Microsoft has big plans to grow Halo’s esports viewership in the future, and developer 343 Industries has now outlined why viewership is so important and how the studio is going about expanding the reach of competitive Halo.
In a blog post, Halo’s esports boss Tashi started off by explaining why viewership is so important. He explained that more viewership means more people getting involved in Halo, which in turn is good for the franchise overall.
“If a game is entertaining to watch, has great esports content and streamers, and has strong viewership, the entire ecosystem will continue to grow organically over time,” Tashi said. “More viewership = more incentive to stream, more diverse content, more financial support for streamers (including competitive players), bigger and better tournaments, and more interest in the scene as a whole.”
If Halo can increase its viewership in the competitive scene, it can pay dividends when it comes to expanding the profile and reach of Halo overall, Tashi said.
“Teams look at viewership as a key metric of success, and it often determines how willing they are to invest in the scene. Pros who compete in a game that commands great viewership are also likely to see big audiences for their own content, which can help elevate them as athletes and personalities (a long-lasting takeaway),” he said. “Tournament operators that work with high-viewership games can monetize more easily and are likely to continue to invest in that scene.”
With more viewership comes more excitement, too, Tashi said.
“When Frosty hits an insane no-scope and Twitch chat starts moving so fast you can’t even read what people are saying, it feels like you’re a part of a moment, witnessing something special alongside thousands of other fans,” he said. “The same is true on-site at live events: the place erupts, like when Snip3down clutches a 1v4 Overkill. That energy and feeling is infectious, and big moments like that will entice more people to join the scene and start watching.”
In terms of how Microsoft is planning to increase viewership for Halo esports, Tashi said it comes down to a number of key pillars. First off, 343 plans to diversify. In the past, viewership mainly came from tournaments, pro players, and hardcore modes. 343 plans to continue to grow these areas, but it wants to do more to reach more people, too.
“Halo as a game has so many fun and interesting experiences to offer, and as the culture of content creation permeates the Halo community, we want to enable and support content creators regardless of the modes they play. And just so I’m clear, in our minds this does not come at the expense of the core competitive multiplayer that Halo esports was built on–this is an effort to grow the pie,” Tashi said.
He also explained that 343 will continue to look for “1 + 1 = 3” partnerships to grow Halo esports. “How can we partner with teams to ultimately bring more fans to the sport, enrich the experience with team-created Halo content, and create opportunities for fans to connect with teams? How can we partner with platforms to provide opportunities for Halo content creators? There’s a lot in the works here and we’re excited to share details when the time is right,” Tashi said.
Halo Infinite will also play a role in growing the Halo esports scene. The Halo Championship Series team is not actively developing the game, of course, but it is consulting with 343 on a number of different ways to increase viewership overall. This includes assisting with the development of features and tools for content creators.
“In the long term, we want to continue to invest in the growth of viewership via the game. We believe that enhancing the viewer experience will provide more opportunities for all content creators within the ecosystem,” Tashi said.
Tashi also shared that giving viewers some kind of reward will be another way to grow Halo’s Esports scene, and this includes some type of partnership with Halo Infinite. Tashi didn’t share any specifics, but this is intriguing to think about.
“For Halo Infinite, we are looking to increase the support and programming here. For now, we’ll have to play this one close to the chest, but we’ll share more leading up to launch,” he said.
Another goal for Halo’s Esports team to help try to grow viewership is to release more premium programming. “We want to turn casual viewers into serious fans, drawing the audience in with all the excitement, intensity, drama, and celebration that Halo esports has to offer,” Tashi said. “That includes storylines that span the season as well as within a single match. We want the audience invested in the scene, anticipating the next tournament, joining the conversation, and engaging with pro players, teams, and content.”
And finally, Tashi said Halo’s Esports tournaments will no longer be exclusive to any one platform, or at least that’s the tentative plan. “While this is the decision we feel is best for our community right now, circumstances may change, and we will continue to assess new opportunities that can help us reach our goals,” he said. “In addition to the significant amount of live, global content on official Halo channels, we will be launching a new dedicated Halo Esports YouTube channel, where we will post all the latest content, including VODs, featured content, and more.”
As you can tell, Tashi’s comments were more high-level than granular specifics about 343’s strategy for increasing Halo’s viewership for Esports. He said there are “many finer details” to come in the future that will help illustrate what this is all about.
Part of the picture is becoming clear, as Tashi recently announced that Microsoft has signed a deal for the first Halo Infinite Esports event, which is scheduled for this year as an in-person tournament, pending any disruption due to the pandemic.
Microsoft has been planning Halo Infinite’s esports efforts for a very long time. Back in February 2020, when the game was still on track for release in 2020 and before the pandemic reached its height, Microsoft announced a huge deal with Esports Engine to run the Halo Championship Series.
As part of the deal, the Esports Engine team will work alongside Microsoft’s own Halo Championship Series team inside of developer 343 Industries. The two will collaborate on “ecosystem design, format and league operations, broadcasts, and more.”
After a big delay, Halo Infinite is now slated to release this fall for Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. The multiplayer is getting a big shakeup as well, as Microsoft is making it free-to-play for everyone.
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