I've mentioned before how fighting games are the perfect competitive game for spectators because the action takes place all on one screen. There is no other screen or view to cut to. Also the basics of what's going on generally readable. There are two characters trying to hit each other, and you can see the lifebars and when one guy is knocked out.
Some people responded by saying that the slower pace of Starcraft contributes to it being even better of a spectator game overall. It gives commentators more time to talk about why a decision was smart, or what to look for, when those things can flicker by very quickly in a fighting game.
I recently watched the Starcraft 2 tournament coverage at MLG Providence and at Dreamhack. I have to say it was probably about the best spectating experience for a competitive game I can imagine. I'll qualify that by saying that for me personally, watching a competitive fighting game could be more exciting, but that's because I have enormous knowledge about the specifics. I'm talking about for a more general audience of people who are not extreme experts, I have to admit that the pace of Starcraft really does help tremendously to viewers.
The commentators at those events did extremely well, by the way. So special thanks to Day9, Artosis, tasteless, and the rest. Speaking of Day9, I really have to mention his episode #100. He feels like a kindred spirit who I've known forever after hearing what's practically his life story in that episode. Day9 is the real deal and he's doing e-sports a huge service with his skills right now. (Dear Day9: you know, I'm working really hard on an RTS-themed customizable card game right now. Might be up your alley. And if it isn't, you're still the real deal.)
Back to spectating. Another reason why watching Starcraft is exciting is the drama of hidden information. Now, fighting games have hidden information too, it's just that you probably don't realize it. It takes place at the time scale of 1/60th of a second, and it has to do with one player often not knowing the exact state of his opponent's character at the moment he himself executes a move. The reason he doesn't know is because the human brain can't even process the information and turn it into conscious awareness that quickly, so there are lots of guesses, instincts, and predictions that come into play. And it's all invisible to the untrained eye.
Not in Starcraft though. It's plenty visible and obvious there. Does player2 know that player1 is going for an all-in rush? Or does player2 know that there is a pylon hidden in his base? Player1 is expanding to a new base, but he doesn't realize that a pack of pesky flying Mutalisks is going to wreck it, and so on.
It's more than just hidden information, it's dramatic irony, to take a term from literature. Situational irony is the kind you probably are more familiar with, where the outcome is the opposite of what you intend and expect. Dramatic irony is when the audience knows something that the characters in the story (or the players) don't know. Starcraft is one big ball of dramatic irony. There is so much fuel for exciting commentary based on the abundance of dramatic irony from the fog of war, from build orders, from scouting, and from trickshot plans that players sometimes go for. During all that, we get to see all that hidden info and we have time to soak it in. We see it coming while in a fighting game, we blink and we missed it. (Note: I like watching fighting games, remember, because I can see all that stuff that fast.)
Dramatic irony was also the key ingredient that lead to the rise of poker on television. If you remember, poker wasn't really on tv at all, then suddenly it was everywhere. What changed? Answer: the camera on the hole cards. Once the audience and commentators could see those cards, it created dramatic irony that makes it a lot more exciting to watch.
The Yomi card game benefits from this as well. It's all about mental sparing, deception, and tricks that revolve around hidden information. It takes place at a slow enough pace to enable great commentary. That great commentary is coming from Aphotix, and here's an archive of his stuff, including last week's online tournament. It's amazing how much mileage he gets without even benefiting from dramatic irony, too. So far the casts have hidden the player's hand cards from spectators, but I think they will be even more exciting when spectators can see that info. (We just have to prevent cheating by delaying the broadcast stream, probably.)
Enjoy your Street Fighter, Starcraft, and Yomi spectating. ;)