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Esports Ecosystems - Closed vs Open

In esports there are 2 types of ecosystem; open and closed:

Open, is where a developer makes a game and then takes their hands off the wheel, allowing external esports companies to then utilize that game for their own competitions and entertainment products.

Closed, is where a developer makes the game, then keeps their hands on the wheel and manages the esport as well as the game itself (usually a live game or game as service).

Where it differs, but yet holds similarities to sport, is where I find it really interesting. Let’s take basketball for example. Basketball was created by a high school gym teacher in 1946 and after it's creation the rules of the game more or less stayed the same apart from small additions like the shot clock 8 years later or 3 pointers. Since then, the NBA has come into existence, but remain a separate organization from the game of basketball itself. They might make their own rules and regulations, but if you pick up a ball and play with some friends it has nothing to do with the NBA.

Now in videogames, Riot games who develop/make League of Legends for example, are the same people that change the game's rules & balance, they control the professional level, and the casual level. You can't play a match of League of Legends without going through Riot games in some form. This is the difference between the Open and Closed ecosystems of gaming.

Where things get different is that esports has both, whereas sport only has open.

CSGO operates in an open esport ecosystem. Any events company can put on a CSGO tournament, and Valve, the game's publisher, actively celebrate you making an event for their game. This means more tournaments, more matches to compete in, more places to watch & more fans right? Unfortunately, it also means worse accessibility. Because its an open system, teams often compete in multiple tournaments simultaneously. This may seem like an advantage to the fan base but its also over saturating our community. Perhaps better to have quality over quantity.

A closed ecosystem should lead to that quality control then: a more streamlined narrative for spectators and retained revenue for publishers. It's closed ecosystem esports themselves that got me into Esports, and why is that? 1 narrative to follow, one season a year, the same teams every year, tied to geographic locations: All thanks to franchising. In a closed eco system, selling the rights to have your team involved in theory gives teams a safer investment and higher quality assurance for the league's entertainment value. The down side is that many will argue, especially in eu/uk, that franchising leads to inequality of teams competing, with only those who can afford it being involved actually competing.

Franchising is definitely a flawed beast, but by attributing a classic American sport, a franchising system of attributing teams to cities, and creating a uniform visual language across all team logos and identities, makes being a new fan way easier. Just pick your favourite city or a team that's got a a couple players on it you know and you're away! And the same goes for closed ecosystems. The same roster of teams competing each year on a signal streamlined circuit makes it much easier to tell great narratives.

Ultimately there's pros and cons to each of these ecosystems, and the reality is we're still only on the cusp of seeing how they're unfolding. Perhaps there's a middle ground model that's not been fully explored yet .

Are you a bigger fan of open or closed? Have you had your heart broken following the mismanagement of Blizzard like I have been despite the overwatch league format being more accessible?


Dale R Murray

Owner & Creative Director | Croft

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