I wanted to write this as a thought provoking piece for NCSoft and the community on feedback/thoughts in regards to the concept of eSports for Blade and Soul. There is a lot of talk and content pushing to "catch up" for the next world tournament so I felt it would be useful to discuss the viability especially in the light of the first community promoted stream for the game.
I honestly don't ever see this game getting where it needs to be in Western markets comparative to Eastern markets because primarily the support just isn't there. By support I don't mean that NCSoft is completely dropping the ball either. The bottom line is the South Korean market has alternative routes for support like OGN and in the past during the 2000's MBC Game was still in the picture. These two networks helped pave the way for the market to be what it is today. There is a complete infrastructure set with external revenue separate from developers and resources designed around production/promotion of eSports of various games including Blade and Soul there. Even now a lot of the production value and work with the associated costs is primarily handled by OGN in South Korea for the past world tournaments. I'm sure NCSoft has some allocation in it by the agreements set to allow them to produce it, but a lot of the cost is purely absorbed by OGN as an organizer. Currently Western markets just don't have this kind of institution where everything is very limited.
In regards to NCWest they have stated previously on streams they are willing to support the competitive community, but are looking to build it from a grassroots community. I feel this concept doesn't really work anymore in today's current market where in order for a competitive community to flourish the developer has to actively play a hand in promoting it. In the late 90's/2000's you just loaded up your gear to road trip to a tournament organized by a third party and paid your way to slug it out for cash, but that just doesn't happen anymore where we are dominated by online tournament organization and a lot of past third parties have ceased operations. One popular example of the latter where a developer actually backs the competitive community would be Riot Games and their handling of League of Legends from early beta phases to adapt it to what it is today. They invested early and now it is at the top tier of eSports. Another lesser example of an MMO in eSports would be Guild Wars 2 where now ArenaNet has finally developed a sponsor base capable of running the PGL to try and push the competitive state of the game (unfortunately they are probably a bit too late and the balance is even worse than Blade and Soul). You can go even further back when we actually had a semblance of support structure in North America with MLG and the World of Warcraft Pro Circuit for Arena. I've played competitively from 1998 - 2004 and worked as a coach/manager for various organizations from 2004 - 2009 where I've have been unfortunate/fortunate enough to experience the grassroots stages. The market during those periods wasn't legitimate and left too much room for third party abuse of budget/funding allocation to properly manage.
I feel like the market is here now to make this bigger, but it requires some internal management of today's developers and maybe some initial investment where the idea of "grassroots" with minimal investment isn't going to cut it. You invest minimal your ROI is going to be minimal. This may be a bit of a pessimistic piece, but the reality of today's climate relies on developer consideration for expansion in the West (everything of potential monetary investment to base balance). Without the developer working to actually back the competitive community (other than rushing content releases) in the Western regions eSports here is just a pipe dream where we probably won't be catching up anytime soon.
Final thought, solid competitive community here is developed by the direct fostering of competitive institutions/direct developer involvement and this week was a decent first start. I really hope though that NC West plans more than just handing out a bamboo outfits as support and directly gets more involved.
DISCLAIMER - This piece was not written to be critical of NC West, but to develop further dialogue of ways to enhance the competitive community of Blade and Soul. This game comparative to most MMOs despite debate is far more balanced for competitive play than the majority of MMOs that exist with potential to do more if managed correctly. We want to institute positive discussion to help with those efforts so please leave negative opinions at the door.
Thanks NC West for bringing this game to the West. We just want to see it continue to grow and improve it.