It’s an argument as old as time itself – and, by time itself, I mean whenever people started giving a damn about PC v. console (probably, like, the mid 2000s).

Why is console so overlooked in eSports?

If you’re asking this question, it’s probably because you’re a console player that feels a little miffed because Blizzard left you in the dust when they consolidated all of Overwatch’s competitive scene into a PC-exclusive league. And, well, I get it. I’m a guy with prettily manicured nails on the ends of weirdly long fingers that belong on a piano, not a computer keyboard, so using a keyboard for a shooter delivers the same results as you would receive if you put a couple of two-year-olds into a three-legged race; being able to use a controller is liberating (Though, admittedly, I annihilate the analog sticks on a pretty regular basis in my passion for fighting games).

There’s a reason console gets passed up, though, and it’s not just because of the PC master race mindset.

First, Let’s Talk About the Technical Side of Things

You see, controllers, inherently, are extremely clumsy pieces of hardware. Think about it: You’re wiggling around a couple of stiff sticks with your thumbs, which will have to move away from the sticks in order to access different game features, such as jumping or cycling through weapons. Meanwhile, your indexes are hovering over the bumpers with your middle fingers on the triggers, and your remaining two fingers are gripping the handles. It’s an inelegant claw-like grip to match an equally graceless accessory, both of which are subject to a number of problems that stem from the player’s and the controller’s flaws.

343 Industries

They’re so clumsy that it has become the industry standard to include the handicap that will make their games playable: aim assist. Aim assist, if you don’t already know, is a built-in mechanic in shooters that will nudge your reticle a smidgen closer to where your enemy is so that you have an easier time pulling off those 360 no-scopes that you brag to your friends about. If you aren’t a Halo player that moonlights as an achievement hunter, chances are you’ve never turned off the aim assist in the game settings of a shooter; it’s so subtle that players don’t even notice that it’s there, but they sure as hell notice if it’s gone.

As you can probably imagine, the competitive nature of the game starts to whittle away once you come to understand that your favorite pro players are using what is, in a sense, an approved bot. However, if you were to disable it, the controller’s inefficiency would drastically impact the pros’ gameplay in a way that would require them to completely shift gears in order to adjust.

Compare the controller to a mouse and keyboard, which are exponentially more precise. You have one hand on the mouse, the other on the keyboard. As opposed to moving, aiming down the sights, then pulling the trigger on a controller (On top of paying attention to grenade placements and anticipating player movements), a using a mouse only requires the player to adjust their sights and click. Additionally, a mouse is not limited to in-game settings, as the software that comes with gaming mice will typically allow a user to adjust his or her DPI; this can increase or decrease how responsive a mouse is to even infinitesimal movements in a way that is exceedingly more exact than the Low – High meter in-game.

SMITE

Even if you were to use attachable paddles, thumb grips, and higher quality controllers than the ones that come with a console, it still doesn’t come close to the speed and accuracy that is obtained through the use of a gaming mouse and a mechanical keyboard. In terms of competitiveness, and skill, it’s difficult to deny the fact that PC has the edge it needs to make it superior to its console brethren from a purely competitive standpoint.

This is just talking about aiming and shooting, though, which isn’t always relevant when you’re playing a game like SMITE. In games like Titanfall, Titanfall 2, and Call of Duty: Black Ops III, there is a heightened movement system that includes parkour that would make Mirror’s Edge look like a leisurely stroll in the park. You’re wall-running, being launched into the sky, bouncing off of your environment, sliding along the ground, and navigating around the map in ways that makes my mother nauseous. Call of Duty’s pro scene is played exclusively on console thanks to Sony’s deep pockets, but Dot Esports (Formerly The Daily Dot) performed a test back in 2014 that pitted console and PC Titanfall players against one another, where it was shown that console players were unable to perform on the same level as their PC counterparts when it came to agility. The article also touched base on the different strategies used by console and PC players (Something that spans beyond the scope of just Titanfall) so that’s another read I would suggest checking out when you get the chance.

When it comes to tournaments for PC games, tournament organizers also have to take the extra step of cloning a computer’s hard drive onto every other unit being used for the competition. This ensures that every PC is exactly the same, with no possible differences from one another, and prevents any possibility of unfairness in the tournament. Is it fool-proof? Of course not, but it’s a measure that, to the extent of my knowledge, is something that cannot be executed on consoles.

Who Says We Have To Choose?

I’ve heard a lot of people voice their support for both console and PC receiving a shared interest in eSports and, again, I can understand where they’re coming from.  Despite their differences, why shouldn’t both receive leagues?

Well… Because that would be a financial nightmare.

Think about everything that needs to be paid for to bring an eSports league to life with all of the bells and whistles that we’re used to: venue, production, casters and other personalities, prize pool, gaming hardware, event staff, travel and lodging costs for the players, helping players secure visas for international events, and so on.

ESL

ESL

Did you know that ESL One Cologne had over five hundred people working on it?

Over five hundred people came together to bring to life one of the biggest eSports events of the year. Five hundred people built the stage, raised the trusses, rigged the lights to those trusses, assembled hundreds of small square screens to create enormous ones, set up dozens of computers, organize interview and player areas, and so on.

This is just the technical setup for the main stage, and it’s a drastic understatement. This doesn’t include the setup required for backstage, and the constant work that goes into maintaining the live broadcast and keeping the event running smoothly. Host and interviewer Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner wrote a more in-depth piece on this if you’re interested in learning more.

The point is, each and every event you watch a broadcast of, or attend, is a mindblowingly expensive endeavor; it is these costs that make them so goddamn entertaining.

Imagine what would happen if those costs were cut into halves, or even thirds (Because it’s not just console and PC if we’re being indiscriminative – it could very well be Xbox, PlayStation, and PC).

With that in mind, eSports, for all intents and purposes, thrives entirely due to the incredibly generous contributions of sponsors. From player salaries, which have only recently become enough for players to live off of in certain scenes, to event production costs,  just about everything in eSports is paid for due to sponsorships.

As you can probably imagine, these sponsors aren’t supporting teams and events out of the kindness of their hearts. This is not charity, this is an investment; sponsors like Logitech and Monster expect some kind of return.  This is why you will see logos plastered up and down players’ bodies, commercials played during every break, banners slapped onto stream overlays, promotional posts on social media, and so on.

Taking a single title and splitting it into multiple leagues would be a lot like Voldemort creating all of his Horcruxes – sure, the idea initially seems like a solid plan to reach more viewers, but you’re literally tearing yourself apart into lesser pieces. Concurrent online viewership would plummet as fans are forced to choose between one or the other, with one guaranteed to always be more successful than the other.

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Riot Esports

Take League of Legends, for example. Riot Games has split up League’s pro scene by region (North America, Europe, China, Korea, Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macao, Japan, Oceania), then by tier (Championship, Challenger, Collegiate). Several of these leagues, namely the ones broadcasting from Asia, will air simultaneously due to being in the same, or similar, time zones. As you’ve probably already guessed, these leagues are not created equal.

Think about it – have you, as a fan, ever heard of IMay before they performed an unprecedented upset that blasted them into Worlds? Or Afreeca Freecs, the only team that went 2-0 against three-time world champions SK Telecom T1 in the 2016 LCK Summer Split? Have you been able to check out Team Cloud Drake advance into CLG’s Challenger team from the NA Scouting Grounds? Chances are, you haven’t, and that’s not your fault. The NA and EU LCS have historically received favor from Riot when it comes to funds, receiving enough money to produce the kind of top-tier quality that outshines the LMS and LPL like goddamn Sirius A floating around its white dwarf counterpart. Separating the League of Legends eSports scene not only impacts the quality of the majority of their broadcasts, but keeping up with everything is nigh impossible so, as a result, fans simply don’t bother to watch it all.

The most interesting part is that, for as wildly successful as their events are, Riot Games’ Brandon Beck confirmed that Riot makes virtually no profit off of eSports.

ESL

Of course, that’s a pretty extreme example. However, it does go to show how incredibly dangerous it is, from a financial standpoint, to try and spread your resources too thinly. If you were to start splitting leagues into smaller offshoots of each other, you’re literally emulating Voldemort by weakening yourself in a misguided quest for power. You would be forced to funnel more money into your more popular league to make it look prettier for the viewers, which would eventually draw in the sponsors that you need to even stay out of the red, or you would have to settle with multiple leagues that all have subpar quality. This is what happened with SMITE and Rainbow 6: Siege, two scenes that aren’t exactly thriving.

You simply cannot win.

Now, think of this from a sponsor’s standpoint – why would they pour money into one league over its more successful sister league? What would prompt them to see a lesser circuit as an appealing advertising source? If we were to try to split up a competitive scene like Voldemort’s soul, fully aware of the drawbacks, what makes you think that a sponsor would be interested in supporting it?

That’s Why A Choice Is Made

And the choice simply goes towards the one that makes sense. It has nothing to do with some kind of prejudice you may think the gaming industry has against consoles. You are not being scorned; there is no suit-wearing executive signing company-wide discriminatory acts against your Xbox One.

It is just too expensive to appeal to everyone, and there are too many factors to take into consideration to choose console over PC. Whether it be ensuring the highest level of competitiveness, maintaining tournament integrity, and allocating funds in the most promising manner possible, from a purely objective standpoint it is beneficial to center a game’s professional scene on PC. It may not suit your specific needs, but gamers need to understand that they need to look beyond themselves in order to see the full picture.

Because, in a sense, isn’t that what video games have been teaching us all along?

About The Author

Sian R
eSports Director | Streamer

Sian is a self-proclaimed Star Wars historian, Fatal Frame enthusiast and crazy cat lady that's fascinated by the Kpop mashups on YouTube. Professional gaming is something that's fascinated him ever since he was a wee lad, especially when it came to fighting games, so now he rambles on about it in the form of articles that use way too many commas.

  • MyBodyIsReady

    I’ll stick with trying to get to masters before I worry about the esports scene 😛

    • Kev Bean

      same, however global elite for myself.

  • Hvd

    because of the target age group.most pc gamers are 18-28 your high school to collage age.console gamers are 30 and up.they want the 19-28 age grooup because they are dumb enough to buy a $400 knife in cs go.while a more mature gamer 30 and up will be im not wasting $100 on skins i got bills to pay.

    now which age group do you think they want?

  • Barry Harden

    Consoles are standardized hardware while PC’s are just a mess when you’re trying to ensure every unit will be the same. It is also more prone to being hacked for cheating and comes with other issues.

    Stick to consoles.