And why is it so important?
Compared to traditional sports, whose culture has been shaped over the centuries, esports is still a young industry that, however, has achieved enormous growth rates over the 20 years of its existence. Thus, in 2018, the esports audience amounted to 395 million people, and, according to Newzoo, by 2022, it will reach 645 million — this is 15% growth per year!
But this rapid development also poses challenges. The tier 1 scene is overwhelmed with the same teams appearing at professional tournaments, and the audience is getting tired of it. It wants to watch an exciting game, see new faces, and watch the growth of its favorites. And the solution to this problem may be to promote tier 2 teams. They can be a breath of fresh air for the esports industry and attract more new spectators. This approach is part of the grassroots phenomenon.
Grassroots: what does the dictionary say?
But what is it? The Oxford dictionary gives a very simple definition for grassroots: it’s ordinary people in society or in an organization. It is possible to understand what grassroots is for esports if you compare it with traditional sports. Let’s take football as an example. There are sports schools and clubs where everyone can learn to play, and no matter what country you live in, the methodology will be the same everywhere. If necessary, the athlete always has a foundation for development; he or she can move from one club to another, grow and move on to the professional sport. This is a classic example of grassroots.
Grassroots in esports
There is no common methodology in esports. Some people think that you need to practice playing 10 hours a day; others believe that it’s necessary to build relationships between players and improve team spirit, eat properly, play outdoor sports, and sleep according to your knowledge of sports medicine. At the moment, there is no answer which way is the most effective. Each professional or amateur team uses its experimental approach.
For those countries where traditional sports have long been strengthened, and athletes work their way up, it is possible and essential to use the same approach, as it is easy to explain and implement. These include, first of all, the USA, where for decades, there has been an extensive sports industry, rooted in teams and competitions of schools and colleges. Grassroots has become an integral part of this system: more and more organizations are creating similar projects in esports, for example, in the U.S., NACE (National Association of Collegiate Esports) and CSL (Collegiate Starleague) declare that the league includes 900 teams and more than 30,000 players. This approach to grassroots is good because it is a kind of contribution to the future of esports, a foundation to develop the industry not only globally, but also locally, to cultivate talents for professional esports career.
Another way to promote grassroots is to hold tier 2 tournaments and leagues. For example, Forge of Masters, the WePlay! Esports league, aims to unlock talents. In the second season, the Hard Legion Esports team has proven itself. Previously, it had been a part of the DreamEaters in the first season of FoM, where players gained experience of participation in the LAN finals and became more recognizable and popular among viewers.
Such grassroots events are a chance for every gamer to gain experience of performing on the professional level or even be noticed by esports organizations and get into a new, more promising squad.
And finally, the third way of grassroots is the tournament platforms, where any player can get closer to professional esports, even if he or she is not a member of any team. For example, WePlay! Esports develops its platform, where everyone can buy a subscription and play with talents, get methodological materials, and a foundation to improve themselves.
Unconventional approaches to grassroots
There are also such exceptional grassroots examples as Meltdown, the French chain of esports bars: at the moment it operates in large cities of seven countries, regularly holds local tournaments, attracting local funding. Thus ordinary gamers get the opportunity to try their hands in competitive esports.
Why is grassroots so important if there are so many tier 1 teams in the world now? Because the center of its system of values is the final player. In the esports field, as in traditional sports, there are “athletes,” too, and they also retire. But in esports, this often happens by the age of 25. The industry needs new faces that can be found in abundance at amateur tournaments or “brought up”. And the good news is that there are plenty of such talents — we just need to allow them to prove themselves.
That’s exactly what WePlay! Esports does — we give players the opportunity to gain valuable experience and get closer to the professional scene! You can learn more about our approach in an interview with the company’s founder Yuriy Lazebnikov in which he talks about the development of grassroots in esports.
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