Remember the early days of VALORANT when there were tournaments popping up for it everywhere? Halo Infinite hasn’t even launched yet and we’re already seeing massive esports orgs partnering with the Halo Championship Series. So where is all this clamor and excitement for Splitgate as an esport?
Sure, there have been some smaller tournaments that have popped up already. 1047 Games just finished a series in partnership with Xbox for a $10,000 tournament on PC, but there have been so few tournaments with prize pools as big as this one. Even their new official esports Twitter account has only three posts on it.
There also have been quite a few tournaments for it since the game’s initial release in 2019, but nothing noteworthy, and certainly nothing with large team names.
Splitgate is a title that doesn’t have much history behind it. It’s 1047’s first and only game, which means they’ve only been around since 2019. When you compare that with Riot’s successful titles that came before VALORANT, and Halo’s long-standing history, it’s not too surprising that they haven’t been able to garner much attention from big esports organizations.
Splitgate is a fun, exciting FPS game
All that said, the game is good, and it has the potential to be a really exciting esport. Creative use of portals and coming up with new ways to surprise enemies is certainly something I want to watch. It doesn’t suffer from issues that other games like League of Legends, VALORANT and Overatch suffer, either. Those games have abilities, tons of different characters that do different things, and they can be very hard to follow for someone new to games and esports.
Read more: Everything you need to know about Splitgate
Splitgate is easy. Shoot portals. Go through portals. Click heads. The concept is simple to play but hard to master. There are many small things in the game that help performance, such as always keeping one portal open for a quick escape, learning to master the carbine instead of relying on an AR, or placing portals strategically so that you can catch an enemy unaware.
Splitgate is more popular than people think
One big issue Splitgate had when it launched was that it had a low player count. The maps were described as boring and lacking in original ideas. When it first launched, it had a low score on Metacritic.
The Splitgate from 2019 was very different from the Splitgate people log in to play now, and it’s far more popular. It peaked at 67,000 during a weekend in August, putting it above highly popular games such as Valheim and Garry’s Mod. The in-game queue that was in place during the beta was almost constantly trapping players in long queues just to get into the game.
Now that those issues are a thing of the past, more players have flocked to the game, especially after its official release, which was announced during Gamescom’s opening night live ceremony. It launched with a Season 0 Battle Pass, which keeps fans engaged while they try to earn as many rewards as they can during the season.
Splitgate’s gameplay is exciting to watch
Most fans of esports live for the moments where they get to scream out in excitement over something big that happened in the game. It usually happens when a player does something that no one else would have thought of. Like when Lane “Surefour” Roberts delivered the OWL’s greatest play, now dubbed the “Great Bamboozle”.
Splitgate has the potential to be one of the games where exciting plays happen all of the time, especially on maps like Oasis, Olympus and Highwind, which have a large amount of portal spots spread far apart. Olympus and Highwind specifically have spots all the way at the bottom of the map that players can jump in and reach some truly incredible areas, it’s just a matter of exploring.
The simplest concept of the game could have the most potential on the outcome of a match with high elo players on it. People who grind this game professionally are bound to find the unique ways to surprise enemies and use the map to their advantage.
The maps are interesting and exploitable
I always tell people that I am constantly surprised by how esports pros in VALORANT and Overwatch find these small spots on the map. I am always learning something new about how to use a map by watching the professionals play it.
The potential for unconventional use of map mechanics is something I would expect from Splitgate esports. There are a bunch of gimmicky places to sit in some maps, especially in game modes where a sniper rifle or carbine allows players to sit in one spot and just wreck anyone coming into their line of sight.
From long shots across the entire map to short range no-scope sniper kills to portal kills from the weirdest angle, anything is possible with the maps the developers have made.
Different game modes could make for fun tournaments
One of the best things Splitgate did was add a plethora of game modes to the game. Oddball is one of my favorite modes, where you have to run around the arena with a ball going at a high rate of speed while everyone chases after you with bats. The best part is that the ball carrier is also deadly. Get a ball smash to the head and you’re insta-dead.
Think about how cool it would be to have one of these modes as a tournament itself? I would certainly love to see a bunch of esports pros run around the map smashing people with bats over a disco-themed ball.
Game modes like Contamination would force players to find the nook-and -cranny spots of the map to hide from the contaminated players, and the limited amount of shotgun ammo the characters get in that mode makes the stakes higher the second they run out of it.
Esports is often serious business, and teams grind and practice all day long and sometimes even longer to be the best they can be, but if there is one thing fans love, it’s getting to see their favorite professionals loosen up and just have fun playing the game. The different game modes that 1047 has implemented makes these moments possible.
Splitgate isn’t without its challenges as an esport
There are certainly a number of challenges Splitgate faces before it becomes an esport, and the biggest and most obvious one is that it just doesn’t have the backing. This development team is new to the game. They are not Riot or Blizzard. They are a small team from Nevada who started the game as a senior project at Stanford University.
What this game really could use is some solid partnerships. It seems that the game has been catering more toward content creators and streamers, which is normal and expected for a game just starting out. If they could partner with a large organization, especially one that has a lot of different esports teams like FaZe Clan, TSM or Cloud9, they’d already have a solid footing to start getting other orgs interested.
Partnering with Xbox for a $10,000 prize pool is a great start, but there are no further announcements for a tournament with such a large prize pool. Because Splitgate isn’t a huge game that can offer millions in their prize pools like bigger AAA games can, it already starts at a disadvantage.
The game also still could use some growth in order to appeal to more esports professionals. They are on the right track with partnering alongside streamers to get the game out there. Streamers are one of the best ways to gain a playerbase, and a tournament with a bunch of streamers may turn out to be the promotion the game needs in order to get some of the bigger orgs interested.
Fans of the game want to see high-level gameplay from pros
Alex Frederick, who co-hosts Nerd Street’s Loading Screen said he doesn’t know how the game isn’t already an esport.
“It's quite literally a copy paste of Halo with a mix of Portal, so with the Halo game modes it's pretty much designed already for competitive play. It's perfect for competitive play. Multiple game modes. Basically can take the exact format of HCS,” Frederick said.
Jacob Fararra, co-host of Loading Screen, agrees that the dynamic gameplay has a lot to offer an esport.
“The more I think about Splitgate, the more potential I think it has for an esport. The portal mechanic is very straightforward, but it provides an incredible dynamic to the gameplay that makes it stand out from other shooters. The chaotic playstyles and pacing would make it exhilarating to watch high-level gameplay. When this becomes an esport, the casters are going to have a ball,” Farrara said.
My friend and I have played Splitgate since before Season 0 and have constantly talked about how cool this game would be to watch as an esport.
“Splitgate is one of the best FPS's I have ever played. Its simple yet fast-paced gameplay gives it an addictive quality that has me playing night after night. Being able to transport yourself halfway across the map or take out an opponent from an unseen vantage point is what puts Splitgate on an entirely new level of shooter, and it would be exhilarating to watch how professionals play the game,” Jabari “Jabbajaw” Fowler said.
Splitgate has a growing player base, and it’s only a matter of time before it really picks up speed and people start thinking about playing this game professionally.
Lead image credit: 1047 Games