Multiplayer used to be the value-add feature every game needed to justify its price tag. Now spectator mode has become the must-have for any game dipping a toe into eSports. We’ve seen engagement numbers go up when players get the option to watch without having to interact, and League of Legends live tournaments now command a viewership that would qualify as a success on commercial television.
So where does spectator mode go from here? Indie developer Stompy Bot Productions has an interesting answer: Let those passive viewers get involved in the action.
Stompy Bot is raising donations (a Kickstarter will launch soon) for Heavy Gear Assault, a free-to-play, online multiplayer game that draws from Activision’s popular mech-combat franchise of the mid-90s. This interpretation, however, drops the military overtones you find in similar games like MechWarrior and Hawken in favor of a lighter approach. Picture MMA fighters duking it out in the Roman Coliseum using 40-ton robots. With built-in rollerblades.
But you can’t have a real Roman Coliseum without a bloodthirsty audience…one that can have a direct influence on the outcome.
Spectators will have the option of showering good players with praise and accolades, raising that player’s prestige and winning them in-game corporate sponsorships. That, in turn, opens up more resources for building a better mech. The crowd can down-vote players who hide in the corner or use cheap tactics like spawn camping. Assault will also allow spectators to place cash bounties on in-game combatants with in-game currency, so it’ll be important to keep the masses entertained at all times.
And if true boredom sets in, those spectators can even pay to alter the battlefield itself, adding or removing cover, activating automated turrets to fire on players, and more.
Stompy Bot is still planning out all the options, and Assault has a long way to go in terms of fundraising. But in addition to raising user engagement, it’s not tough to see opportunities to monetize this interaction in fairly organic ways…allowing players to purchase the in-game currency necessary to act, for example.
Of course, this wouldn’t work for any kind of official eSports tournaments, but for a friendly game of giant robots shooting each other, it completely fits. Nothing beats letting an armchair quarterback get a little skin in the game.