Should There Be a Time Limit on eSports Matches?

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The longest eSports match so far in history occurred at the LCK 2018 Spring tournament. It was between Jin Air Green Wings and SK Telecom T1 and lasted just over 94 minutes.

This is longer than the films Airplane!, Borat, and Paranormal Activity.

For players, the concentration needed would have been astronomical. For spectators, the call of nature and the need to keep their attention would have also been difficult. eSports doesn’t just involve those playing the games – who may sometimes benefit from the long duration of the matches – but those watching too.

As, like traditional sports, the industry is buoyed by spectators, would eSports benefit from having time limits and specifically shorter sessions?

Time Limits on eSports Matches: Pros & Cons

There are many positions on whether time limits should be introduced.

Some top players may lose momentum during a drawn-out game, while others may be slow burners and need some time to warm up to show their aptitude. Time limits may also hamper authentic moments of cooperation and teamwork or exciting and innovative in-game strategies, if the players are conscious they need to achieve something by a certain time.

The time limit could also remove some of the excitement and tension for spectators. If boxing matches had a shorter limit than 12 rounds, this might give a clinical feel to the atmosphere generated.

However, the 90+ minute game is shorter than many soccer matches, which often run into overtime. If we look to other related industries, such as online slots, we can also see that it can be the short snappy aspect of a game that makes it popular: indeed, a key new feature in the revamp version of Immortal Romance is said to be the introduction of quick spins, in addition to the expected advantages such as improved graphics and soundtracks.

How Long Do Games Take to Play?

The competitive element isn’t necessarily a factor in how long someone plays for. It would take roughly 400 hours to do everything there is to do on Animal Crossing: New Leaf, which doesn’t actually have an end goal, has a very tame competitive element, and is specifically designed as a form of escapism to help people relax and take a slower pace of life.

Naturally, this lack of PvP has a bearing on how long people might spend playing something. Some may whizz through faster on games where they fight opponents, while others may be weaker players and it may take longer.

Nobody is likely to be a spectator to a 400-hour Animal Crossing playthrough, however. So, the PvP element is likely what is keeping spectators engaged. Perhaps setting limits to create shorter sessions i.e. when a certain achievement is reached could be more beneficial to the eSports industry than arbitrary time limits. But this is largely in effect currently, with most games averaging around 30 minutes in the same LCK 2018 Spring tournament, for example. 

Time limits could also benefit those who are perhaps less skilled but more strategic as they find ways to while away the time to win.

Do Fans Like Longer Streams?

The Pokémon franchise also offers a wide range of in-game exploration and an armada of tasks, so completing each game (past the Pokémon League and completing the gyms) would take hours – which fans of the game attest to.

Someone managed to last 140 hours on Pokémon Platinum without taking a single hit of damage. The challenge attests to the amount of time you could spend on the game if you wanted to. Perhaps though, his livestream of the task didn’t have as many people tuning in for as long. So, this could provide evidence that while players can spend hours and hours on a game, those just watching may eventually lose interest. 

The benefit of eSports, compared to traditional forms of gaming, is that there aren’t levels to achieve and a game to complete. The goal is to improve as a player and rise through the ranks of other highly skilled players.

Much like traditional sport, there is no way of completing your time playing an eSport, because you are unlikely to ever become the best in the world (which would be a tenuous title, given how many good players there are).

In our opinion, time limits for eSports would perhaps be more palatable for spectators but may end up losing us some of the moments that make the games, as players spend time watching the clock.


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