Esports Draw Massive Amounts of Fans – Here’s How to Host a Tournament that Matches their Excitement
The arena is filled with spectators waiting for the athletes to enter the field. As the lights dim, the crowd roars in anticipation of the approaching action. Soon the competitors they’ve come to see enter: An aquatic creature armed with an enchanted trident, a stone colossus, and a demonic jester charge across a lane intent on conquering their opponent’s base.
That may not fit the typical version of what most people think of as a sporting event, but, for more and more fans, this is where the future of sports is headed. What was once a bunch of people hosting LAN parties on weekend nights has become the massive esports industry.
Globally, the esports market has seen tremendous growth. In 2013, the worldwide value of the esports market was less than $100 million. Today, it is considered to be $733 million. By 2022, the global esports market is expected to reach a total value of $1.9 billion. One marker for this growth is the annual revenue derived from ticket sales, which is predicted to increase at a 21.1 percent compound annual growth rate. Sponsorships are also expected to grow to $578 million.
Nielsen (yes, the TV ratings folks) recently released an Esports Playbook, which measured the habits and demographics of esports fans from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The report found that the viewing audiences for esports are the strongest in the United States, and U.S. fans possess the strongest favorable perception toward sponsors and brand involvement in esports.
“The mainstream has finally come to the realization of how big esports is going to be,” said Neeshu Hajra, vice president of business development for The Trade Group. “The Trade Group has been part of this industry for many years, so to see all of our experience and the time we invested in the industry getting mainstream recognition is very gratifying. We’ve always known this has been coming, because our roots in esports extend over many years. It’s just taken awhile for the rest of the world to catch on.”
Which is great news for the industry – and for anyone who wants to host an esports tournament. The audience is there, but they have been watching and streaming tournaments for years. They’ve seen impressive ones and not so great ones. They have an expectation of spectacle when it comes to large esports events.
Here are some tips that can help your tournament exceed their expectations.
Running a large esports tournament requires a great deal of coordination and teamwork. The space you are looking for must be huge and requires a dedicated group to ensure that the right people are in the right place at all times.
Finding a venue that fits your exact needs is not always easy. Fortunately, we can help. The Trade Group maintains alliances with a variety of reliable service providers, venues, and union representatives. So we can help you find what you are searching for, whether that’s a hotel, convention center, or full-fledged arena.
Event Conception and Design
The first step to any esports tournament is deciding what game you want to run. It may be stating the obvious; still, this is an incredibly important choice. It affects every single decision that you make regarding the tournament from here on out. Different genres and different games within those genres require distinct equipment, space, and time to run a match.
You are going to need banks of computers or consoles and multiple gaming setups, but how many and how they are configured depends, again, on the genre and specific game. So, too, does the time you schedule for events. For pros, the average tournament Starcraft II game lasts 18.6 minutes while the average Defense of the Ancients 2 (DotA 2) game takes 37.5 minutes.
Once you’ve settled on the game, it’s time to decide how to decorate the entire stadium. From the moment spectators approach the arena to when they eventually find their seats, you are going to want the scene decked out with your event’s branding.
Additionally, you need to determine how you intend to engage the audience when they are not watching the matches. What sort of sharable moments are you going to present to your crowd? It is essential that you generate buzz that lives beyond the gameplay.
Photo ops are one idea. These are a big hit with gamers, especially when they include “life-size” creatures or characters from the featured game. The Trade Group has facilitated the build of several custom 3-D creations to bring different esport games to life.
One example is our work for PAX West 2017. Nicknamed “Woodstock for gamers,” The Trade Group supported more than 20 clients at PAX West. For the Shadow of War exhibit, fans could take pictures with actors dressed up as characters from the game as well as the large, “rideable,” 3-D dragon we created for the booth. For Studio Wildcard’s Ark Survival Unleashed exhibit, The Trade Group created two photo ops, a 10-foot tall “rideable” raptor and a massive, 30-foot tall T-Rex, which was a fan favorite.
Fans loved taking photos with these creatures and regularly shared them on social media. The T-Rex was so popular that #PAXRex trended on Twitter.
Experiential with RFID Integration
Another way to get the fans involved is to make an RIFD wristband part of the experience.
For example, at Riot Games’ League of Legends Riftwalk (which was created by The Trade Group), part of the entry fee included a bracelet containing a microchip that allowed them to reserve spots in advance, register their favorite character, and share their favorite parts of the game by filling out information online.
At the event, the RFID wristbands were used to connect each attendee to every photo op. These experiences were then stitched together and delivered to the attendee’s emails as a professional quality video – a personalized memory of their Riftwalk experience. The RFID wristbands also gather valuable attendee data that can be used to further personalize and improve the event for years to come…not to mention the amazing insight and value the data provides to event owners and sponsors.
Catering and Hospitality
If you want to attract some big named players to your event, you’re going to need to treat them with style. Catering is a must – as are some hospitality rooms where the athletes can relax between matches.
However, there are other attendees of an esports tournament to consider. Cosplayers can be a huge draw. Cosplay (a contraction of the words “costume” and “play”) is when people create outfits to look like popular characters from movies, anime, and video games. Fans love the massive amount of work and intricate attention to detail that goes into their ensembles. One idea that can both attract cosplayers to your event and thank them for attending is a “Cospitality” Lounge.
This is a concept we originally utilized during the Riftwalk Tour. The Trade Group designed an area for cosplayers to relax, mingle, refresh makeup, and repair costumes. The space included comfortable seating, dressing rooms, and a designated spot to take photos.
Audio and Visual
Audio and Visual (AV) is an essential component in an esports tournament. Not only does all the equipment need to be working – it needs to be working in sync. If one computer or console (or monitor or controller) lags, it gives opponents an unfair advantage.
Additionally, every game needs to be running on the same settings. Even the slightest shift in a setting can change the game and give advantages to players. For example, maybe an advanced lighting effect allows one player to see the enemy a quarter of a second before another player. Believe it or not, that quarter of a second can make a difference.
You are also going to need a network to run the games. The Trade Group can provide our proprietary, outside internet, which costs significantly less and performs at a higher level than what is offered by most venues.
Additionally, if you are streaming the tournament or working with a broadcasting partner, that equipment needs to be set up and coordinated. This means all camera shots need to be aligned with backgrounds and logos to ensure proper coverage.
The Essentials of an Esports Tournament
Look, running an esports event is not easy. In 2015, Gaming Paradise promoted a weeklong event in Slovenia that brought together players from DotA 2 and Counter Strike. The combined value of the prize pool was an impressive $50,000.
Unfortunately, when the event was set to kick off, one little thing was still missing: the PCs needed to actually play the games. When the machines finally arrived – hours after the intended start – the computers did not have graphic cards, making them essentially useless. Eventually, once the machines were finally up and running, the organizers felt they had to cancel the DotA 2 portion of the event, which did not make the players who traveled specifically to play DotA 2 happy.
This tournament had other complications as well, including problems with reimbursing the hotel for rooms, which caused some players to have their passports confiscated by local police until the matter was solved. All in all, the event had issues – issues that could have been prevented with better planning and oversight.
These tournaments are complex. There are banks of computers and servers with hundreds of cords that snake and twine from each one. There’s broadcasting and streaming concerns. There’s a rideable dinosaur that needs to accommodate a 57-pound kid and his 257-pound dad. It’s easy to see how one little snag could snowball into a massive catastrophe.
That’s why it pays to work with an experienced partner, like The Trade Group, who has years of experience coordinating large-scale esports events. When problems arise – because problems will arise – we have the expertise to overcome them and present a seamless experience to the players and attendees.
The Trade Group’s esports event production services include:
- Venue selection
- Event conception and design
- The largest rental inventory of esports stages, including player and caster desks
- Event operations
- Esports AV packages
- Union and trade management
- Catering and hospitality
- Experiential integration with RFID integration
- Large format and digital signage
- Merchant activations
- Logistics coordination
- Turnkey services
“The Trade Group is the vendor of record for a large number of activations at esports tournaments. However, we remain virtually invisible at these events, since we work behind the scenes. Our ability to manage these types of projects internally, from the top down, provides not only the obvious benefit of lower pricing – but also the ancillary benefit of time. This means the client gets extra days back in their schedule to make decisions and consider alternatives, while saving money at the same time,” said Hajra.
“We have been entrenched in the gaming and esports industry for several years, before it had any of the cachet it does today. In the industry, we are known for our expertise in esports production. Our clients know they can rely on us to handle all phases of esports events and tournaments.”
If you need assistance creating and hosting a large-scale esports tournament, call The Trade Group at 800-343-2005 and we’ll put our years of experience in this industry to work for you.