Tag Archives: Gaming

esports

Can competitive gaming become a mainstream sport in Finland?

Esports is gaining more ground in Finland with help of a new league and a solid base of professional and semi-professional gamers. Can this new sport become a trendsetter in the north just like it has in other countries worldwide?

Competitive gaming or eSports is a growing trend globally that has divided the sporting world into two camps. The majority still don’t consider it a proper sport and barely pay any attention to  competitive gaming.

On the other side are those who are doing their best to push gaming into a mainstream position, determined to make it one of the most popular competitive sports in the world.

One such entity resides in Finland, the Finnish eSports League or FEL. It was founded in 2015 by a group of passionate gamers who shared a history of competitive gaming.

Since then, FEL has grown into the biggest eSports league in Finland and is expecting more rapid growth in 2018, with eSports being on the rise worldwide.

“There has never been anything like FEL in Finland before,” said the league’s account manager Matti Kailanto.

“We saw an opening because of a large group of professional gamers and regular gamers who consider competitive gaming as a serious occupation or a sport. There were a lot of tournaments but no league activity and that’s what we are providing,”

Limitless participation

The significant advantage eSports has compared to a lot of others is the fact that there are no gender or age limits or restrictions on making it as a professional.

“We have a lot of 18-24 year old men playing, but we do want to offer everybody and anybody a shot a participation. Our core group is basically everybody who wants to play,” added Kailanto.

“Women are taking more and more part in eSports and we are definitely seeing a rise in numbers at league level. This is still a fresh sport that can offer the same opportunities to everybody, no matter who you are.

“Everyone has a smart phone or a computer these days and that’s all you need. However, just like in other sports, becoming champion is demanding and requires hours of systematic training.

“But it’s still one of the most easily approachable hobbies out there because of current technology,” Kailanto explained.

Not child’s play

Rauli ‘zumpp’ Rinta-Aho is a 29-year-old competitive gamer from Finland. His most recent achievement was worth $7,500 when he won the Hearthstone Card Game Grand Prix tournament held recently in Sweden.

The tournament attracted 250 participants and Rinta-Aho took home the biggest prize.

‘In the land of ice hockey, a new sport such as competitive gaming definitely has a lot of obstacles to overcome before it can claim its place at sport’s top table’

“Some people watch TV or do other stuff during their free time, but I play video games,” he told me. “Since I was little, I have always played all kinds of games. Then after a while I started playing online poker and now I play Heartstone. I do have a full-time job, so competitive gaming is still a hobby.”

Despite the easy access, making it as a professional gamer takes time and dedication. Rinta-Aho has demonstrated impressive potential already.

But as he approaches his thirties, he is unsure whether eSports is the right career path for him since it has still not reached mainstream status in Finland.

“I don’t really know what’s going to happen in the future. I know that [in other countries] eSports has become quite big and is treated as a professional sport. There’s been a rise of new teams in Finland compared to last year, so I’m expecting that it will become a proper professional sport here as well.”

Exposure

The gamer has hopes that companies like FEL will help eSports cement its status as an accepted sport amongst the masses in Finland.

“These first seasons have done wonders for the sport here. The league has been listening to the players and taken their wishes into consideration regarding formats and scheduling.” he said.

“Regular live streams of tournaments and finals are also a big plus in regards to getting more exposure,” summarised Rinta-Aho.

In the land of ice hockey, a new sport such as competitive gaming definitely has a lot of obstacles to overcome before it can claim its place at sport’s top table.

But with the help of FEL and the ever-growing community of gamers, one could expect a slow but steady eSports invasion in the coming years.

Feature image courtesy of Michael Arsers via Flickr Creative Commons.

Six Reasons why FIFA keeps outselling PES

FIFA is like the popular kid at school. It barely tries to impress, treats most people like crap but remains loved by everyone.

Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) is like one of those perfectly nice but awkward kids that resorts to giving away free sweets just for a moment of attention while always somehow remaining unnoticed.

According to analyst Daniel Ahmad’s Twitter feed, FIFA 17 has sold 40 times more copies than PES 17, having shifted more than 1.1 million units while PES couldn’t even reach 50k. It’s a pattern that been repeated in recent year. Here’s a few reasons why this might be:

Licences: While FIFA has the rights to all the official club and player names, PES has to improvise. Classic examples include: London FC (Chelsea), Hampshire Red (Southampton) and my personal favourite, Man Blue (Man City). Bonus example: back in the day Cafu’s name was Facu.

Peer pressure: If I went out and bought PES I’d have no-one to play it with because everyone else has FIFA. The EA Sports game has become the norm and it feels like this snowball is just getting bigger and bigger.

The name: I don’t have to go out and do a survey to know that about 99% of British fans call the beautiful game football, not soccer. This is a pretty serious deal. I have seen armies of keyboard warriors threaten anyone who disagrees. I think Konami would be taken more seriously if they called it Pro Evolution Football but I guess PEF doesn’t quite have the same ring as PES.

Game play: The fast pace and easy scoring always made PES feel like an arcade game while FIFA’s painstaking attention to detail, steady gameplay and genuine feeling of accomplishment after scoring  gives it more of a simulator vibe.

Barcelona: The main selling point for PES 17 is its licence for Barcelona. As great as this is, it’s a well-known fact that if you’re playing with a friend or online and you pick Barcelona you will be labelled as someone with no skill whatsoever. I know this because I quite often play as Barcelona.

Soundtracks: Both games have always had decent soundtracks but FIFA always seems to have the edge by including more songs. This is especially helpful when you’re spending hours and hours playing career mode. Listening to the same 11 songs on PES while playing a 40+ matches season can become more than tedious.

From a personal standpoint I prefer FIFA simply because it’s something that I’m more accustomed to. The last Pro Evolution Soccer instalment I owned was 14.

As mentioned in my second point, FIFA is a game that’s played by all my friends and their minds are made up as much as mine. Even if I’d want to give the new PES a try I don’t really fancy spending £55 on a game I’m sceptical about, and there’s no-one I could borrow it from. There’s always demos but I feel they never give a big enough picture and feel of the game.

Can it ever change?

I have seen a lot of people on social media who don’t think FIFA 17 is that great. The main criticisms were that player statistics don’t work properly (Messi outjumping Ibrahimović for a header or Mertesacker keeping pace with Sterling?) and set-piece play becoming unnecessarily complicated.

Even the new ‘Journey’ mode has been criticised for being only one season long.

In addition, Pro Evolution Soccer 17 has received very positive reviews overall and its overall score was lower than FIFA only by a tiny margin.

Maybe this year could be the turning point in the football gaming industry where the unnoticed kid at school finally gets their lucky break….

The future of gambling? Video games

The video gaming industry is expected to grow by 30 percent from $15bn in 2014 to $19.6bn by 2019 in the US alone, according to forecasts by financial services giant PWC.

A growing number of websites let gamers put their money where their mouths are, allowing them to bet real cash in video game challenges and tournaments.

“Critics argue this is simply a strategy to soften people up and get them into gambling with real money”

Across the world, e-sports have become increasingly popular as a test of strategy, reflexes and team work. Online gaming is very competitive and there are various websites that hold tournaments and head-to-head matches offering cash rewards.

The success of the gaming market has made gambling companies sit up and take notice. Websites have been set up where punters can bet on online games. The most popular and advanced site to provide this service so far is www.esportgaming.com

It is a community-based betting platform that allows you to bet on teams and players 24/7 based on the games available.

Strategy

Currently the moimage1st popular games are Dota 2, League of Legends and Counterstrike. This system uses parimutuel odds which is different to losing to the house or betting against the site.

The site uses a zero-sum system where the losers always pay the winners and there is no motive for the site to ensure a certain amount of losers. It takes between 2.5% and 9% commission.

This website also offers non-cash betting for those that want to bet for fun – critics argue this is simply a strategy to soften people up and get them into gambling with real money.

Many gamblers are unaware that sites such as Skybet, bet365, Betfair also have e-sports categories. Most of these have been around for less than two years and offer only a ‘team to win’ option.

With the betting site acting as an intermediary, organising the tournaments and collecting buy-ins, you will never have to worry about the logistics. There are strict rules in place to prevent players from being cheated.

Partnership

Websites such as Gfinity and WorldGaming.com are hosts of huge tournaments and challenges for competitive gamers. WorldGaming was formerly known as Virgin gaming is probably the biggest out there.

“E-sports are at the stage where they now needs to be regulated by gambling commissions”

It has launched a new platform focused on gaming and tournaments that incorporates streaming, live events and a hub for gaming enthusiasts. Its partnership with EA Sports has helped it grow rapidly.

Right now it seems that more players are gambling with virtual money mainly because of age restrictions. Fifa and Call of Duty are two of the top games that are used to compete across the PlayStation and Xbox console systems, and we are now seeing betting markets where you can bet on yourself to beat a certain player or bet on real-life football games with virtual money.

Fifa 16 has a game mode called Ultimate Team where you play matches to earn coins to spend on creating the best side possible. Due to its success, a website called futgalaxy.com has created an online gaming platform that is set up to provide a different way of spending coins.

Earning coins

You can use ‘winnings’ to bet on real-life matches, open packs or enter the Futgalaxy jackpot.

There are live odds on the website and you can choose how many coins you want to bet on that game. For example, MK Dons to beat Chelsea in the FA Cup fourth round was 5/1, so putting 200,000 coins on them to win would earn you 1,000,000 coins if successful. You can then use it for Ultimate Team on your console.

Michael Collins, a frequent gamer and e-sports gambler, uses Futgalaxy to increase the coins he has for Ultimate Team. “It’s so easy to add small amounts of money to turn into coins so that you can bet to double or triple the amount you have so you can get the best players in game.

“Using Fifa coins is such a cool way of betting on real-life matches. Once you have the coins you can then buy a player and trade it in game for more money, but bets on Futgalaxy have not always worked out in my favour.”

Young influencers

Various Fifa YouTube stars have promoted this website at the start of their videos or have made videos of themselves using it. For example, Nepenthez, a Fifa YouTuber with 1.2 million subscribers, made a video on how the site works, how to place bets and withdraw money.

DDFDDSimilarly to esportgaming.com this website doesn’t have real money betting markets but it is a way for underage people to get into gambling.

According to the Ipsos Young Persons Omnibus Survey 2015, 11% of children had played gambling style games at some point, the majority via mobile apps.

Another similar website to this is the social-betting start-up BetGame who won William Hill’s accelerator programme scheme. It is an app that lets two people place a bet on the result of a console of PC video game like Fifa.

BetGame works by overlaying its app on mainstream console and PC games to monitor the outcome and determine the winner. It also integrates with live-streaming gaming service Twitch, which attracts 100m visitors per month.

Social betting could be a route into markets where gambling is restricted but available to all ages because winning is all down to how skilled you are at the game.

For ideas like this to work they need to think of different ways to sell stuff in the form of media partnerships and signing up influential YouTubers.

The majority of audiences that watch YouTubers are 21 and under, meaning that William Hill will be partnering a company who are promoting gambling to young people, potentially attracting negative publicity.

There is growing concern, though, that teenagers are being attracted to different forms of betting facilitated by third-party providers.

Gambling experts and counsellors are warning that betting in the gaming industry especially is a potential stepping stone in betting for under-18s.

However, this is new territory for many, with Catherine Sweet from gamcare.co.uk admitting: “It is not something we have recorded data on via our helpline to date, so we have very little information on this category of gambling.”

Supply chain

Sarah Harrison, chief executive at the Gambling Commission, said: “We will continue to monitor developments in this area, and it should come as no surprise that our approach to e-sports will be similar to that regarding other sports betting market products.”

According to bloomberg.com, UK bookmaker William Hill has taken 14,000 bets on games as of September 2015, of about £250,000 ($395,000) in total. Four times that much will likely be bet this year.

At the Malta i-Gaming Seminar in November 2015, Marco Blume, head of sportsbook at Pinnacle Sports, stated that e-sports have grown exponentially in the last three years. Regarding betting turnover, it is now the 7th most bet on ‘sport’ at Pinnacle.

The combination of competitive head-to-head video gaming and online gambling looks to be a lucrative combination for betting companies. E-sports are at the stage where they now needs to be regulated by gambling commissions.

VR’s future in sports and sports gaming

As we close in on the second quarter of 2016, the tech industry is eagerly anticipating the widespread use of VR (virtual reality) headsets.

With consumers on the cusp of being able to purchase hardware for themselves for video games via the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR, just what does this mean for the world of sport and sports gaming?

While gaming has been a pioneer for certain types of peripherals and hardware throughout the years, the industry has rarely stuck with anything outside of the steering wheel and pedals and console controller. Historically speaking, consumers just haven’t bought into most of the bold new hardware to play games with.

There are plenty of recent examples of technology in a similar vain to VR, that arguably, failed to truly revolutionise the way gamers play.

A lasting appeal?

Nintendo back in 2007 tried to create a new way to play with the Wii and its Wii Remote, and Sony shortly followed with its answer – PS Move. But both were unsuccessful in revolutionising the way video games were played, despite being popular upon release.tony_hawk_ride_7

Nintendo sold over 60 million Wiis during its lifetime for instance, but both concepts didn’t evolve past their origin consoles: the Wii and PlayStation 3.

Motion controllers were good for simple games like Sports Champions and Wii Sports, but had limitations when being used for complex titles. Thus, players went back to playing with traditional controllers released with the current generation of consoles. It will give the impression that you’re actually in the game.

Using remote controls via hand motions to play games in the end, didn’t become an industry standard, despite being so popular with casual audiences.

Potential

Tony Hawk Ride’s skateboard also didn’t go anywhere, or sell well. Partly because it was expensive, and undeveloped. Critics across the board slated the game for being ‘unplayable’ at times.

The problem is skateboarding in your living room using a mock-up skateboard with no wheels in hindsight was unlikely to work, but that was clearly not accounted for by the publisher Activision.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that gamers just like using conventional controllers in their hands, they aren’t interested in waving remotes, using skateboards or guns in front of their TV’s.

“VR though could well be an exception to this rule,” Joystiq’s Mike Suszek told Elephant Sport.

So just what is VR aiming to do in gaming? And why does it have the potential to become part of the everyday lives and habits of millions of people across the globe?

Arms race

PlayStation and Oculus have both thrown tens of millions of dollars into developing headsets for consumers to wear, which will provide a sense of immersion never before seen in gaming. It’s an arms race to create the standard for a portion of the tech market which Goldman Sachs claims will be worth $80 billion by 2025.PlayStation VR goes on sale later this year

When wearing headsets, the user’s head movements will control the field of vision in the respective video games on the PC and PS4. Playing a first person shooter with a VR headset for instance, will provide you with a new way to survey virtual battlefields. It will give the impression that you’re actually in the game.

 

And in terms of sports gaming, it could for instance, make first-person golf and baseball games become possible.

“Baseball games could well be popular with PlayStation VR,” predicts Suszek. “If you were at the plate in a game with a view from the batter’s perspective in a baseball game, it would give the player a true sense of the pitch types and speeds. In today’s hardcore market for simulation sport games, that may well go a long way.”

“It’ll just be like effectively playing a game in a cinema”

“There are limitations though,” Owen Goode, tech and sports game reporter from Polygon countered to Elephant Sport.

“I don’t think gamers will want to use VR for first person soccer, or American football, because it will just make them feel sick, and that’s before we get into the difficulty of the controls in those sort of games.

“There’s obviously going to be attempts from sports games over the next few years to implement VR, partly because it’s creative, and partly because both Sony and Oculus will be subsidising and making it beneficial for developers to do so.

“But aside from games like that, and the ability to give users a feeling they’re not accustomed to at the moment, it’ll probably just be used as a screen strapped to the head of the user. By that I mean, head movements won’t control the game, it’ll just be like effectively playing a game in a cinema, no distractions with a huge screen the takes up your whole field of vision.”

Revolution

What’s truly intriguing about VR, is its potential outside just games. Certain industry’s like online dating, tourism, conference calling all have potential to use VR headsets. But the one that’s already putting ahead of the curve though is sports, and in particular, training.

“The NFL is so progressive, it’s almost inevitable it’ll use VR”

“I think it’s fascinating to see how athletes are using VR, we’re seeing people make software for the Oculus Rift to help train athletes,” Suszek expalined. “For certain sports like baseball, tennis, boxing and american football – where being able to review film between games is key for training, the foundations are already there.”

Stanford University’s quarterback Chris Hogan has been using the new programme STRIVR to help him prepare for opponents. By using footage from cameras from a first-person perspective in training, it meant Hogan was able to study defensive formations from his perspective with his coaches afterwards throughout the 2015 season, helping him get mentally focused before big games.

“Oh, I think it’s huge, all it would take is the NFL signing a deal with Oculus, and suddenly every player in the league will be using a headset,” said Goode.

Progressive

“I mean, the league is doing everything it can to limit injuries, and concussions. The guys at the top have done things like cut the hours of practicing in pads during the season each team does, so any sort of advantage like this could be invaluable.

“I don’t think people realise just how mainstream this technology will become”

“The NFL is so progressive, it’s almost inevitable it’ll use VR. I’ve demo’d it at conventions, and it’s not far from being usable in sports at the top level, and this is just the start.”

Within 10 years we could see so many sports and athletes across the globes utilise VR as it develops, and within a few months, everybody will have access to this technology for themselves when the headsets hit store shelves.

“It’s going to be fascinating. When VR headsets go to market, plenty of gaming’s hardcore audience will adopt it, and that’ll shape the next couple of years in gaming. But honestly, it’s the other uses, which will go hand it hand and improve it overall that I’m looking forward to most,” Suszek concluded.

“I don’t think people realise just how mainstream this technology will become.”