Critical Mass: Overwatch League Blows Up
In the first week of league, Overwatch amassed a monumental 10 million viewers (or more, as Blizzard suggested many viewers watch in groups). From around the world, fans tracked matches between twelve pro teams as they battled head-to-head in Blizzard’s Los Angeles Arena. The league season will run until playoffs in July, where viewership figures will most likely dwarf even the current record.
Once your community reaches critical mass, you no longer need to target players. As your game (or games) grow organically, you’ll be able to seamlessly acquire new members across any number of channels. With effective funnelling and content management, it’s easy to give players a reason to visit and stay on your site.
However, when non-player fans of the game are involved, it can become more complicated.
You know what your players care about, for the most part. Some just care about winning, others care about achievements but most just want to have a good time. No matter what drives them, it’s easy to generate and organize content to appeal to them.
Spectators, on the other hand, are much harder to follow. Sure, they want to watch pros compete in widely-broadcasted tournaments. They want to know the announcers / shoutcasters by name, and they want to know everything about the pros. Unfortunately, this doesn’t give you a strong idea of what they want as a community experience.
Highlight reels and general information can be found on YouTube and Wikipedia? You need to treat the spectator-focused areas of your community like a newspaper, not just a forum.
If you’re organizing professional events, have pros make an occasional appearance to chat with fans or take part in a Reddit-style AMA (ask me anything Q&A session). Share exclusive footage or images from the events (watermarked, of course) and be sure to reiterate that your community is not only the source with the newest content, but the highest quality content as well (a standard practice, but often overlooked).
If you don’t have a direct role in event organization the approach is the same, however you will need to plan to space out original content and timed content releases to maximize your year-round user acquisition and retention. Focus on esports, track your viewership metrics and treat your content as importantly as the tournaments it focuses on.
If you’re lucky enough to be part of an eSports community (like Overwatch) that’s reached critical mass, you’ll do well to remember the three following tips:
- Shift your focus to acquiring non-player fans of the game. They come with all the benefits of a new audience but without (most of) the challenges of acquiring new users.
- Maximize utilization of your network and resources. If you have open communication with pro teams you should practically be on a first-name basis. Your game fuels their career, which augments your digital content.
- Track viewership and user metrics to determine the best release schedule for new content. Since eSports can go on year-round, you’re not locked into a seasonal schedule. You simply can’t run tournaments 365 days of the year to keep interest high.
If you don’t have a direct role in planning professional tournaments of your game, be sure to build a strong professional relationship with the manager(s). Optimizing timing for content releases can save a huge amount of time, money and focus that would otherwise be allocated for tournaments, product development, or just sitting back and enjoying being part of the community.