While gaming has always had a competitive aspect, even dating back to the earliest single-players with score-based elements, the modern competitive environment’s growth still caught many enthusiasts off guard. Today, eSports have become inextricable with many competitive games, with tournaments of some of the largest awarding many millions of dollars in prizes. In fact, DOTA 2, currently the most well-funded of eSports tournaments, has given away over $170 million in prize money.
Despite this definite interest, Ghost Recon is underrepresented within the eSports sphere. Why is this, and what is it that makes us so sure the series could reach major eSports success on the world stage?
Consistency is Key
When it comes to success as an eSports game, the biggest names tend to depend on just one or two key factors. The first is an overwhelming level of success on the world stage, and the second is building consistent brand interest through multiple iterations.
If we take a look at what XYGaming lists as top games in terms of prize pools for the last three years, we can see these factors in action. The top places here go to DOTA 2, League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, while the other spots go down to either sequels to popular series, or Smite, which succeeds on the coattails of the then explosive MOBA genre, as detailed by Red Bull.
There is no denying that Ghost Recon and the entire Tom Clancy brand are some of the most successful and best in the business, selling 76 million copies up to just 2013, and with 60 million players currently engaged with these games, but this comes with an issue. That is that these are spread over many different games, with differing game styles which often change considerably between the different versions.
Even just the Ghost Recon series has changed hugely over the years until it adopted the open-world model we see today with Wildlands. DOTA 2 and CS:GO, on the other hand, have stayed extremely close to their base model. This not only helps maximum engagement over consistent base gameplay, but it also gives a level of consistency to fans and even punters of the eSports scene.
In short, everybody knows what they are in for, and combined with the contributing surrounding fan and betting infrastructure, maintaining interest over generations become much easier.
Finding the Winning Formula
Wildlands sold around 1.62 million units in the first week at retail alone, according to VGChartz, so we know that the base level of interest is there. We also know that the game does have an interested eSports and PvP scene, with tournaments and teams already set up between the biggest and best players.
So how will Ghost Recon push this into mainstream eSports success? In our opinion, there are two options. The first is that they could either keep changing the formula until they hit the jackpot as Rainbow Six did with Siege, or they could keep building the same brand name as they have with Wildlands.
Ghost Recon, after all, is no stranger to making significant changes to the base gameplay as they have over the years with the likes of Advanced Warfighter, Shadow Wars, and Wildlands, but we would say that maintaining the individuality of each of these series would be the best way forward. Keep the Wildlands series going, keep working on making the game great, fix what needs fixing, learn what lessons could be learned from Siege and, finally, get Ubisoft itself to start backing the tournament scene.
As publishers of the game, Ubisoft themselves bears considerable responsibility for helping maintain interest in the competitive scene. While, at the moment at least, they seem to have thrown all of their eggs in the Siege basket, it should be noted that prize pools and backing from publishers can do great things to helping boost player numbers.
The fighting game series Street Fighter, for example, saw a considerable let-down with Street Fighter 5. Many players don’t think much of it, yet because Capcom offers such huge prize pool, including the first prize of $120,000, numbers on both the casual and professional scene remain strong as a result.
If Ubisoft did this with the likes of Wildlands, a game which actually has fantastic base-gameplay, then there is no telling what heights the eSports popularity of the Ghost Recon series could reach. We might not be the most unbiased, but we’d watch it over another 3-lane MOBA tournament any day of the week.