The impact of the esports boom is being felt right across the industry. It signifies something that many analysts saw coming for decades—the point at which inter-generational normalization of gaming, the enormous popularity of online multiplayer gaming, and the latent potential for a large scale gaming-focused sports industry to go mainstream, finally coalesced.
Now we find ourselves in a situation where esports isn’t only popular—it’s the world’s fastest growing sport. This is borne out by the likes of OddsChecker, which compares odds and offers on events, highlighting that esports is among its most popular and patronized segments over the past few years.
However, one glaring fact remains clear, and that is that esports are largely a PC-gaming centric concern. The biggest tournaments and the most popular games are all to be found on the PC platform and, despite mobile esports making substantial inroads, that doesn’t look like it’ll be changing any time soon.
There’s almost a feeling across the industry that the console sector was caught sleeping. After all, the most popular mainstream multiplayer games are all console titles, whether it’s FIFA 23, GTA V Online or the latest Call of Duty game. Yet esports events that command the kind of headlines and coverage of the PGL Majors or The International are seldom to be found on the Xbox or PlayStation 5.
That may be an uncharitable assessment, but many cite the latent potential in console esports and just how far we are from it becoming a reality in 2023. But that’s not to say there’s nothing out there, or that what’s already underway isn’t truly worth your time and attention. Below we’re going to take a look at the biggest esports events currently being contested on the Xbox, and take a peek at what the future of the platform’s competitive concerns may hold.
Halo Championship Series
Microsoft has been making a huge push with the Infinite HCS series recently, and has succeeded in drawing in some top talent from across the esports world. Despite the laundry list of issues Halo: Infinite has racked up under 343 Industries’ botched development and roll-out, there’s no denying the fact that the core game offers a high skill ceiling and quality arena combat experience not seen since Halo 3.
With rumors that an all new Halo battle royale, built on Unreal Engine 5, circulating, the best days for the HCS could yet still be ahead of us.
Call of Duty League Challengers
The CDL underwent some key changes for the beginning of the 2021 season. For the first time in the League’s history, it would not be contested on Sony’s PlayStation platform, instead opting for PC + Controller setup. While that has little direct relevance to Xbox gamers, the news that Challengers, the CDL’s feeder series, would also be made available for crossplay, certainly is. This means that gamers, on whatever platform they choose, are now able to compete for a chance to qualify for the top flight of the CDL.
This single move has returned official CoD esports to the Xbox platform, something it hasn’t seen since the launch of Black Ops III in 2015.
Forza Racing Championship
The Forza Racing Championship sadly petered out in 2019 due to a range of organizational blunders, but the appetite for a sim-racing competition on the Xbox remains strong. The recent success of Gran Turismo Sport as an Olympic esport, should help redouble Microsoft’s ambitions to make the most of their franchise relaunch with Forza Motorsport (2023), by reviving or replacing the ForzaRC with a next generation esports competition. If they were to throw their weight behind such an enterprise, like they did with the HCS, it could quickly become one of the major competitive attractions on the platform.
ForzaRC won many fans over with its commitment to entry-level accessibility, which it achieved by enabling players to compete with Wheel + Pedal setups. It’s easy to see this element returning to the competition’s would-be successor.