From technical failures to freak situations, problems eSports events grapple with

·7-min read

The last few years have seen massive growth in the eSports industry. Since last year, the pandemic has had a huge role to play in the increasing popularity of video games as travel has been restricted as well as the fact that work from home has seen an increasing level of acceptance.

Many of these changes are only possible due to the improvement in technology. From our dial-up connections that ran through a modem to the modern-day wifi or mobile internet connection, there is definitely a huge improvement in the quality of life.

In India, the increased penetration of the internet on smartphones has also led to the popularisation of mobile gaming. According to, the revenue from mobile gaming in India will reach $3,832 million in 2021 and by 2025 it could be as much as $6,225 million.

Given the fact that the growth of eSports as well as tech advancements, one would never expect problems such as the server crashing during a game between professionals, especially not when money is on the line for them. However, in the last few months, there have been two big tournaments that faced problems.

Held earlier this year, the Fortnite Champion Series (FNCS) Chapter 2 Season 6 experienced problems. The event featured a prize pool of $3 million, so the least one would expect from an event of this scale is an error-free server. However, there were glitches during the game. This was not the only problem at this tournament as there is the case of Kevin "G2 LeTsHe" Fedjuschkin who was forced to withdraw along with his teammates due to an account lockout that could not be resolved in time for the event. Then, there is the case of KadenOX who was forced to forfeit due to an untimely power outage.

Since the return of in-person events for the eSport Dota 2, the ongoing WePlay AniMajor is the second big tournament featuring a prize pool of $500,000. This also happens to be a major which decides the fates of several teams that are hoping for a direct invite to The International 10 (TI10) that is to be held in August 2021 and will feature a prize pool of $40 million.

The server crashed during the wild card stage between Team Nigma and Team Secret that was supposed to decide the progress to group stages. Team Nigma required a good finish to secure their TI10 spot, and they even had a clear lead despite being judged by most to have the less favourable selection of heroes for the game in question. The game had to be restarted with the same choice of heroes as the feature to reload the game from a midway point was removed several years back, and this time, Team Secret, having learnt from their mistakes, took a comfortable win and sent Team Nigma into a tiebreaker.

When such incidents occur at big tournaments, that too during important games, it raises the question of why game developers and tournament organisers can't get their act together and provide a seamless experience.

To assess that, it is important to understand the nature of problems that can occur in modern-day eSports as well as some possible reasons behind them. Roughly speaking, the problems can be split into two types - technical and logistical.

Technical problems generate maximum hatred from both viewers as well as players. The reason is quite simple; in the majority of cases, the fault for the technical problem lies with either the event organiser or the game developer. Some common examples include server glitches, server crashes, equipment failure (device or peripherals failing), internet problems, and power outages.

If the event is being held online with teams/players competing from their place of residence, the issues experienced may also be a fault of the player and/or their organisation. For example, the recent issues at the WePlay Animajor as well as the game glitches experienced by players during the FNCS Chapter 2 Season 6 are faults of the game developer. However, the incident with KadenOX and the power outages at his house were outside the control of the game developer and an issue that either he or the team that he plays with should have been prepared to deal with.

Logistical issues, on the other hand, are related to poor planning. These issues can arise due to a fault of the tournament organiser, fault of the teams or participating eSports organisations, last-minute changes in rules and regulations, or even bad decisions by individual players. Common occurrences include players backing out due to problems with travel/health, and equipment/property of players being lost.

Issues with logistics are nothing new. A famous example that comes to mind is that of Dota 2's Shanghai Major in 2016. The event is still considered one of the worst eSports events in history due to the range of problems, starting with how tournament staff lost the keyboard of one of the participants, transport and food arrangements were sketchy at times.

While at first glance the problems in question seem rather complicated, many of them can be resolved with a bit of foresight. Looking at technical problems first. Most technical problems are freak accidents and as such having back-ups (extra equipment, spare internet connections, and power back-up) is a very easy fix to the problems. However, there are cases where the issue can also be linked to a larger problem. Given that most eSports are also online games they are vulnerable to cyber attacks, while most game developers do take measures against this, the occasional attack does get past the security and creates problems.

As far as logistical problems are concerned, the reasons can be varied. The best way to understand them is to further split them into three categories. The first are problems caused by tournament organisers, the second are those caused by the eSports organisation/players taking part, and finally the third are those caused by external factors.

The first two categories of problems occur due to one of two reasons, inexperience/incompetence or failure to follow regulations. The issue of inexperience can be easily solved by hiring a third party that will handle the logistical duties. Failure to follow regulations is something that is in the hands of the person making the mistakes and as such clear information on the rules and regulation is the only solution.

The external factors are those that are hard to control. Examples include a player falling sick, players having to back out of an event due to lack of travel options, failure to procure visas (in the case of international events), and in some cases, even political/civil unrest. The Singapore Major earlier this year was marked with a host of such issues as players and teams had to back out due to the ongoing pandemic.

While I would say these problems are those that one should just learn to live with as they are impossible (or too expensive) to resolve, in some cases tournament organisers go out of their way to fix them. One such example is of the ongoing Weplay Animajor being held in Kyiv, Ukraine. The Tournament organizer WePlay decided to charter flights for all the Chinese teams that are part of the event as there were problems with availability of flights for many of them.

Given the fact that some of the issues being faced by eSports events are those that even traditional sports is yet to find a solution for only serves to make one fact clear, the issues are not going to go away anytime soon. Unfair as it may be, these issues will create a distinction between eSports over time as every incident only upsets fans and a few too many of them could lead to a decline in the game's viewership.

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