Esports Needs Live Events
Photo by Joe Sloan for Checkpoint XP
In the world of esports you have 16 year old “Bhuga” winning a $3 Million prize pot at the Fortnite World Cup and Streaming Megastars like Ninja signing exclusive deals between billion dollar corporations and yet for some people, the idea of live video game events boggles the mind. Why travel hundreds (or thousands in some cases) miles and spend wads of money to watch a video game on a bigger screen? No one ever bats an eye when presented with the chance to attend a live sporting event like Football or Baseball. Why is it perceived to be so different? Because ‘live sporting events’ have people on the field and video games are ‘still just on a screen’?
Anyone who has ever been to a basketball game or a hockey game will tell you that it’s about the energy in the stadium, it’s the experience of being there in the crowd. It’s that electric feeling of hundreds or thousands of fans all sharing the same moment of triumph or defeat. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with whether or not the action you’re following is living athletes on a field or digital warriors on a massive screen.
What defines these events and makes them worth the trip and the cost of admission is the experience and believe it or not, it’s the esports scenes that are redefining what it means to create and host a live event. As traditional sports struggle more and more to fill their stadiums, organizations like the LCS and the Overwatch League are drawing increasingly bigger crowds. One of the hurdles that the esports scene doesn’t have to contend with just yet is worrying about keeping people in attendance week over week, but the Overwatch League will take on that challenge as well starting in the 2020 Season.
When looking at the scale of their yearly marquee events such as the LCS Summer Split Finals, there is nothing else quite like it. When talking to Devin Murphy of the LCS, he says these events are planned out a year in advance with increasingly more funds poured into the fan experience. They’re not just focusing on what you see on the screen for the event, but what you experience around you as well.
That’s a smart move when you take the to analyze what engages the millennial demographic. They know exactly what it is they want and part of it is genuine experiences. Gamers and nerd culture as a whole embrace their fandoms like no other group before them. So when you arrive at the LCS Summer Split, you’re not just grabbing a hotdog and a soda and heading straight for your seat to await the action. You’re hitting the team stores to buy everything from a Jersey, to a Jynx Statue to a replica Teemo hat. You’re taking pictures with cosplayers so real it’s as if they stepped right out of your screen. You’re standing in line to take pictures with your favorite teams and players, getting autographs, trying to take on legends like Tyler1 in Pros vs Joes.
The experience that is provided off the field is just as important as that which is provided on the field. In the end, the naysayers to live esports events aren’t entirely inaccurate when they say “you can get the same thing on screen at home that you get by going there in person.” Which is why organizations like Riot and the LCS are focusing on giving fans what they expect from a traditional live sporting event and adding their own unique flair to it. Fans are coming to expect unique, unforgettable moments and experiences for their time and money at huge events at the LCS Summer Splits. As the esports industry and scene continues to grow and brings in more eyes and more dollars, it’s going to get bigger and better.
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