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[motherboard] What Will it Take For Netrunner to Be Played Like Professional Esports?


This is something I think about frequently. I have no background in card games. My competitive experience comes from Quake 3 and Starcraft 2. I see a lot of similarities in the current Netrunner community and the e-sports community before the big explosion in popularity that happened with SC2 and then LoL. I think there is definitely something here that can appeal to a broader community but it’s possible there are too many barriers of entry compared to e-sports which mainly require a time investment. Will be interesting to see what happens with the game in the next 2-3 years.


Nice little read on the current state of our competitive scene. I for one am excited at the prospect of attending more ANRPC events and the like, and moving our community a bit away from FFG’s coddling :stuck_out_tongue:

One of the big differences this article points at between netrunner and other competetive scenes (he mentions a variety of e-sports, but fails, I think, to mention the MtG scene) is the amount of money available to be won (or at least the cash value of the prizes). I think this is a really good metric to look at for e-sports, but I always have to wonder, where does the money come from?

Some examples, like LoL and MtG seem pretty obvious: the primary and secondary markets stand to gain quite a bit from excited players who will buy more and more the more events they go to/spectate/read about etc., so of course sponsoring these kind of events makes sense. While it may have been avid fanbases that really drove the creation of these competitive scenes, it’s clear that it would have been an easy sell to “the boys upstairs” when it comes to sponsoring prize pools.

Others are less clear - clearly fans in Korea created their gigantic SC scene, but how on earth did they make the leap from popluar fan-run events to attracting major sponsors and advertisers that are often no more connected to SC than doritos is connected to football? We can’t just call up doritos and be like, “we’re gonna have a netrunner tournament, if you put up 5 grand for prizes we’ll hang up doritos posters everywhere.” Or can we?

I think the biggest impediment of all might be the beloved LCG format itself. while MtG is a bizarre self-sustaining monstrosity with its manufactured rarity and thus robust secondary market, most popular competetive games have a much lower threshold to participate - often around $60, though usually much less - then Netrunner’s current $300+ price tag (and yes, not everyone needs every pack to play netrunner, but you really do if you want a chance to compete. by contrast, $50 gets you every street fighter character that will ever be used in competition)

Anyways, enough naysaying; King of servers sounded awesome and I’m very much looking forward to being able to participate in more events like this!


I think at this point you’d be hard pressed to find any one of us who doesn’t love the idea of growing Netrunner to the point that it’s something people crowd around to watch; with big tournaments that receive the lavish production values MTG Pro Tour events are known for; where your stellar performances are seen live beyond the 100-some people who had a free Sunday to fire up Twitch.

But one thing never brought up is Netrunner’s biggest inherent barrier to entry: card pool knowledge. Forgetting the success of MTG (maybe the “most equivalent” experience in terms of ‘hey, look a tabletop card game’), the big reason your Hearthstones and LoLs and to some extent SC2s (RIP maybe?) pull a big following is because an untrained casual observer can start with zero knowledge of what needs to be done, and start seeing things play out before them in a meaningful, digestible way. Hearthstone (and by extension Magic) is easy enough to read a board state and realize, vaguely, if someone’s in trouble, LoL you have the jockeying for position and the frenzy of battles + the team aspect which always helps, SC2 shit’s blowing up, and even if you are watching these for the first time, you don’t need the nuance and game play knowledge to at the very least recognize what’s happening.

With Netrunner, I had to watch several hours of Team Covenant videos and pause to read every little banner that popped up before I started to remember that “Ok, Dirty Laundry is the one that lets you make a run to get some money? OH MY GOD I WAS RIGHT,” which is to say nothing of the fact I could still only half tell you what was going on in the grand scheme of things.

So that’s my big question walking away from this: we want to make this game stick, and @d1en said in his chat with Terminal 7 that the key to doing that is getting new players involved and emotionally invested. So how do we do that with a game that’s esoteric on a lot of fronts, and how does it happen over eSports-style streams?


Thanks for posting this, @mediohxcore.

Watching e-sports is the only other passion of mine that rivals ANR. My average weekends are spent watching 8hrs of Twitch; more when there are large events happening, during which it’s not uncommon for me to spend a solid 12-14hrs actively watching Twitch. I don’t have it on the background, and I generally don’t have company. My point isn’t as much how pathetic I am as how much time I spend watching e-sports. I watch mostly CSGO and LoL, but I will also tune into other games, typically during special events. SC2 Grand Finals were especially exciting. I grew up watching professional sports, namely football, which I still enjoy; however, in the past 2 years e-sports has all but pushed traditional sports out for myself, especially since the larger events tend to overlap with football on weekends.

All that to say, I’ve watched a lot of e-sports. ANR is definitely not as immediately arresting as games like CSGO and LoL. That said, there is potential for it to become something like an e-sport, in phenomenon. StarCityGames events on Twitch tend to attract over 20,000 viewers, I would assume the official Wizards ones can break 50,000. Granted, MTG is much larger than ANR, but it is also older. I think MTG will always be larger, because it is, for lack of a better word, more rudimentary, and has a broader base appeal; however, given 10 years or even 5 ANR could become quite popular.

ANR also has an advantage w/r/t the e-sports scene. I have the impression that the ANR community and those it generally attracts are either a) already involved in the playing and/or spectating of e-sports, or b) more inclined to be so than players from other tabletop games. Many ANR players come from tech industries and are frequently interested in technology in general. Twitch is IMO the most exciting innovation in the entertainment sector since the Internet.

IMO, the passion and background of the collective ANR community means it could quickly and effectively organize into an e-sport than many other communities. The game is already very young and we have people like @mediohxcore @d1en @SneakySly @bahram @kiv @spags putting in lots of personal effort to provide online content and community hubs. The greatest challenge moving forward will probably always be attracting more players to the game. By and large, your viewers are players. This holds true even for the largest games. In time, e-sports will almost assuredly overcome this, and bars playing CSGO matches will be (almost) as common as a pub playing a football game. That is still a ways off, but in the meantime ANR can continue to grow and foster its community.

Last thing I would like to say is while ANR is more abstract than MTG and other games, commentators go a long way. Just as someone who has never played LoL, MTG, or Hearthstone can tune into a stream and understand more by the end, someone can watch a TC video and start to grasp some concepts of ANR. The biggest advantage that Hearthstone has is that it is digital and much easier (and exciting) to watch and comprehend than tiny cards on a table. I honestly think if MTG released a flashy digital client, it could attract more viewers than Hearthstone. A digital ANR client would be truly incredible. I can just imagine an RND run through 3 ice, only to access a card… Snare! Flatline! I already get hype when that happens to me or my opponent in an OCTGN game; seeing it happen in a client with some animations would be that much more hype. The other advantage that HS has is that it allows those curious outsiders to immediately try it at any time, for free (which is certainly a huge advantage).

The article is about much more than ANR as an e-sport than as a spectator e-sport on Twitch. W/r/t the competitive scene growing to that of an e-sport, it is both very possible and very challenging. The most successful e-sports scenes may have been started by players, but it takes a company’s support to truly catapult a game to e-sports status. I don’t foresee that happening any time with FFG, since they are involved in so many things; however, if the community continues to build itself and proves that there is money to be made by FFG, their involvement becomes more likely.

Oh and it definitely is possible to get sponsors like Doritos for community events, assuming you have exposure on a platform like Twitch. I’ve seen a few Team Spooky tournaments lately that were sponsored by Doritos or Totinos Pizza Rolls. These tournaments had cash prizes. All the companies got out of it were plugs on the stream and possibly a few commercials. Once you have a dedicated and proven Twitch presence, so many things are possible. ANR has its work cut out for it, since it is IMO a harder game to attract players to, but as Kevin Garnett once screamed–“Anything is possible!”


Dan used a single core set, 17 data packs and 3 deluxe expansions. So you don’t need everything to be competitive. :wink:

And I will parrot everyone else in this thread, it is far easier to start playing and finding opponents in the digital space. Just pick up a game and start playing online is borth easier and cheaper than buying a bunch of cards and find opponents. Both jinteki.net and OCTGN has a pretty steep learning curve, and they also assumes you know the game well.

But really, our goal should be Magic-level, not e-sport.


The biggest thing keeping netrunner from having big hype tournaments with cash money support is the small community. There are a group of dedicated players, but a majority of meta’s consist of 2-6 people unless you’re living in a major metropolitan area. Compare that to your average FNM, which can have 10+ people per store even in small towns. I think the premier tournaments will come with a booming player-base. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a huge effort from FFG to get new players into the game.


So what do you think ffg have failed to do?

Honestly, I don’t think it is FFG’s responsibility to ‘get more players into the game.’ People always seem to bring this up, but I think its ignorant. Wizards doesn’t do anything to get more people into MTG. Don’t bring up FNM; that is largely for established players. Maybe WOTC did more the beginning; I wasn’t around then. MTG grows by its own virtues, and ANR has to do the same. Unfortunately, ANR is a more difficult game to get people into, for a myriad of reasons. Not many people here seem to want to admit that, but IMO it’s the truth. FFG could certainly improve in the organized play event area, but that doesn’t do a whole lot to ‘get more players into the game.’ It certainly helps as an incentive, but mostly it is my opinion that it is the game’s responsibility first, and the community’s second, to attract new blood.

Wizards has game day promos where everyone gets free cards, and they have prereleases and release events which cater to newer players, and they have product that caters to new players. Now I will say that the core set is the best intro product possible, and that Magic has a much easier time by being a very popular game. FFG should be doing whatever they can to get people playing, as a business strategy the more people who are buying data packs each month the better. They need tournament support outside the store champ, regional, national worlds structure. Right now there are GNK, but they should encourage store owners to be running week to week leagues and provide prize support for that. They need a good teaching kit to go to stores, and to provide more support for events outside of the store champ line. They can provide official support for outside leagues such as ANRPC and provide prize packs for organizers. FFG has nothing to lose from providing more support to those efforts, and should be doing more to steal people away from Magic.


What will it take?

One simple answer: a company who actually wants to expand the brand and take it to the next level.

FFG is always saying they want to keep their games casual and dislike “pro gaming” (tbh it’s a pretty silly statement, since mtg and hearthstone make their money with the casual gamers, not the competitive ones). You can’t expect any kind of big help from them. I guess they’re pretty content with their current business model and like to play it safe.


Mmm, that little detail really makes my day.
Is it the first world that is won with a single core set ?

As it’s the first time a non-criminal won, yes.


Uh what?

  1. Wizards has several ways of presenting their product focused on new players (Starter Packs, Duel decks, what have you)
  2. They built several digital versions of their product to create a lead in (Duels of the Planeswalkers is on multiple platforms)
  3. They have events that are explicitly more casual and open (prereleases and alt format events) with lots more promos for just showing up.
  4. They have an aggressive set rotation in large part so that people turning up to a game shop have less cards to worry about if they want to attend a local event. The set-only draft format is also specifically designed to make things accessible for new players (whilst the advanced players move a lot of the product finding the deeper strategies in the draft)
  5. Up until recently they alternated their set releases with ‘core’ and ‘expert’ specifically so there would be a more accessible version of the game each year for new players.


The idea of the ANRPC was to drive more interest for high end players, who in turn drive the meta. We honestly don’t have the time nor resources currently to support local metas, as well.

We are more than willing to work with FFG OP to help grow the game and expand the player base. As noted up thread, FFG seems content with their player base. Remember, they’re a relatively small company that’s now a subsidiary. They’re also a board game company. ANR was a wild success in their eyes. They’re more content growing the brand (see: Worlds of Android; no, not that Worlds) than the game. Also, they’re an extremely slow moving ship, so don’t expect change to come quickly. Did you see Horvath’s TC interview from Worlds? “We have things planned in the next 12-24 months.”, with a big grin. Really? That soon?

Between this and the slow rotation, you know they really aren’t prepared for growth. They prefer maintaining a tiny bonsai over growing a redwood, even though they have the proper seeds.


Was still a Siphon deck.


Three years still no siphon nerf

The more the meta changes the more it stays the same


Exactly, FFG is afraid to throw their weight behind the game. They have a real game here, better than any other they have. But they still treat out with the same weight as the next descent character pack.


True, but actually I was thinking of Desperado when I typed that. w/e :slight_smile: