3 min read

The Renaissance of RTS Games

The Renaissance of RTS Games
Hello, friends.

2023 (so far) was an interesting year for RTS games and gamers. We’ve seen the announcements and releases of multiple RTS games, such as Stormgate, ZeroSpace, and Age of Empires. In the light of these developments in the genre, we will take a closer look at what’s happening – financially and Esports related - in the gaming industry.

🏺 The RTS History

Over in Korea, the hype around RTS games started with Brood War back in 1998, and shaped the way of RTS games and Esports as a whole. In 2010, Blizzard Entertainment released StarCraft II and brought not just RTS games to a broader western audience, but also leveled the path for Esports in a broader sense. Yes, there were already Brood War, WarCraft, Counter-Strike, DotA, LoL and other Esports around. The big breakthrough, however, was made in 2010.

For a couple of years, RTS was more less THE game but slowly, interest ebbed and other Esports titles – exclusively team based – such as LoL, DotA 2, and Counter-Strike took over the Esports Olympus. Looking back from a business perspective, this was expected. Blizzard was criticized many years of “struggling StarCraft” until it was too late. Additionally, other game developers made clever, and more adaptive moves by shaping the ecosystem of their game(s) e.g., Valve being more laissez-faire, and Riot Games actively forming the ecosystem.

Another factor is the diversification and increased supply. Since 2010, more genres and games saw the light of day – an increased supply. As a consequence, gamers (who have restricted resources – time – at their hand) will gravitate towards games they prefer playing.

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Over the past few years though, we have seen an increasing interest in RTS games again. Not as much as before; today, you can’t “mobilize” a majority of gamers anymore by releasing a new game. Releasing a new game today isn’t the same as 10 years before. Not the entire gaming community is awaiting your new game to be released.

What we’ve seen, however, is the trend of more RTS games being either released or in development. Take this year, we have seen Age of Empires being released, and other games, such as Stormgate and ZeroSpace making huge progress.

Another trend we see is fundraising. Fundraising or crowdfunding in general isn’t something new. The International’s (the biggest DotA 2 tournament of the year) prize pool is mainly funded through the community, hitting its peak in 2021 with $40,018,195.

This trend is apparent in game developing as well, especially in genres with a smaller community, or games backed by smaller companies. Just merely 5 days ago, and in just 15 minutes, the Frost Giant Studios Kickstarter goal of $100,000 was fully funded. Right now (December, 10th) the clock marks $1,312,221.01 and is backed by 14,054 individuals. $536,583 is the current count of another RTS game’s Kickstarter – ZeroSpace.

🔮 What’s Next for RTS Games?

Both games, indirectly, seek to take over the place of StarCraft II – a game that doesn’t, and probably will never again, see major developing. Gamers are looking for other, newer, options, and that’s where ZeroSpace and Stormgate come into play.

Stormgate appears to “the one” for now for various factors, a) it is developed by Frost Giant Studios – a company that employs a lot of former Blizzard employees – they have the experience – and b) a higher number of backers and money from the fundraiser. This shows a higher interest of gamers in the game.

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With new games, new and old players may return to the RTS genre. At the same time, new releases ignite the fire of competition – not just between games and companies – but also Esports athletes. As a consequence, more tournaments and prize money drive additional interest in the games and genre. It may be a (in today’s scale small) renaissance for the genre.

An interesting note at the end, in the past year, we have also seen sponsoring return to the RTS genre. Team Liquid added StarCraft II players, Shopify made big investments (tournaments and players), and Na’Vi picking up a StarCraft II player as well.

A few months ago, I talked about the “Esports-Winter” where sponsors withdrew from major Esports titles as a consequence of the Covid pandemic. Now, it appears, sponsors and teams see value in the RTS community again. Together with the development of new games (Stormgate, ZeroSpace etc.), it may further accelerate the development and interest, and may enable a positive vicious cycle.

Hope you all have a great week. Cheers,

Christian 🌝
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