John Romero helped create some of the greatest FPS games in the genre, from Doom to Quake, and as such had a helping hand in esports and competitive gaming back in the '90s. We recently sat down with Romero to talk about Romero Games, and during the end of our discussion we asked about his thought on esports, and whether he was thinking about getting into the space again.
"Not really, because I was there at the very beginning of esports and you know even while working on Quake, still making Quake, we knew esports was happening, because we were being contacted by all kinds of people that wanted to get into competitive Doom deathmatch, and looking forward to Quake deathmatch, and when Quake came out - I was Chairman of the CPL for 10 years, and we had events in Dallas in front of 5,000 people bringing the computers and watch Counter-Strike matches or Quake matches for huge money," he said. "You know, at one point there was like a million dollar prize that was split among the different tiers."
"So that was back in the '90s, so esports was really cool and just got bigger and bigger and the games were changing, and at one point in the mid-2000s there was the idea like 'why aren't we making the game that doesn't change all the time, like the way that soccer doesn't change? It's a game that doesn't change, it's super competitive, new people playing all the time, why can't we have that for esports?' [...] And the problem is that there weren't sponsors that wanted to pay money to get that developed, so you can't make it if you don't have the money to do it."
"So it didn't happen and so [people] just kind of picked the latest game that people gravitated around, and StarCraft was like that for a long time, and now it's League of Legends - that is the esports game. There are other games that people play, but that's the huge one, and that's cool. It's a really great game and it's very much like football, you know - it's team-based and all that stuff, so it kind of fits the bill better than anything else, which is mostly single-player, competitive, in an arena type thing. But when it turned into teams, and they were looking for games that were team-based, like Counter-Strike fit that idea, and then it got to League, which is bigger teams."
"I think [esports is] cool, the audiences are massive, I know it's going to be bigger than traditional sports at some point, because you can just get in there virtually as a spectator and just look, watch the matches. So I think it's great, obviously the whole industry isn't esports, but it's a massive thing, the way that AR will be a thing - it'll be a slice of the games industry, but it's not going to be the whole game industry."
Do you agree that esports can get bigger than traditional sports?
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