League of Legends, Dota 2, CS:GO, Overwatch – the billion-dollar esports industry is largely dominated by just a few games. And that’s okay – these competitive games are popular for a reason after all, but they also draw the spotlight away from smaller esports. Many gamers and fans don’t often get the opportunity to discover new (or old!) esports titles, despite the fact that there are several great ones out there.
World of Warcraft: MDI and AWC
While World of Warcraft is well-known as an MMORPG, not many esports fans realize that the game also has an esports side, and one that has been consistently running for close to a decade. There are two major competitive circuits – the Mythic Dungeon Invitational and the Arena World Championship.
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Both are Blizzard-backed events with hundreds of thousands of dollars as prize money. In the Arena Championship, teams of three players compete with their personal WoW characters in direct arena matches. Maps are chosen from a limited pool and new characters are frequently added when the main game itself receives new content – in other words, even for non-WoW fans, there is a lot of potential appeal.
The MDI is another example of small esports finding success – the format sees five-player teams tackling dungeons in quick matches usually lasting less than half an hour. If you want to discover a new esport, both of these circuits are worth a peek.
Super Smash Bros., Super Smash Bros. Melee & Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Historically, Nintendo-owned games have almost always been non-violent. In fact, few even featured PvP content at all. One notable exception is the Super Smash Bros. series. Featuring plenty of familiar characters from other, mainly Nintendo-owned franchises like Bowser, Charizard, Donkey Kong, Ice Climbers, Kirby, Link, Mario, Samus and more.
Players compete 1v1 in a relatively typical fighting game setup. The game’s esports side is praised by fans for both its broad appeal featuring lots of distinct and well-balanced characters and its consistent learning curve. Especially in Japan, the Super Smash Bros. series has a dedicated fan-base already – in the West, it remains a small esport.
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StarCraft II is a peculiar case. The Blizzard-published RTS game has been out for decades and has seen the dawn of esports, and it remains a relatively popular esports title to this very day. Not many RTS games see success in the esports world. StarCraft II is the exception – especially in South Korea. The game is practically a national sport there, and the majority of the esports-side of it is dominated by Korean players.
The appeal is clear – truly mastering the RTS game means performing several actions per second, something that’s great fun to watch and almost impossible to imitate for a casual player. If you are looking to discover your next favorite esport, StarCraft II is definitely worth a peek.
Another RTS title worth a look is Clash Royale. Unlike the other games on this list, it’s a mobile game, and it has a considerable fanbase. It’s also a mix of several genres, few of which are common in the esports world – tower defense and collectible card games, for example.
Especially in Asia, Clash Royale (along with several other mobile esports games) already has a sizable following. The West is a little slower to catch up when it comes to mobile games, but slowly, they are developing more of a fanbase here as well.
Games like Clash Royale are the ideal way for esports fans to get into mobile esports, while also discovering what might just be their next favorite esports game.
Small esports with more limited fan bases and followings have several points of appeal that bigger titles don’t – not only are there fewer hopeful would-be pros making it easier for dedicated players to make a name for themselves, but competitions and events are often more personal and more easily accessed as well. Giving games other than the biggest ones a try can be a great way to stave off boredom too – there are a lot more esports out there than many people realize!