The Quake World Championship was recently completed, but questions about its future remain.
id Software’s annual QuakeCon event is typically a celebration of all things Quake. But the stakes felt a little higher this year, as QuakeCon 2017 was the first to feature id’s new answer to the growing esports industry: Quake Champions.
A new champion
The Quake World Championship, with its $1 million prize pool and attendance from some of the best players ever to compete in Quake tournaments, brought high expectations. And much of the furious action on display met those expectations. The grand final saw a 19-year-old upstart, Nikita “Clawz” Marchinsky, upset embattled veteran Sander “Vo0” Kaasjager in three straight games.
This result came after Marchinsky had disposed of Anton “Cooller” Singov, one of the most accomplished players in Quake’s rich history. It was a tremendous achievement for Marchinsky, and the young player seemed in awe as he collected his $100,000 share of the prize pool.
As exciting as the matches often were, id Software and publisher Bethesda Softworks have a problem: not many people tuned in.
Concurrent viewership for the Quake World Championship, the biggest and richest Quake tournament ever put on, hovered between 10,000 and 15,000. That’s a fraction of, say, a weekly League of Legends broadcast or a middling CS:GO tournament and much less the biggest events those games have to offer.
Qualifier events for the Quake World Championship struggle even more, with viewership rarely topping 2,000. Quake Champions is still a young game, but the question remains: Can its developers build this game into the esports success they want it to be?
id Software will have to start by increasing the game’s number of players. Bringing the game to the Steam distribution platform was a big step after previously hosting it exclusively on Bethesda’s own nascent platform.
Encouraging players to compete through a proper matchmaking system and establishing ranked leagues and leaderboards is also important. Consistent competition at the professional level is also crucial, allowing a fan base to build up and encouraging viewers to get more involved with betting and other promotional activity.
Quake Champions is still technically in early access, which allows its developers to receive important feedback from players. But it also means the game will be judged more harshly than it perhaps deserves, as it is already out in the wild for all to see.
Unfortunately for fans of Quake, not that many have seen it thus far.