will be at a permanent disadvantage,” he explains.
“So you have to try and make up for that with in-game proficiency and during your mass hours of practice you will be exposed to a lot of tactics you never saw before. So you figure out how to get around it and execute, then rinse and repeat for hours on end more than your opponents.”
Call of Duty Black Ops 2
There’s no doubt that PC strategy games - StarCraft 2, League Of Legends and Dota 2 - are becoming the breakout spectator eSports. First and third person shooters, once the staple diet of the pro gaming circuit, are as popular as ever online, but they face a challenge as a spectator sport.
“I feel that the biggest issue currently facing console shooters in regards to eSports is that it's very difficult to get people to tune into streams,” says Colin Fogle, former MLG champion and professional Gears Of War player.
“Spectator counts are the main metric which leagues look at, and the major barrier is that people don't or cannot watch streams on their consoles.”
Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 could change that. Call of Duty is already a billion pound franchise with an active community on YouTube and Twitch.tv, but Black Ops 2, due out in November, is the first in the series to be built from the ground up with spectators in mind.
You can easily stream your games for others to watch and use shoutcasting tools to provide your own commentary, while a spectator mode lets the audience see all the action from different angles, along with a scoreline just like any football match.
It’s going to be big, in other words, says retired Call of Duty champion Mike Rufail, who has been helping Treyarch finetune the game for spectators. “Every part of this game has been designed to bring eSports into the mainstream,” he told Forbes in a recent interview.
Better start stretching those thumbs.