Hey fellow Halo fans! In case you aren’t familiar with my background – I started Allegiance, a professional esports organization based in North America that originated from the beautiful game, Halo. I’ve worked as a General Manager for a Halo team that competed at a top level for 16 months, attended 9 events, and managed 16 players throughout that time.
The purpose of this piece is to formulate my ideas and strategies into one plan that will catapult Halo into the tier 1 esport discussion, which is competing alongside some of the largest titles like League of Legends and CSGO. Some of you may be laughing at this statement but the fans who have hope will continue to read this and it will be worth your while. This plan will layout strategies 343 should implement to grow the scene, and we will see results. Halo can become one of the best esports and it all starts here.
Let’s begin with this – everyone in the community has some influence on the poor development of Halo. 343, Tournament Organizers, Players, Community Members, and Organizations. I might be the first person in this community to admit that “I’m the problem”, whereas everyone else wants to point fingers at others. This mindset will get us nowhere and I want all readers to remain open-minded throughout this entire plan. We need to keep in mind each party has different goals and there is no perfect path that we can identify to build the most prosperous league. Please be open-minded and think big. This game will not blossom overnight, so buckle up!
Most of you reading this are community members and I’m sure a large majority want to see my thoughts on what 343 can do to perform a 180 on their game. I’ll start there! Truly, the biggest reason I’m starting here is because this is where most of the work can be done. 343 owns the game and is the one leading all the esport decisions. Some of you may have read my tweet that the first step in growing Halo is bringing in the right organizations to the scene; I kind of lied. Everything must happen simultaneously! If 343 makes the right decisions viewership/spectatorship will increase, more players will compete, and the best organizations will join the scene. This is all we want, yeah?
I’m not here to tell 343 what to do in terms of settings because that’s left to the professionals. Although, I will say 343 MUST listen to its players and community if they want to become a game that’s respectable like CSGO and League of Legends. I’ll touch more on communication later but the reason I’m here is to discuss what 343 can do to restore the scene through business practices. If you want to build a successful league you need to know your product (league) and can present it to the customers (competitors). Let’s look back, the first year consisted of a handful of online qualifiers that lead up to a regional tournament for all regions and the teams that performed the best in each region were invited to the World Championship. They made this fairly clear the first year of Halo 5 and as an owner of a pro team I knew what I was getting myself into when I signed my team. Now, 343 had a full year to conceptualize their second HCS season for Halo 5 and we should have progressed as a scene. Instead most of us had no clue what was coming up next after the first World Championship and we were left in the dark. This was the beginning of the community/organizations not being informed or aware of the upcoming plans for Halo. Shortly after the championship, we all received the news of the upcoming year but this was news that should have been shared much earlier. As an investor in the league, I was thrilled to see there was a Pro League because organizations want stability and consistent showing on stream. This year for Halo there were two pro league seasons that lead up to a World Championship tournament. We didn’t know this from the beginning when they originally told us the schedule, in fact I believe we were only informed of the first Pro League season and that it would lead to Summer Season Finals. Great! I’m not in the discussions with 343/ESL about the season structure or any future plans of the scene, but I’m assuming the reason nothing was shared is because things were not scheduled. This ends my first point – even when a season is in session use that time to schedule the upcoming season and prepare it to be the largest one to date. If you want your scene to grow you need to anticipate that it will grow if you put the proper work in. All players and organizations need to understand exactly what they need to do in order to qualify for the World Championship and not be told a couple months before. The MLB just started this past Sunday and if you follow baseball you know exactly how your team can make it into the playoffs and how the bracket works for you to climb all the way to the World Series. We need this structure and it will show 343/ESL know how to run an esport properly. Halo needs to be taken seriously.
A couple of sentences ago I mentioned ESL. I know there is a lot of controversy on whether ESL is the right tournament organizer for Halo. I’ve talked with quite a few ESL employees and they know their stuff. Once again, I wish I was in the discussions more with 343 and ESL in learning about the goals for Halo but I’m not invited. I don’t know who is calling the shots but for the sake of my argument I’m going to assume it’s 343 since they own the game and they are hiring ESL to run their competitive scene. The tournaments being held have been sub-par compared to last year’s X-Games Aspen, MLG Regionals, and the World Championship. We need to go back to our roots and work with organizers that can live up to not only 343’s expectations but also the fanatics who grew up watching Halo. If we were to compare these past events to the competitions we all watched 5-10 years ago, we would be impressed but naturally we are being compared to other events that are being hosted in the present. I’m not suggesting we need to rent out arenas like you see for PC games in order to become a top tier esport, that time will come. My recommendation is to not cut yourself short by working with anyone that raises their hand to take the job of organizing your event. Set expectations and find a company that can guarantee they will impress. If these are the expectations for Halo then the rest of my piece was all for nothing, but I won’t believe that’s the case. I refuse. There are two companies that stand out to me immediately that would provide instant improvements to the league: UGC & MLG. UGC has recently received a large investment to help improve production, hire more employees, and manage significant size venues. If you attended St. Louis hosted by UGC then you know the work they are capable of and it was pretty impressive. This past weekend I attended the Gears of War event in Atlantic City and HOLY! The venue was incredible, schedule was run on time for the most part, production was on point, and stream had nearly no interruptions. Seeing this made me realize UGC is capable of hosting larger events but it’s a matter of 343 requesting this kind of work. Onto MLG…they are simply MLG. We all know they are the best out there and I don’t think you can argue that. Every time I attend a Call of Duty event I’m amazed by all their effort to make sure everything is perfect. It’s done similarly to UGC but at a much larger scale. The biggest part MLG has perfected is building an event that’s entertaining for spectators to the point where they are willing to pay $50 for the weekend. A large reason Allegiance has continued to invest in Call of Duty is because they have showed me their vision and I believe in it. The future for Call of Duty is bright and they continue to excite me with every conversation I have with their esport leaders. Events and streams have the utmost importance for players and organizations to want to join the scene. It comes down to having the right people running your event and showing the competition through a stream to eyes all over the world. UGC and MLG can make it happen.
My first two points will make all the difference for Halo and will attract a lot more players and professional organizations. You would be surprised how many organizations have asked for my opinion on the Halo scene and after I get emotional and spill everything I believe the game can become they counter me with a bunch of hard facts. I hear things like, “Tournaments don’t look appealing”, “Prize pools are minimal”, “Attendance at events appear to be low”, “Seems impossible to get team skins”, “Players never seem committed and willing to stick with a brand”, etc. Maybe the first two points I made can’t fix all these statements but some of them can! We need to do everything we can to bring more competitors to the scene and respectable organizations who are willing to put in the time to grow the scene.
This goes for everyone in the community but out of everyone I expect this the most out of 343 – content creation. If we want to gain interest from gamers and have them tune into our tournaments we need to showcase how awesome Halo really is at the competitive level. Everyone is obligated to have their own opinion, but Halo 5 is my third favorite Halo in the series. We need to show this to the world! How do we do this? It’s actually not too difficult and can be done with a low budget. Our talent group has produced quite a bit of content for all the Allegiance teams but there are a lot of things in Halo that can be covered by 343 since they have access to every team in the scene. Do you guys remember the player profiles created last year before Worlds? Both Naded and Lethul had awesome profiles done on them. These were released right before the World Championship but why wouldn’t we do this content year-round? The feedback was phenomenal, fans learned about players, and it created hype. Let’s talk about this for a second…and I’m going to be bias since I worked with Naded. His profile talked about his 10-year career as a player and the hunger for him to win his first tournament. This story leading up to Worlds and even Regionals had a lot of people watching to see if he could hold a trophy over his head for the first time during one of the biggest years of Halo. I’m sure a lot of people tuned into the World Championship to see if Naded could power through the unstoppable CLG for his first ever championship. Even though his team fell short he received the MVP award because so many people wanted to see it happen and those people tuned in because of the hype that was generated all year.
For the 2017 Halo World Championship I was disappointed to not see one single story line leading up to the biggest tournament. Right before Allegiance left Halo I made an effort to work with 343 and share my ideas to hopefully see some of them come to fruition. The one thing Halo was willing to work with me on was content creation, so I gave them a single concept that they decided to make but it was not at the same quality as last year’s videos. I’m going to copy and paste my email:
For example, use the story of Lethul and Snip3down rivalry:
· Lethul and Snip3down team for a long time and were dominant during their entire time together
· Lethul leaves EG/Snip3down to join a team that he will not only make significantly better but would severely hurt EG giving his team a much larger lead in skill
· After EG wins X-Games CLG becomes the most dominant team in Halo
· Snip3down leaves after EG loses HCS Season 1 Pro League and forms his own team to compete against Lethul
· Snip3down/NV go back and forth all Season 2 Pro League and Snip3down wins Season 2 finals taking down Optic and his former teammate Lethul
This was one example I came up with at the time in January but there are so many more story lines that could be created to generate hype to increase viewership and motivate casual players to become competitors. Not only will this content bring in more fans through social media channels but displaying these videos during down time on streams will retain viewership. The 2017 World Championship was definitely a step up from previous tournaments but always showing content that pertains to your viewers is key. Viewers watching a Halo tournament most likely don’t want to watch campaign videos, learn about new updates in Warzone, or people playing with Halo action figures. They want to watch montages, player profiles, and cartoon drawings of the professionals! I understand 343 is the developer of Halo and must focus on game development, but when there is a tournament you need to give the customer (fans/viewers) what is appealing to them.
My last point for 343 is communication and transparency. This objective could be the most important out of the major points I have shared with all of you today. If you perform great communication and show transparency then you will gain the trust of the community, which right now seems to be lacking. As I have seen from a lot of community members, they feel lied to and secluded from the essential information that would influence them from participating in the competitive scene or even watching it. A prime example that’s going on right now is what settings will be used for the next season? Worlds just ended, so I understand they may not have the answer to that yet but Halo should have a spokesperson that responds to the community and acts professionally. Notable people that I have worked with in other games that do a sensational job here are Jack Felling (Gears of War) and Dan McHugh (Smite). I’ve talked to quite a few Halo enthusiasts over the last week while I was at the Gears of War event and none of them knew who the true Halo Esports leader is for this title. I’m sure most of the people reading this don’t know either; It’s most likely not who you think. We need this person or a different person to take up this position to answer to the community and respond to any concerns. As an organization, Allegiance also felt left out of communications and we were told news that some other organizations heard months before us. This is unacceptable and will only be fixed with figuring out a legitimate communication technique that puts the people investing in your league first as a priority. A major reason we joined Gears of War and Smite was due to their interest in having Allegiance join their scene. We want to join where we are wanted and build a relationship that will not only help the scene grow but that will help us grow. Do you see what I’m getting at with all of this? It goes full circle but it all starts with the decisions made by 343. If you make a league with great event structure and lay it out for all to see, competitors will come. If you host great events and are known for doing so, spectators and competitors will come. If you build content and help grow brands, organizations will come. If you are honest and share your work with the Halo enthusiasts regularly, all of us will come.
At this second I’m four pages in on Word and I think it’s time for a change of pace. The remaining portion will not be nearly as long, so I hope you stay because it’s probably about you, the one reading. Before I jump in I want to say one last thing. I know the first four pages will not resolve all the issues occurring in Halo or make Halo a top esport like it was 10 years ago. More will need to happen, but this will be a great start if 343 can recognize the current state of the game and begin changing the scene. I truly believe what I have stated here will be a catalyst for this change if they implement my ideas into the development of the Halo Championship Series. My theories are not the only ones that should be carried out, so we should collaborate in a professional fashion that represents good intentions for the league.
NEXT – Players. Ever since the $2.5 million prize pool we have seen some great talent come to the forefront and provide us fans with high quality matches. The competition has been better than ever, so thank you for competing and displaying what it looks like to be a professional gamer.
Most of my players have heard me lecture this before and it’s because I want them to succeed not only as gamers but as individuals. Act like your title – Professional Halo Player. That doesn’t mean act like how Halo players act like today. In fact, I’m only highlighting one word here and that’s “Professional”. A professional in any setting means they have made an occupation for themselves in a certain industry and in this case, it’s Halo. All professional players must treat this like a job and recognize this is no longer a hobby. When I sign a player to a contract I expect their full attention to be on the game, to respect the contract they signed, and improve as a professional to be the best they are capable. This has now become a job and a career for most of you. How awesome is that?! I still can’t believe that’s what the esports world has become but it is now a reality. This is not the only game that suffers from this problem where professionals don’t take their roles in the game seriously. I’d be naïve if I believed that. But why don’t we fix that here and help 343 instead of putting our entire faith in their hands? I’m a firm believer that if 343 does their job you will all show up, but I’d also hope if the players did their job the developer will show up.
There are plenty of things professional players can do to help grow the scene and it might help more than you think. I’ll quickly list the most important things to do as a player that are pretty easy to execute. Act like a professional and use professionalism. Time, and time again I see players acting like goons on social media. This is not a place to talk about how 343 didn’t listen to your opinion on settings or your girlfriend cheated on you with another player. Post it somewhere else! Companies will not work with organizations that have immature players who act unprofessional. The way you portray yourself can hurt or help the reputation of the organization that funds you and does the same for the company that sponsors the organization paying you. I think this is a big reason we don’t see many big sponsors coming into Halo. Next, be Loyal. Team changes do not always help and will usually hurt the teams longevity of becoming victorious. Yes, sometimes team changes are essential to bouncing back but more times than not you are only going to see short-term success and will most likely produce another roster change a couple of events later when you see one unpleasant event. There have been many instances over the last 16 months where teams don’t hit their expectations, so they look for someone to replace in hopes they could finally hit the potential they believe in. Why not learn how to be professional, accept criticism, and develop into a top team by using a good work ethic? I love all the players I have worked with in the past, so they know this is all in fun, but did you all see how Naded, Suspector, and El Town are teaming again? Imagine if they worked through the issues they saw as a team and ironed out the problems within the team. I think they would have been a great team if they played the past year. One of the biggest reasons I mention this loyalty factor is because over the last few months a handful of organizations have told me they will never join Halo due to the instability of the teams. This occurred when the current Splyce roster was searching for an organization. You need to act as professionals and respect the organizations who are giving you this opportunity to compete. Represent the brand proudly, show them love and respect their authority. Lastly, build content! I mentioned this for 343 but this is also very important to the players. The more content we push to the esport communities the more people will be exposed to Halo. If you build content regularly you will not only be helping the esport you love grow but you are building your own personality/brand. This makes you more valuable to organizations and sponsors. Create montages, vlog, upload scrims, whatever you find that will be interesting to us Halo fans! It’s not impossible to become a personality in Halo and to make an impact on the scene through content. A perfect example who is now one of the largest personalities on Twitch is Ninja. You don’t need to be the next Ninja, a lot of people aren’t fit for that career but even simple content creation will go a long way for Halo and you don’t need to wait for others to start the movement. Ryanoob has gained a lot of respect from the community through his content and you all could do the same.
Hey community members 😃. I’m going to be short here but for the fans out there that want to see Halo thrive please remain hopeful. I can assure you Halo has a bright future and with the right people behind the development of Halo we can see us reclaim our throne for console esports. If you want to start any evolution, may your actions be positive and do it in a way that will make you be heard. Talking negatively on 343 and bashing them will not get us anywhere. Communicating through a proper channel and respectfully will gain their attention. Connect with people who have an influence on change and power to make things happen. Let’s look forward and be optimistic.
My extensive Halo Esports Development piece is now concluded! Thank you to everyone who stuck around to read my thoughts and who join me in collaborating further to make a positive change in Halo. This is by no means everything that will transition Halo from being a lower tier esport into a top tier esport like Call of Duty. Things like event talent (commentators & analysts), skin creation, location of events, organization involvement, and much more, need plenty of fixing before we get to the optimal place for Halo. Everything I shared today were the points I believe are the most important stepping stones for us to reach excellence.
For anyone that wants to reach out to me separately and start a conversation, follow me on Twitter @chinstiinct
Have a good evening everybody! #PledgeAllegiance