"We should do a titles-based power rankings!" I thought. "There's been so much drama and industry developments this year that a proper accounting is surely warranted," I said to myself.
Anyhow, I got the PVP Live boyz together to talk over an esports industry power rankings for the year, and the results were...
...actually, not too mindblowing.
Note: these votes aren't based on who has the most viewers, but (mostly) based on their overall impact and relevance (plus or minus a pinch [or fistful] of bias). But somehow or the other, the official PVP Live Esports Title Power Rankings for 2016 came out relatively sane.
10. Speedrunning (Josh Mull)
Speedrunning is the worst kept secret in competitive gaming. While often saddled as “niche” or “nostalgia,” this year showed that it has serious esports potential. The World Records for both Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario World were broken in 2016, showing that even games that old and well-tread still have serious competitive life to them. The many races at Games Done Quick and other marathons (Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is a particular highlight) stand as mere hints at what speedrunning can look like with an esports mentality. Mario Maker Mondays, with the backing of Twitch, brought platformer races to the mainstream, with their grand finals held at TwitchCon. And with the support of Twitch came many more partnerships for up-and-coming content creators in the community. And let’s not forget possibly the biggest news of 2016 – Trihex, the god of swag, being signed to Tempo Storm, one of the most prolific and authentic esports teams in the industry.
Let your 2017 imagination run wild for a moment. Trihex is just the beginning, and soon we see Golden, Mitch, Big Jon, Blacktastic, Skybilz, Protomagicalgirl, Carl, Spikevegeta, and more all signed to esports teams. We see events like Smash the Record expand, and other Smash tournaments picking up speedrunning as a side event. We even see speedrunning at major esports events like Dreamhack. Speedrunning gets its own category on Twitch, and we see the viewership explode and take its rightful spot among the other giants of Twitch esports. New glitches, skips, and tech are discussed around the web alongside guides for CSGO and Dota 2. This future is possible, and it can’t come fast enough.
9. Marvel vs Capcom (Dustin Steiner)
While the game in 2016 seemed to be on its last legs as a competitive title, it was set to go out with a bang, not a whimper. Chris G’s epic victory over Justin Wong at Evo 2016 seemed to close the door on an old rivalry as Gonzales finally beat out his age old rival on the biggest stage Marvel has ever seen. People seemed to move on from Marvel.
That is, until PSX brought everything roaring back.
Announced in early December, not only was Marvel getting a sequel in the form of Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, Capcom also unveiled that UMvC3 would return to consoles digitally - the first time the game has been able to be purchased since 2013 when Capcom lost the license to Marvel titles. Given the hype for the new Marvel game, which has even the most casual fan interested, and Capcom’s promise that they’ve learned from the launch of Street Fighter V, Marvel vs Capcom fans have alot to look forward to in 2017.
8. Call of Duty (James Chen)
The fourth annual Call of Duty Championship, featuring Black Ops III, featured one of the biggest prize pools in console esports history – a glamorous $2 million played out not far from the Marina Del Rey in Inglewood, California’s Forum. Those who attended exclaimed it as an amazing experience, a capstone to the history of console esports’ single biggest title before its transition to the next.
Those who weren’t attending probably just missed out entirely. Unfortunately, the game’s relative lack of Twitch presence means it mostly misses out on the livestreaming revolution that’s been central to the overall esports ecosystem (even Subnautica has a significantly bigger footprint) – and the console/PC split means it’s out of the same discussion groups as the major industry leaders, despite what it’s carved out for itself. Even as power-ranked Smash Bros players get picked up – and that scene is only outmatched for grassrootiness by speedrunning – COD is still struggling to get a word in on the conversation.
Which is unfair. This game is big. Staggeringly big. And it isn't slowing down in the slightest.
7. DOTA 2 (Blake Bottrill)
Dota 2 sits comfortably among tier two esports in 2016 despite the largest prize pool in history at over $20,000,000 USD. With a long standing competitive history and a die hard legion of fans this should come as no surprise. Valve’s flagship MOBA title is home to over a million peak players monthly and was the second most watched esport in November thanks to several large tournaments including Summit 6 and Dreamleague. Despite impressive numbers, the Dota 2 ecosystem surrounding third-party tournaments and roster stability has been lacking from the beginning. Valve’s other premier esports title, Counterstrike: Global Offensive, has seen much better success at establishing that stability only having roster swaps occur once or twice per annum.
Valve has not announced any major changes for Dota 2 esports headed into 2017. Patch 7.00 dropped earlier this month, after the Boston Major which should breathe new life into the game for early 2017. With a growing fanbase more major tournaments to start 2017 and a brand new patch to rediscover, Dota looks poised to return to the tier one status it once had.
6. Overwatch (Dustin Steiner)
Overwatch’s debut brought with it the playerbase and hype that every Blizzard title does on release, but Overwatch also did something that few games can claim to do: launch a brand new IP that unifies several gaming scenes all under one umbrella. It did that while laying stake to loyalty from several top esports teams around the world and even managed to usurp League of Legends in Korean PC bangs for a time. Not to mention, Blizzard’s ambitions with the Overwatch League that are looking to come to fruition next year, and the overall impact it’s had on gaming culture - and we think it’s safe to say that Overwatch is here to stay in esports.
Its 2017 is looking even brighter - the promises that were laid this year should come to fruition if Blizzard has anything to say about it. So long as the promises of future updates, more maps and heroes, and the esports plans all work out, Overwatch fans will have plenty to keep them busy next year. The one area for caution will be how the geolocation of esports teams goes, and if the market is ready for such a thing - but that’ll be more for business minded team owners and Blizzard themselves to figure out. So long as there’s more Overwatch to watch, fans should be pleased.
5. Street Fighter V (Dustin Steiner)
2016 was a landmark year for Street Fighter V. Not only was this the first time that Street Fighter was broadcast not once, but twice, into households around the country via ESPN, it was also the year that Street Fighter V moved to the current generation of consoles. The professional scene is healthier than ever with EVO sporting over 5000 entrants, and the Capcom Pro Tour spanning more than 70 tournaments around the world. While sales for SFV did not live up to Capcom’s expectations, its impact on the fighting game community continues to live up to SF’s pedigree as the most well known game in the traditional FGC.
The fact that we saw an American win the biggest tournament in Street Fighter for the first time (and further, saw two Americans square off in the finals) in history was just icing on the cake for a great 2016 in Street Fighter.
In 2017, this should only get better. With Season 2 offering up a number of balance changes and new characters continuing to be added to the game, it stands a decent chance of attracting casual fans who were turned away by the lack of an arcade mode, and perhaps will truly usher in a new generation of World Warriors to light a fire underneath the old guard of the FGC.
4. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Nabil Pervez)
Wii U may have grown the most between the siblings with multiple top players finding sponsorships and the creation of the 2GG circuit. The meta has continued to developed and has now found stability. However, with an unknown patch due in January - things could be shaken up yet again.
3. Super Smash Bros. Melee (Nabil Pervez)
Melee brought with it a lot of interesting storylines, from Hungrybox's continued dominance, the Smashbox shaking up our ruleset, and the hope that PPMD will return next year from a brief Skype convo with Mango. 2016 has built up a train of momentum that will lead strongly into 2017 with Genesis 4.
2. Counter-Strike (Greg Ibanez)
The first notion when seeing a first person shooter is “I’m gonna go in here and click on some heads.” Counter-Strike plays out far and away from that notion. The strategy, while not always apparent, is explained by the analysts and casters — one frag, one round, one match at a time. The competitive scene has taken off over the past few years and rocketed through 2016.
Even during CSGO’s ups and downs, the development of the players, talent, and production value continued to rise. And so has the money. Global Offensive tournament organizers — such as ELEAGUE — and team organizations were able to market themselves to brands unfamiliar with esports as a whole, helping to attract the investments from professional sports teams and household brand names. Thus, CSGO deserves a top spot on the PVP Live esports power rankings.
1. League of Legends (James Chen)
Fun fact: League was never anybody in PVP Live’s clear-cut #1 choice in the votes (not even mine), but we were a lot more divided on who actually deserved to be the outright top title versus League’s steady 2-3 place votes. The biggest argument: whether League’s sheer weight and momentum sufficiently amplified an arguable extent of its improvements to its juggernaut ecosystem, and whether the sum of it outweighed CS:GO’s more agile and rapid qualitative advancements – which were, in turn, hindered by a year-long gambling drama, a smaller overall scene, and the recent PEA blowup.
League won out of sheer consistency of the level of respect afforded to it. It’s not as if Riot’s made it through the year without conflict either, but when a sleeping giant stirs, it matters not if it’s but to scratch an itch. The entire landscape feels it. And so it is with the esports industry.
Halo, Hearthstone, Rocket League, PaRappa the Rappa...