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When Guild Wars 2 came out, it announced its form of team based PvP, called sPvP (or structured PvP) as being worked on to become an esport (where competitions are held and people can win money. Essentially like a professional sport, but held in the gaming world). There were a lot of doubters about this happening, but even so the advertising still kept coming in. There were tournaments that players could join called free tournaments (they had no entry fee, although you could still win prizes) based on 8 team elimination (maximum of 3 rounds). Then they came out with paid tournaments, where you could put up a tournament ticket (earned by doing the PvP daily quests or by winning tournaments) and you could do the same 8 team elimination but with better rewards. The down side was that free tournaments could be joined with a team of as few as one, while the paid tournaments required a full team before you could queue to get in a battle.

At this point we were left with three possible options for the PvP (we are excluding World vs. World here): regular matches, free tournaments or paid tournaments. For the most part, the newer players would stick around in the regular matches, while the more skilled players that did not have full groups would go to free tournaments and those that were highly organized would join the paid ones. Sometimes the organized groups would also join free tournaments (likely due to the lack of teams taking part in the paid ones), which ended up causing an off set in the frees, due to pick up groups being placed against organized ones. Over time players started joining the free tournaments and just sticking to regular matches because the speed of leveling and the rewards were better in free ones due to having a better chance of actually being able to defend themselves.

As of a couple of months ago, the sPvP went through a major change. The paid tournaments were removed from the game, and the free tournaments were altered in a way that they now only involve a single match between two teams. It would appear to be that this is because waiting on eight teams to sign up for tournaments was taking a long time, so there were often times groups that were missing at least one person (the smallest group I saw get into a tournament only had two people). By having only two teams, the queue moves faster and so less people go away from the keyboard or leave altogether before the match starts. It still does happen occasionally, but ever since the change the most people I have seen missing from a match was one per side, and even that is pretty rare now.

The question now is whether or not Arena Net is still wanting to turn sPvP into an esport. There have been no more talks about doing this lately, leading many of us on to believe that they have tossed the idea out. It is entirely possible that they are just trying to figure out how to handle it. Since there are no more paid tournaments, teams that want to work on their skill were forced to fight against pick up groups until a couple weeks ago, when a big change started rolling out to the regular matches. Instead of all matches being created by the server automatically, certain players were given the ability to create their own. This allows them to choose map rotations and other settings, but the main one for practicing is the ability to lock down a server so others can not enter. The benefit in this is that skirmishes can be held, where you can let your team and the other team in the match without having a lot of random players join as well. Based on this, it does seem like it is possible that sPvP esports are still on the to do list, but only time will tell. Some players are hoping this will still become a reality, while others are hoping it does not.

Some players that are wanting the esports to come true are afraid because of balance problems between classes. Without knowing your enemy team's make up, it is hard to judge what is best to play against them. Right now some classes are still over powered (at least with some skills), and Arena Net has been working on balance patches with their monthly updates. There is still a lot of work to do with that, and it is possible that it is one of the things holding them back from the esports. If balance problems end up plaguing the game when it is being played professionally, that leads to a bad image of the game, as well as possible dropping of sponsors.

Even if the esports becomes a reality in the future, it brings about the question of who will be taking part. From experience (as an sPvP player), it seems like there really are not as many people taking part in matches as there are in other parts of the game. Speaking to others as well, I have found that sPvP is really like a little niche in the Guild Wars 2 world, which is mostly due to how leveling is handled in the game. Whereas PvP and World vs World will both contribute to a character's level, gear and gold stash, sPvP does none of these. Other than obtaining new cool looking items and doing some achievements, sPvP has no actual rewards. This is one of the things that hurts it the most, in that it ends up feeling like a waste of time if you are in to progression. If you are just looking for something to knock out the daily or monthly quests (of which sPvP or normal leveling will allow you to do), it is worth doing just for the quick completion. But you also lose out on the free coin and 5 silver (if you are level 80, or less if you are lower level). While this is not a large amount of gold (combined you are looking at around 10-11 silver), it adds up if you are like me and ensure you do the daily quests every day and the monthly quests every month. The amount lost equals 3.5 gold per month or so, which you could still argue is not very much but hey, it is completely free gold! Not to mention you will be earning more gold from doing the objectives needed for each daily and the monthly.

I think if Arena Net wants to turn the Guild Wars 2 sPvP system into a form that would work well for esports, there needs to be a couple changes. First of all, it should not be completely separated from the rest of the game. I understand the concept behind it, which is that it creates a more “fair” atmosphere by allowing everyone to pick and choose from any skill, as well as any piece of gear they want, but at the same time the benefits of playing it are minimal. I am all for progression, and I love achieving new things. But when you play for many hours to earn an sPvP level only to have a chance at getting different looking gear, it kills the real achievement. Whether you are level 20 or 50, your gear, although it may look very different, has the same stats. So if you are not interested so much in your character's look, but rather at the progression, it leaves a lot to be desired.

The other thing that needs to happen is giving rewards for smaller tournaments. These would be held on certain days and at certain times, and would give the players actual benefits. Maybe the winners would get gems or gold, or even a certain item from the cash shop. The idea behind this is that you get something that makes you proud to be taking the time and effort to become better at the game, as well as push to be the best. The reason why these tournaments would not be going 24/7 is because if they want to simulate what the esports will be like, this is the way to do it. Teams will need to be able to plan around the tournaments and be sure that they are there on time if they want to play professionally, so forcing them to learn those skills is extremely helpful for the adaptation that is necessary.

The Future

If Arena Net does not do something to change how people look at sPvP, it is likely never going to go anywhere. Instead, it will continue being played only by a small niche of the Guild Wars 2's population, plus those who want to knock out their daily or monthly quests in a much easier and faster way than dealing with all the WvW and PvE stuff. While the rewards are lower for doing all of this through sPvP, the time and effort saved makes it well worth it. And then if you happen to knock out the PvE ones over the month as well (through normal play), you get the lost benefits as well. If you do not, well at least you got the Laurels, which are arguably the best part!

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