In many physical team sports, in addition to the players deployed on the field, there are also players on the bench who the coach can sub in when the players get tired or run into unforseen circumstances. This is more common at low levels of play.

However, in online e-sports (e.g. Overwatch, League of Legends, Counter Strike), this is almost universally absent, with everyone who queues expected to play the entire duration of the game. This is not always possible, nor, in the case of solo queue, always desired. If it does exist at all, it involves players joining games in progress, which means that the subbing team is left with no one until a replacement shows up, and players being subjected to new skill ratings that they weren't originally matched up to. I have never seen the concept of one or more bench players being available from the start, known to both teams at the start, and available to sub in as needed, akin to how a physical sport would operate.

Why is this? Are there cons to such a system that would cause it to fail or cause more problems than it solves? Has this been tried before somewhere?

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Ever felt like playing an online game, then being forced to sit there, spectate for 10 minutes and see the round ending without you ever playing? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mario
    Mar 29, 2021 at 5:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mario Yes. Perhaps I have to eat or do taxes or scroll through my dating apps again. Obviously, this wouldn't be as pleasant if you were queuing to play and end up in bench, but you might choose to go there willingly. \$\endgroup\$
    – TheHans255
    Mar 30, 2021 at 4:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, the main point of subs is so the players don't get tired and burnt out. It's pretty hard to get that tired playing a video game. The only thing you fight like that is frustration or lack of confidence, which are things e-sport gamers are probably just supposed to deal with. It's an interesting idea though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Millard
    Apr 27, 2021 at 17:24

1 Answer 1


Games are first and foremost designed to be entertainment for the players. Being a competitive sport and being entertaining for spectators are usually secondary concerns. Not like those physical sport events you see on TV which were gradually modified over the years to be the sport the fans want to see, not the one the players want to play. Sure, those big eSport events can be good marketing. But the money they generate for the developers is negligible compared to what they make in game sales to the masses. And those paying players care far more about playing a good game than watching one.

Just watching a game and not being able to do anything hoping some player will leave the match so you can play just isn't any fun. So you are not going to see any build-in mechanic for this.

Some games do allow spectators in the game who can join a team at any time, which could actually make this possible in an eSport setting controlled by additional rules governing player replacement. But I know of no eSport league which has a rule like that. The reason is that contrary to physical team sports, the risk for any player to suddenly leave the game due to a physical injury is rather small. So there is usually no need to replace players during the match. It is however usually possible (and anticipated by the teams) to replace players just before the match, because in the less professional eSport leagues it happens quite often that players just don't show up.


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