Reviving a dead game: The Chess PogChamps model

Chess and Starcraft have some things in common. Starcraft has often been referred to as “3D chess” after all. They both are very complex games with incredibly high skill caps, and rely on large amounts of “strategery”. They are very enjoyable games for those of us with a large competitive drive. However, their greatest strength also becomes their greatest weakness.

Due to the high skill cap and competitive nature of these games, they are not as accessible to a casual audience. Both in terms of viewership and in playing. One could argue that to truly enjoy starcraft or chess, you need to have a solid understanding and skill at the game, which can take countless hours of grinding to accomplish, that the average casual player has no interest in doing. This was in fact, the downfall of Starcraft.

We can blame Blizzard all we want, but the truth is that Starcraft died because of problems intrinsic to it as an esport. Its just too damn complicated. Starcraft was a trailblazer in esports, laying the foundation for all other esports to fall in its wake. But unfortunately, more casual focused games like League and Overwatch would soon leave it in the dust and taking its market share. This is simply inevitable.

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It would be impossible and naive to think Starcraft will ever be as big as these other esports. Thats not the goal here. The goal is, can we be BIGGER? And I think yes.

Like any other game, chess included, you can have fun at almost any level. I remember when I first started playing and I was garbage, lower than bronze. But some of the funnest games were had at those levels, and watching my friends duke it out with botched DT rushes and 4 gates was more entertaining than any pro game I’ve watched. Team game, arcade, theres tons of ways to enjoy Starcraft when you suck at the game.

We know this game can be fun and engaging, when you have an active community of friends that play with you. Having a large casual player base is the vital lifeline any scene needs, especially the professional scene, to survive. The question is, how do you get people into the game?

This is a difficult endeavor, but there are hints. My first indicator is the success of PogChamps in chess. If you don’t know PogChamps, its bascially a bunch of really popular streamers (pokimane, xqc, etc) that play against similar bad (sorry lol) famous players. And they get WAY more views than any major chess tournament has had in decades (to my knowledge). And I mean, it makes sense. The welcoming community, especially from top level players active in streaming like Hikaru Nakamura makes it an easy jump for a newb at chess to want to pick up the game. And obviously being Free to Play is huge, too.

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Now, HOW you get top popularity streamers to play in a tournament of starcraft against each other is above my pay grade. I’m not a figurehead of the community. But the spotlight im shining is an opportunity to create lots of buzz and attention for new players to the game. (We also will probably need to fix a lot of the toxic bm stuff in the community but one step at a time lmao). Casual, casual, casual.

Another example of this is the florencio files series from PiG, one of the more popular series from his channel. Now granted, florencio isnt a bronze league scrub, but people want to watch the less serious, more casual parts of starcraft. Thats where the fun is at. And that will lead to more players, more money, and more competition in the scene. Thank you for coming to my TED talk


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