Fall Guys: A New Casual Esport?
In its first week after launch, Fall Guys already sold over two million copies. That’s extra impressive considering the game is available for free for PlayStation Plus members. The popularity of the game has many people discussing which ways the game can grow. Can it develop an esports scene?
RNG and luck
The obvious answer to that question is - no, of course not. Fall Guys isn’t exactly a tactical shooter. The levels you have to struggle through are to a greater or lesser extent based on RNG. In a competitive environment, you want to create equal chances for everyone, with the main difference being personal skill. When you can luck your way through a level, it damages the competitive integrity.
However, the game isn’t all luck. There are definitely strategies to apply and movement to learn. Knowing how to win in Fall Guys is valuable information. As strategies evolve, the meta will change as well, so we might see certain game modes in a completely different light a few weeks or months from now. A changing meta keeps a competitive game engaging.
Servers and cheaters
The developer of Fall Guys, Mediatonic, vastly underestimated the sheer number of jelly beans crawling around on the online servers. The game is suffering from its immense success, or rather, the servers are. Getting randomly disconnected from a tense game is never fun, but it would completely break any attempt at a real competition.
Mediatonic isn’t the first developer to face this problem. Back in 2015, when Rocket League launched, the servers had to be reset manually every few hours in the days after launch. The CEO of Psyonix hardly got any sleep. Coincidentally, that game also came for free with PlayStation Plus at launch - coincidence? In any case, we can learn from this story that the servers shouldn’t ruin the experience anymore after Mediatonic has put in the time and resources to expand the server network.
With online multiplayer games come cheats and cheaters. There are already players who can warp across the map in less than a second, or jump ten times higher than any other jelly bean. Preventing cheaters from ruining games may be a real challenge. Of course, the developer wants to minimise the number of cheaters roaming the servers, but really shutting down attempts at cheating often requires a dedicated anti-cheat team accompanying software. Whether Mediatonic is willing to put resources into that, isn’t clear yet.
Fall Guys might not have some of the core features to support an esports scene, but it has a lot of strengths in other areas. This friendly looking, but oddly frustrating game attracts so many gamers because you can pick it up and play it. There’s no high-level mechanics - you just have to understand how a see-saw works. The learning curve is as flat as tip-toe tiles, but it’s super entertaining. What Fall Guys lacks in competitive value, it makes up for in entertainment value.
The popularity of the game was also clearly visible in Twitch viewership. Whether you’re playing the game or watching the game being played, it’s much easier to get into than many online competitive games, such as League of Legends. This creates a wide range of viewers who can enjoy the content.
A broad audience for a game is the dream of every investor in gaming and esports. If the audience is there, the organisations will be drawn towards it. The possibilities are endless - custom sponsored jelly bean skins streamed events, anyone?
It doesn’t even matter if the gameplay is of the highest level, if it’s entertaining enough, it can work.
Twitch itself is well aware of these possibilities, and almost immediately announced a Twitch Rivals event for Fall Guys. Of course, they’re mostly profiting off the hype around the launch of the game, but in a way, it’s also a test case for events further down the line. Does it get the response they hope for? Is it still as entertaining when the stakes are higher? There’s only one way to find out.
Some people suggest that everyone is just going with the hype, and there’s not much more to it. They claim that everyone will forget about it in a few weeks and the servers will be ghost towns a few months down the line. It does seem, though, that a casual game like Fall Guys couldn’t wish for a better launch than this. And many people still live in regions where COVID-19 limits their plans this summer, so the couch game dropped at a perfect time.
No, in its current form Fall Guys isn’t ready to host an esports scene. But we don’t know beans about the future of Fall Guys. Only time will tell.
Images via Mediatonic