In the good old days of Warcraft III (Plus the Frozen Throne which eventually gave birth to DotA), Starcraft, Supreme Commander, Company of Heroes, and many other RTS games, eSports wasn’t even a real thing. People played each other for fun and glory, not so much for global recognition and cash prizes. RTS games in eSports were the pinnacle of strategic masterplay; some of the first tournaments that were related to competitive gaming were hosted for Starcraft. It wasn’t so much about training and becoming better, it was about outsmarting your opponent. Sure, players still had to spend loads of time on preparing for a match, but brute forcing your way wasn’t always the best strategy.
The term meta appeared some time here when there were obviously stronger strategies to use than other ones. The Zerg Rush was basically players creating the weakest units and making huge numbers of them so they can overwhelm the enemy base while they’re not even prepared. Here’s a video from 2014 showing just how powerful this strategy can be (and Maknoon is a god, you’ll know what I’m talking about if you followed the LoL eSports scene back then).
Now, what made RTS games so great and why they’re almost non-existent in the competitive scene today? Let’s talk about it, shall we?
There was a lot of discussion (at least, that’s my guess) in the past when RTS games didn’t really have an operating window to enter the gaming scene. PC’s weren’t quite the beasts they are today and consoles weren’t a good platform to introduce RTS games to. In the end, it was all good. RTS stands for Real Time Strategy, meaning you don’t get turns to do what you want; everything is happening now. You must be quick, smart, and calculated if you want to succeed.
And while most were playing Counter Strike and DotA, there were those that were looking for something more. Something that would push their minds to maximum levels.
And that’s exactly what happened. Soon, we’d have a pretty big amount of RTS games which weren’t necessarily just top-down war games. Battlestations Midway and Pacific are RTS games that are a bit different than regular ones (all strategy is done in real time but in a specific manner).
These games have, in a way, defined the path that games will take into the future. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.
A Period of Stagnation
There’s not a lot you can do with an RTS game to make it much more interesting than the rest. As time was passing by, RTS games got less and less creative, ultimately resulting in almost none of them getting released today (sure, there are a couple, but you can’t say they’re anything near to the novelty and freshness of the older ones).
Most of the new ones were just continuations of the previous iteration (Starcraft II, Company of Heroes II, etc.) so there wasn’t a lot going on for them. Okay, Starcraft II is absolutely amazing, so there’s that.
In any case, the competitive scene which once hosted tournaments for RTS games in eSports has almost shut down completely. I can think of only Starcraft II that’s still going relatively strong, but it can’t come close to other game genres of today. Which brings me to our final point in this article.
With the inevitable end of RTS games in eSports, new genres and games exploded and came into existence. Now we have CSGO, LoL, DotA 2, Overwatch, Fortnite, even FIFA! The eSports games of today are simpler and require less strategical knowledge to be good (not great, but good). On top of that, the rise of eSports betting has technically sealed the fate of RTS games in eSports.
In any case, the conclusion is that RTS games in eSports most likely won’t happen again in the near future. Think about it: You have to constantly evolve your base, your units, fight for resources, attempt to destroy the enemy, engage in skirmishes, all in real time. And if you opponent is just a little bit better, a single trick is all it takes and your game is ruined.
The truth is, RTS games are amazing and I’m sad to see their numbers dwindle, but it’s just how it is. RTS games aren’t meant for competitive play where the whole world is watching since such games must be easy to understand for gamers and viewers alike and RTS games, unfortunately, aren’t that simple to figure out and follow if you aren’t the one actually playing it. You can’t expect 100,000 people to know why one player is moving three special ops units to one side of the map whilst the other is excavating for resources. It’s just too much info on screen.
Fortnite and the rest? All you need to know is – hey my guy killed the other guy, or – wooo amazing team fight!
And hey, if you want to play RTS games in your free time – go against bots. They’ll give you a run for your money!