February 13, 2009

AMD recently announced they're ceasing almost all involvement with eSports. This should come as a huge surprise for anybody that's time traveled here from 2006, and not much of a shock to anybody that's turned on a news channel in the last six months.

If you aren't totally surprised by the news and you're a fan of eSports, then you're probably disappointed or worried. I consider both of those emotions totally appropriate. It's never a good thing when a sponsor becomes a former sponsor, particularly when they had a history in eSports and a close tie to technology and gaming (as opposed to, say, Subway).

That being said, I felt neither disappointed nor worried.

I'm not happy about the news, don't get me wrong. There are warning bells going off somewhere in my head, they're just not happening in the emotional centers. The rational part recognizes that something bad has happened, but I can't get all that worked up about it. I think that's because I've already emotionally steeled myself against news like this.

The writing has been on the wall. The more I've talked to people about things like the CGS, the future of eSports, and everything that entails, the more obvious it becomes that we're in for a tough time. Things outside the world have eSports have gotten worse the last few months. Companies all over the place are looking to cut costs. Too often "costs" has been in the form of jobs, but it's also common sense that some of the sponsors that spend dollars on eSports are going to look at their ledgers and reassess the value they're getting for sinking money into competitive gaming.

Looking around, I just feel like we're going back to our roots. I'm not all that happy about it. I'd much rather have salaried players, mass media coverage, and everything that mainstream acceptance entails, but I don't see any way around it, either. Competitive gaming, for the immediate future, looks like it's going back to online leagues, smaller tournaments, and players juggling work, school, and play. It's not the best times we've had, not by a long shot, but for the last few months I've felt like this is really the inevitable conclusion of people that are looking to make money, a failing economy, and a form of entertainment that has never been more (nor showed that it could be anything more) than niche.

Even if it was somewhat expected as the natural fallout from the mixture of venture capital and a recession, that doesn't mean the news isn't a kick in the pants. It is. I guess I've just resigned myself to the fall. It's going to be painful. We might lose some teeth along the way, and we're certainly going to lose sponsors, as you can already see.

But for reasons that I've explained elsewhere, I think eSports will never die. We're just receding. The things that can't survive because they're hemorrhaging money, like the CGS, won't. The things that can survive because they're profitable and run by smart people, like ESEA, will.  And somewhere down the line, things will get better as those well-run entities form the backbone of eSports.

Unfortunately things can only get better after they've hit rock bottom.

AMD, eSports