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With the growing popularity of streaming and esports, it seems every developer is looking for the game that is as popular with viewers as it is for players. After having a chance to try Breakaway, I think Amazon may have found it. I got to sit down at Amazon, just down the street from PAX West 2017, and get my hands on the upcoming game from Amazon Game Studios which combines a multiplayer deathmatch with traditional sports in a way that really feels like it might be the perfect formula to make esports viable, not simply as a competitive event but also as a spectator sport.
There's no argument that esports are growing in popularity. The sheer volume of cash on the line shows that game developers and broadcast platforms have a lot riding on it. However, for me, there's always been something missing in most of the games that make for popular competition. I can enjoy watching a good Call of Duty player go on a kill streak, but in a team deathmatch environment, there's always a lot more going on than whatever is within view of a single player. Watching a broadcast of the Call of Duty Championships means jumping all over a map, getting bits and pieces of different battles, but without ever really getting a sense of the whole match.
This is the first thing that I think Breakaway has figured out. The field of play is shrunk down and the objective is as simple as any game of soccer, get the ball in the goal. This means that the action is always focused in a single place, wherever the ball is. Even if the camera pulls back to give you a view of the wider field of play, you can still see every player, and the ball, without much difficulty. It works the way any sporting event would. Follow the ball.
But it's not simply a game of soccer. The characters to choose from, and their powerful abilities, still add an element to the competition that you can't get from watching people play a game of Madden 17. Breakaway is clearly a video game, and so it adds something to the traditional sporting environment you can't get elsewhere. Initially, I approached the match more like a team deathmatch and proceeded to not help my team much at all. It wasn't until I took a step back and saw what needed to be done that I began to figure things out, even scoring a goal for my team during one match, which is way more of a big deal for me then I'd like to admit.
This was my experience with my hands-on opportunity with Breakaway. While taking other players out of the game violently is possible, and encouraged, it's not the point. Taking other players out is a means to an end as it allows you to get a power play opportunity (to borrow from another sport) in order to score your goal. The characters you have to choose from all fall into familiar classes but are different enough to keep things interesting and make each match potentially very different.
Breakaway still need a fair amount of work before it's truly ready for primetime. But I'm certainly interested in seeing it, not just playing it, when that time comes.
You can sign up for the Breakaway Alpha right now.