Top 10: Worst Esports Ever
Let's face it, some esports are better than others. Some are merely games with a competitive component supported by prize pools. But that isn't enough for a game to succeed as an esport. There are many factors that go into creating a truly fair and competitive esport, such as CS:GO, League Of Legends, Dota 2, or Starcraft 2.
Each of these behemoths have more than a competitive element or two to support their professional gaming aspirations. Structure, rule sets, formats, balance, minimal RNG effects, skill-based, and other characteristics are what make these games excel to the front of the pack.
The following 10 games, whether big names or not, are not good esports. Plain and simple.
#10 - PUBG
PUBG is Fortnite without the fan-fair. It came and went in the blink of an eye, only holding on in China thanks to the might of Tencent. Outside of China however, PUBG faces the same issues as Fortnite, but is no media darling and has no major base of influencers to tap. PUBG also went with a more traditional aesthetic, making it less popular in the mainstream. Which, in itself is a rather innocuous point to make, other than the fact that it was trying to fill a gap that just didn't exist in gaming or esports.
Arguably it kickstarted the Battle Royale format by bringing it people's attentions, but beyond that it failed to adapt, and was plagued with bugs and issues which drove away its core players. Talk about missed opportunity.
#9 - Quake 4
Quake is the original esport. A clean cut 1v1 game that is entirely skill based. Quake III Arena is a clear favourite for many Quake fans. Anticipation of Quake 4 and what it would do to revive a dead duelling scene was at fever pitch.
Sadly, the game did not deliver. Most notably in terms of movement - it did not feel or play like its smooth older brother. The game itself wasn't actually that bad, and we were introduced to many new names such as av3k and Cypher, who were placing well into the Top 3 consistently despite being in their mid teens. Sadly however the game never really gained mass appeal and people looked forward to the next instalment of the game, praying it might bring much needed life and excitement back to the scene.
#8 - Fortnite
Fortnite is an incredible case study in gaming, but an esport it is not. Sure, it is a multiplayer game focused around competition, but it pretty much ends there. Consistent rules, formats, features, and essentially everything else required to make Fortnite a viable esport just isn't there yet - despite the mind boggling amount of money being thrown into it.
Fortnite is a clear case of "money doesn't solve all problems". In this case, it doesn't really solve any problem - the game just doesn't have the right elements to make it a top contending esport. That said, it still has a chance to fix this and move full steam ahead. With the media attention Fortnite commands, it would do well to push esports further into the consciousness of the mainstream. It just needs the right tweaks.
#7 - Heroes Of Newerth
Heroes Of Newerth isn't actually a bad game. If I recall correctly, many of the players I spoke to back when HoN was still a thing maintained that it played much better than LoL and Dota back in the same time period. However, it never really gained mass appeal and was destined to be pruned from the MOBA tree.
The main issue is that HoN offered nothing new or unique. Like most MOBAs, the base set of heroes were tweaked versions of the original Dota cast. Even the aesthetic was similar. The only thing HoN did was improve minor game features, making the player experience a bit better.
LoL appealed to more casual players at the outset, and its brighter aesthetic and shorter learning curve meant mass adoption was easier. Dota 2 was also a clear favourite thanks to the already sizeable player base coming from Warcraft III's Dota. HoN offered nothing new or exciting to players, and with more unique and established offerings on hand, HoN was left in the dust.
#6 - Halo Reach
Halo was one of the first esports to help push esports into the mainstream. Everyone played or knew someone who played Halo. It built the MLG. Many legends have come from Halo. However, the legacy was cut a little short thanks to a bad break up between Microsoft and Bungie. Halo Reach would be the worst Halo ever made, completely derailing the competitive landscape it once enjoyed.
Players complained that core gameplay mechanics such as movement and shooting no longer "felt like Halo". And that the addition of useless and often times awkward items and game features made the game terrible for esports. And the maps, we can't forget the maps.
Since then, things have improved for Halo, but sadly not to the same degree as before. Maybe one day we sill see Halo at the top of esports like it once was, but not yet.
#5 - Hearthstone
Blizzard and RNG seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. Sadly, RNG and esports do not. Hearthstone is the epitome of a game that is fun, but most decidedly not an esport. Despite the fact that RNG takes a large amount of skill out of the game - more than in WoW - Hearthstone has made its way to one of the largest "esports" of all time, despite being a TCG and not an actual esport.
But, marketing is marketing, and much like Fortnite, it appeals to the influencer/streamer category and draws in fans, thus ensuring its mediocre survival.
#4 - ShootMania
It doesn't matter how much money you pump into esports, if the game sucks - the game sucks. ShootMania is one of those wannabe duellist games that tried to shove large prize purses down the throats of esports fans. Unfortunately for the publisher, the fans were having none of it. No one played ShootMania, it was PainKiller all over again.
ShootMania left as quickly as it came, and I doubt many people will even remember it. The only reason I remember it is because a friend of mine from college was actually really good and managed to transition from Quake and do pretty well for himself in ShootMania. If only for him I wish the game lasted a little longer.
#3 - Heroes Of The Storm
HoN 2.0 - Blizzard style. No one really wanted HoTS. At the time it was rumoured to be in development, speculation was that it "could be cool, Blizzard is making it after all". But that proved to be false hope as it turned out to be a game that no one really cared about, or wanted, even to this day.
Bless Blizzard for trying, I guess. They poured a metric ton of money into HoTS (#6 in games for total prize money), but it just couldn't stick. At least HoN had a great player experience. HoTS just played on Blizzard's fans' emotions by including all their major IP in the game. But it wasn't fun, it felt more like a boring custom game from Warcraft III that you would play if you got bored from ladder.
It offered little to no improvements on the MOBA experience, arbitrarily changing certain elements such as the map layout and game formats just to stand out from the pack. Ultimately, it offered absolutely nothing to MOBA scene, and despite the obscene prize money injected into esports, was never really considered a top esport to follow.
#2 - World Of Warcraft
World Of Warcraft was never really widely accepted by esports fans back in the day. Teams adopted the game because Blizzard had supported it, and it drew crowds from the games massively successful casual side. At its core, PvP was inherently flawed from two perspectives which made it one of the worst esports of all time - RNG and an extremely poor spectator experience rarely seen since.
For the uninitiated, RNG stands for Random Number Generator. Essentially, outcomes of entire matches came down to the roll of an algorithm for a specific ability. Hit and win; miss and keep on playing. It made for a rather awkward playing experience with even the top seeded teams going into tournaments getting knocked out rather early due to RNG or a sudden unforeseen change in the meta.
All of this of course was nearly unwatchable as a spectator, even if you played WoW PvP religiously and knew what was going on, the screen itself was chaos. It was more entertaining to watch the health bars fluctuate than actually try and follow what was going on in the game.
#1 - Painkiller
Painkiller. The OG of forcing something that just wasn't working. I mean, it did a fair amount for esports by making Fatal1ty semi-famous in the mainstream for 15 minutes, thus nudging esports forward. It also helped launch Fnatic thanks to Vo0, and Sam Matthews selling his car.
But Painkiller itself was a horrendous game by all accounts. It was so fast that it was essentially unwatchable from a spectator point of view. Good luck keeping up with the video above. Enjoy your motion sickness. It was also extremely difficult to play, and as a result the only people who really played it were the handful that would show up to lose to Fatal1ty or Vo0 at the tour stops.
The only reason Painkiller tops the list at #1 is because it has been a lesson in esports ever since. A running joke, even. It is also a lesson some developers and publishers still need to learn it seems.
The thing about this Top 10 list is that some of these games are currently active within the esports eco-system. Some of them can make the changes necessary to become the next big thing in esports. Whether or not the developers/publishers will open up and allow third party developers to create the necessary mods, or whether they will do it themselves remains unknown. Fingers crossed we will see the necessary changes implemented so we can add a few more games to our staple list.
What is the worst esport you have ever seen or competed in? Let us know on Twitter or join the discussion on Discord.