Why PCs are preferred over Consoles in eSports and why we can't have both

February 26, 2017
GamingMadman

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

In eSports, why is the console so ignored?

If you ask this question, it's probably because you're a console player that feels a bit miffed because when they consolidated all of the competitive scene of Overwatch into a PC-exclusive league, Blizzard left you in the dust. And, well I'm getting it. I'm a guy with pretty manicured nails on the ends of strange long fingers belonging to a piano, not a computer keyboard, so using a shooter keyboard delivers the same results as if you put a couple of two-year-olds into a three-legged race; it's liberating to be able to use a controller (although of course, I annihilate the analogue sticks on a fairly regular basis in my pa

However there is a reason why the console gets passed up, and it's not just because of the mindset of the PC master race.

Let's talk about the technical side of things first.

You see, controllers are extremely clumsy pieces of hardware, inherently. Think about it with your thumbs, you're wiggling around a few stiff sticks, which will have to move away from the sticks to access different game features, such as jumping or cycling through guns. Your indexes, meanwhile, hover over the bumpers with your middle fingers on the triggers, and the handles are gripped by your remaining two fingers. To match an equally graceless accessory, it is an inelegant claw-like grip, both of which are subject to a number of issues stemming from the flaws of the player and the controller.

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

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

Compare the controller, exponentially more accurate, to a mouse and keyboard. One hand is on your mouse, the other on the keyboard. A mouse only requires the player to adjust their sights and click, as opposed to moving, targeting down the sights, then pulling the trigger on a controller (in addition to paying attention to grenade placements and anticipating player movements). In addition, a mouse is not limited to in-game settings, as a user can usually adjust his or her DPI with the software that comes with gaming mice; this can increase or decrease how responsive a mouse is to even infinitesimal movements in a way that is exceedingly more precise than the Low-High metre in-game.

Even if you were to use attachable paddles, thumb grips, and controls of higher quality than those that come with a console, the speed and accuracy that is obtained by using a gaming mouse and a mechanical keyboard is still not near. The fact that PC has the edge it needs to make it superior to its console brethren from a purely competitive point of view is difficult to deny in terms of competitiveness and skill.

However, this is just talking about aiming and shooting, which when you play a game like SMITE is not always relevant. There is a heightened movement system in games such as Titanfall, Titanfall 2, and Call of Duty: Black Ops III that includes parkour that would make Mirror's Edge look like a leisurely stroll in the park. You're wall-running, you're being thrown into the sky, you're bouncing out of your environment, you're sliding down the ground, and you're navigating the map in ways that make my mother nauseous. Thanks to Sony's deep pockets, Call of Duty's pro scene is played exclusively on the console, but Dot Esports (formerly The Daily Dot) conducted a test back in 2014 that pitted console and PC Titanfall players against each other, showing that console players could not perform at the same level as their PC counterparts when it came to agility. The article also touched on the various strategies used by console and PC players (something that extends beyond just Titanfall's scope) so that's another reading that I would suggest checking out when you get the chance.

Tournament organisers also have to take the extra step of cloning the hard drive of a computer onto every other unit used for the competition when it comes to tournaments for PC games. It ensures that each PC is exactly the same with no possible distinctions from each other and avoids any possibility of injustice in the tournament. Are they fool-proof? Of course not, but it's a measure that's something that can't be executed on consoles, to the extent of my knowledge.

Who says we've got to pick?

I've heard a lot of people voice their support for a shared interest in eSports for both console and PC, and, again I can understand where they come from. In spite of their differences, why shouldn't they both be given leagues?

Well... because it's going to be a financial nightmare.

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

Did you know that there were over five hundred people at ESL One Cologne working on it?

More than five hundred people came together to bring one of the year's largest eSports events to life. The stage was built by five hundred people, the trusses were raised, the lights were rigged on those trusses, hundreds of small square screens were assembled to create enormous ones, dozens of computers were set up, interviews and player areas were organised, and so on.

For the main stage, this is just the technical setup, and it's a drastic understatement. This does not include the backstage setup required and the constant work that goes into keeping the live broadcast running smoothly and keeping the event running. If you're interested in learning more, host and interviewer Paul "ReDeYe" Chaloner wrote a more in-depth piece on this.

The point is every event you watch or attend a broadcast is a mindblowingly costly endeavour; it's these expenses that make them so goddamn entertaining.

Imagine what would happen if those costs were cut in halves or even thirds (because if we're indiscriminate, it could be Xbox, PlayStation, and PC, it's not just console and PC).

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

These sponsors are not, as you can probably imagine, supporting teams and events out of the kindness of their hearts. This is not a charity, it is an investment; some kind of return is expected from sponsors such as Logitech and Monster. That's why you're going to see logos plastered up and down the bodies of players, commercials played during every break, banners slapped on stream overlays, social media promotional posts, and so on.

It would be a lot like Voldemort creating all of his Horcruxes to take a single title and split it into multiple leagues. Of course the idea initially seems like a solid plan to reach more viewers, but you are literally tearing yourself apart into smaller pieces. As fans are forced to choose between one or the other, concurrent online viewership will plummet, with one guaranteed to always be more successful than the other.

Take for example, the League of Legends. The League's pro scene has been split by region (North America, Europe, China, Korea, Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macao, Japan, Oceania), then by tier (Championship, Challenger, Collegiate). Many of these leagues, namely those broadcasting from Asia, will air simultaneously because they are in the same time zones, or similar ones. These leagues are not created equal, as you've probably guessed already.

Have you ever heard of IMay as a fan before they performed an unprecedented upset that blasted them into Worlds? Or Afreeca Freecs, the only team that went 2-0 in the 2016 LCK Summer Split against three-time world champions SK Telecom T1? Have you been able to check the advance of Team Cloud Drake from the NA Scouting Grounds into CLG's Challenger team? Odds are, you didn't, and that's not your fault. Historically, when it comes to funds, the NA and EU LCS have received favour from Riot, receiving enough cash to produce the kind of top-tier quality that outshines the LMS and LPL like goddamn Sirius A floating around his white dwarf counterpart. Separating the League of Legends eSports scene not only affects the quality of most of their broadcasts, but it is almost impossible to keep up with everything, so fans simply do not bother to watch it all as a result.

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

That's a pretty extreme example of course. It does however, show how incredibly dangerous it is from an economic point of view, to try to spread your resources too thinly. You're literally emulating Voldemort by weakening yourself in a misguided quest for power if you were to start dividing leagues into smaller offshoots of each other. To make it look prettier for the viewers, you would be forced to funnel more cash into your more popular league, which would eventually draw in the sponsors that you need to stay out of the red, or you would have to settle with multiple leagues that all have subpar quality. With SMITE and Rainbow 6, this is what happened: Siege, two scenes that are not exactly thriving.

You're simply unable to win.

Now from a sponsor's point of view, think of this-why would they pour money into one league over its more successful sister league? What would prompt them to see a smaller circuit as an attractive source of advertising? What makes you think a sponsor would be interested in supporting it if we were to try to split up a competitive scene like Voldemort's soul, fully aware of the drawbacks?

That's the reason a choice is made

And the choice is simply directed at the one who makes sense. It has nothing to do with some kind of prejudice against consoles that you may think the gaming industry has. You are not being scorned; your Xbox One is not discriminated against by any suit-wearing executive signing company-wide acts.

It's just too costly to appeal to everyone, and there are too many variables to consider when choosing a console over a PC. Whether it's ensuring the highest level of competitiveness, maintaining the integrity of the tournament, and allocating funds in the most promising way possible, it is beneficial to focus the professional scene of a game on PC from a purely objective point of view. It may not suit your particular needs, but in order to see the full picture, gamers need to understand that they need to look beyond themselves.

Because in a sense, is that not what video games have taught us all the time?

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