Halo esports finds its self at a crossroads yet again, we sit just three days after the HCS Pro Series announcement and a few months before the highly anticipated release of Halo infinite, the first new halo game in five years and the hopeful rebirth of the series and competitive scene alike. Over the past year, teams have been competing in a grassroots style but still Dev. backed tournament format without much formal structure. We have seen the rise of many new teams multiple new champions and most of all a core community who is ripe for revitalization. See halo is no longer a standard arena shooter with 30 somethings playing at LAN parties. Like its peer's halo evolved into something more when HCS season one was announced and even more so the announcement of a new title with advanced movement and a modern feel, this evolution brought in a swath of new amateur and eventually pro competitors who capitalized and showcased their talents within this new developer backed league. And well... That's where we are headed again... probably.
See the parallels between our situation today and the situation six years ago are astonishing. Even down to the main game of choice H2A. So what does that mean? Is halo destine to repeat this cycle five years from now and loop on forever as a second or even third-tier esport? NO. Halo is not. See while many say that a perfect game is necessary for the halo community to live on, I whole heartily disagree. I think Halo and HCS have some wiggle room here, games seldom if ever release perfect, and even if they did a vocal minority would raise some complaint and preach of some big flaw or gripe. As long as the game is fun not only to play but also to watch Halo esports has a fantastic chance of being successful, classic, or not.
Halo esports have three major things swinging in their favor.
1. Call of Duty League - This list will be more or less in order of impact. Halo has little chance of stealing call of duty viewers as it stands, but, what will be imperative in the coming months is that HCS offers a solid enough season with enough Amature player support to entice some of the Call of Duty challenger league players to make the jump from the CDC, where the prize pools are at an all-time low and there is little to no notoriety in the middle tier amateur scene, to the HCS, which, if history repeats will have a thriving and growing ecosystem to entice young players to make the jump. This might not seem likely at the moment and in fact, the opposite has been true for the majority of halo esports history, but, given the league's relative weakness as it tries to groom many new franchises to fame, the amateur scene could be looking for a new place to call home.
2. Major Organizational Interest - (The first paragraph or so is Lux and experienced related and may cause some light controversy if you don't care about current organizational struggles skip to paragraph two) Don't get me wrong I am indeed the CEO and owner of LuxGaming a team that has made most of its name in the halo community, BUT, we are definitely not enough to revive the esport as it stands. I have personally seen and met with many current and previous HCS organizations H5 era to grassroots and there is one thing I know for certain. The level of competition with mid-major organizations of the H5 era is gone. while many of today's orgs are doing a lot to support the players within the community they are doing it without any real business plan or strategy. Even Lux has fallen victim to overspending and underutilizing our resources to grow both our brand and the esport as a whole. Our main goal was to win with players we believed in and... well we did it. But that strategy alone is not conducive to a successful esport. CONTENT CONTENT CONTENT. people want to know the story and hear it from a different perspective than they can see on the main stage. And organizations in Halo just aren't achieving a level of entertainment that brings new fans to the scene. Now this is partly due to lack of information and the ability to plan content around an event effectively but it's also due to a lack of knowledge & strategy on the part of this community which will not evolve with a revolving door approach to orgs and teams who come in to grab a dollar or quick notoriety and fade away when they realize how much work there is to be done. Which brings me out of the rant and into the future.
Big T1-T2 orgs are coming and fast. Within the year we will see 2-3 big organizations enter halo on the promise of what's to come. Money mostly, but also 343 and Microsofts best stab at esport that they can muster. Say what you will about Halo 5, Tashi, and 343, but they at one time were near the top, top teams, huge prize pools, and good enough viewership, and you better believe they have learned from the missteps they have made and are coming full force starting with Esports ENG, a company that looks to rally a community of new and old in a way that should satisfy most of the community. But why does it matter? Yeah big orgs bring temporary fans and boost viewership while they are here but it wasn't sustainable last time what's going to change? Organizations that are businesses and aren't a hobby bring many things on the back end of esports, they bring stability, financial capability, and biggest of all they have a plan for success. See organizations with any serious aspirations don't make decisions without a game plan to back them up, they have a plan for their own sucsess which equals success for halo.
So why am I happy about this? I fully understand Lux is not in a position to directly compete with the likes of T1 organizations we don't have the investment backing or knowledge that they possess. But that doesn't mean we do not greatly benefit form organizations that get "it". With stability comes a healthy ecosystem and the return of our direct competition, bedrock orgs, orgs that are capable of transcending past the level they are currently and have a plan to do so. Contribute to a community and not just to themselves and a healthy ecosystem provides the stability and exposure for that mutual growth. In a T1 esport there are no undesirable orgs that do little to contribute like in a healthy ecosystem bad is recycled into good once again. And those without the knowledge to succeed often don't in an ecosystem like this. And that is going to be a huge momentum boost to HCS in the coming years.
However, HCS has got to groom their bedrock orgs when they arise these organizations are poised to be serviceable and some times exceptional replacements/additions in the event that some of the top organizations gradually leave the space. We see this grooming in Call of Duty in years past with the rise of Eunited, Rise, and many other esports organizations who held the community together when T1 orgs left. CSGO, LoL, R6, all have similar organizations ready to take the mantel and fill in the gaps to ensure a strong community. HCS needs 3-4 solid organizations that contribute to the scene and are endemically HCS, and would find it harder to leave than to stay, that is how we avoid a mass drop off like we have seen throughout HCS's history.
3. Esports Engine - We rarely say it but Tashi, 343, HCS really good job here. The move of bringing in 18 year+ industry vets to consult and run events/leagues is almost cant miss. They were here for the glory days, and have grown a community (Cod & others) from the ground up. This is a slam dunk in my book. If given the keys and full access to all 343 has to offer they almost can miss and I promise they won't have us in white wedding tents. This along with the association with large esports festivals like DreamHack is sure to guarantee a smooth transition into a successful environment.
So... What's to come? The upcoming season of HCS, in my opinion, will be unprecedently successful. Even if Infinite isn't a perfect game everyone is praying for the scene will still thrive there is a lot of work to do to ensure this success not just from HCS but from us, the community, and especially for Lux. We have ensured we are able to succeed and have had time to both plan and prepare for the work that is to be done, while we don't have all the information we have gained enough knowledge to understand what needs to be done. I am personally advocating to organizations with a plan to join early, build connections and gain knowledge while it is cheap. Halo can and will be a great place to be and i dont think any of us will want to miss it.