esports fans

What makes a great esports game?

By William Davis


Nov 22, 2023

Reading time: 3 min

Everybody who’s anybody is plunging into the world of esports right now, and it’s becoming ever-more important to gamers who want to take home big prizes and prove themselves as the very best of the best.

Though esports were previously scoffed at, and the idea of them becoming a legitimate sport with real tournaments was seen as hilarious, it’s now a vast industry with some gargantuan companies making money in it. With prize pools hitting from the hundreds of thousands to millions, viewers from all over the world are tuning in to watch the tournaments take place.

With the industry growing, many game developers are trying to get in there and become the next success. But what makes a game an esport rather than just a game?

Having scope for skill development

If a game is going to amaze the world and take its place among the high-end esports tournaments currently being played, it has to start with room for players to develop, combined with a high skill ceiling – sometimes a sky-high skill ceiling. 

Gameplay has to be complex enough for a few stand-out stars to emerge from the crowd, but there’s also has to be enough scope for players to try out various strategies, improve their approaches, and hone their reactions. Otherwise, it’s just not interesting for either players or viewers. If one can master the game with a few buttons pushes, well, there’s no point in competition. It’s, therefore, a balancing act, and not every developer out there hits it.

Although that’s a high bar to meet, plenty of games have already done it and reaped the reward of being included in esports tournaments, like esports tournaments included at

Good quality

A gamer knows how disappointing it can be when a character glitches through a wall or suddenly won’t interact as they should with the world. Nothing says immersion-breaking like a massive glitch, which has left players with a sour taste in their mouths many times in esports. Better quality games with fewer glitches have much higher chances of becoming stand-outs and holding up in the competitive landscape – and that need for quality rules out a surprising number of games instantly.

Of course, it would be unfair not to acknowledge that even some of the absolute top esports occasionally suffer from glitches and issues, like the recently-encountered flashbang bug in CS2 that was quickly fixed. However, these can become a major issue, with many pros rolling their eyes in disgust. 

Gameplay complexity can’t be crazy

Players are only going to latch onto esports they can easily understand; games that require you to spend 10 hours deciphering the rules will quickly be kicked to the curb.

With a few exceptions, new players can generally get to grips with the basic goals of esports games in just a few hours, although achieving mastery is often a lifelong pursuit. Most successful esports games will have a set of pretty simple goals, generally with your teammates alongside you. However, it’s pretty key that these goals can be met in different ways; rigid gameplay and inflexibility do not make for an enjoyable game, whether you’re a player or a viewer.

There are many nuances behind what does and doesn’t make a game great for esports, and you’re bound to find disagreement among your friends (and even the experts) on this subject, but the three areas above are essential in most cases. You’ll find exceptions, but in general, the best esports will all adhere to the rules above – as will any up-and-coming games looking to make it big in this industry.


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