I spent a good three hours playing Titanfall 2 on the gamescom 2016 showroom floor last week. Between beating up colleagues and raging at randoms, I noticed that EA had set up two eSports commentators to live call the action as it was happening. At one point my skills were being broadcasted and followed live. Moments later I found myself completely engrossed by what was happening on the screen, and it got me thinking about the game’s eSports potential.
Back in 2014, only a few months after the first game’s release, I sat down with Respawn community manager Abbie Heppe and asked her about the game’s future in eSports. As someone that had transitioned from Call Of Duty and had been an active fan of competitive CoD circuits, I saw plenty of the competitive urge in Titanfall to propel it up the eSports ranks. I told Heppe this, and she talked about how the game’s 5v5 structure might not make it suitable for eSports, and that the titans were another interesting variable that made things difficult. “There are so many different elements in order to make the game work competitively for eSports,” she said.
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I finally got a chance to sit down with Respawn again, this time ahead of Titanfall 2. I spoke with art director Joel Emslie (keep a look out for that interview in the coming days) and Respawn COO Dusty Welch. When I brought up the topic of eSports, Welch was quick to chime in, saying the team’s priorities were on servicing the community’s more vocal requests, and improving upon the core experience offered by the original.
“For Titanfall 2, our focus was always on improving the multiplayer. Enhancing it, making it unique,” Welch said. “The [single-player] campaign took up a lot of time. It’s a very robust task. We wanted to listen to the player, listen to the tech tests, improve the game, launch it, see how people play with it.”
Welch said that if the new Networks features takes off like they hope it will, it will just be another step towards building something suitable for the competitive scene. “[If that happens] you’ll see us embrace the competitive landscape on a quick timeframe,” he said. “Perhaps a future Titanfall. Or maybe future DLC could emphasis it a bit more.”
Interestingly, and without mentioning Titanfall specifically, Welch made it clear that eSports was certainly on the agenda.
“It’s safe to say there’s a future for eSports and Respawn as a company,” he said.
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I’m not sure how to read into that — maybe I’m thinking too much — but Heppe’s comments, and Welch’s a few years later, seem to tie into this belief that Titanfall‘s competitive structure just isn’t suited to eSports right now. Why else wouldn’t they do it (obviously)? But with so much of the Respawn and Titanfall team having worked on classic shooters of the Medal of Honor and Call Of Duty variety, there’s the capacity to build foundations for eSports glory.
Hopefully we see it with Titanfall sooner rather than later.
What are your thoughts? Would you like to see Titanfall 2 embrace eSports and competitive gaming? In what ways? Sound off in the comments below!