A day at Intel Extreme Masters
This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM), the longest running global pro gaming tour in the world, at Oracle Arena. I’m a longtime player of League of Legends (LoL), so I was excited to see some of the best players in the world play it up close and personal. IEM Oakland was streamed in 14 languages and reached a peak of 490,000 concurrent viewers from around the globe. There was also a VR livestream for the event with 130,000 more unique viewers engaging in a whole new way — pretty cool!
But being in the middle of the crowd, seated between the commentators and the players, was an awesome experience. There was a palpable sense of excitement in the air. I know for myself, it was great to see Unicorns of Love, the underdog, upset teams like TSM and Flash Wolves to walk away with the IEM trophy.
Much as I loved being at the event and seeing my favorite game played at such a high level, it also drove home just how big eSports are these days. Massive, in fact: 205 million people watched or played eSports in 2014, which, as ESPN helpfully explains, means that “if the eSports nation were actually a nation, it would be the fifth largest in the world.” And growth in the industry shows no signs of slowing down: analysts project that the global eSports market will grow by 43 percent year-over-year from 2015 to 2016, from $325 million to $463 million. By 2019, it will possibly more than double to $1.1 billion. And, as Newzoo points out, mobile will no doubt be huge as eSports become mainstream: “The role that mobile screens play in this will be crucial. We believe that the uptake of mobile games as esports will accelerate…particularly in Asia, as many start-ups intensify their efforts and global mobile players get involved.”
Part of what’s interesting as well is seeing how massive investment, from all over the world, is being channeled into eSports: there was the Amazon acquisition of Twitch back in 2014 to the tune of nearly $1 billion, and last year a Swedish company acquired a majority stake in the well-established eSports company ESL for $87 million. Then there’s the Russian billionaire’s investment of $100 million in Virtus.pro, Russia’s largest eSports company.
So as a fan of LoL and eSports, and as someone whose work supports the gaming industry in general, it was great to be at IEM. I can’t wait to go to another IEM event, and I’m watching the development of the eSports industry — including how it unfolds on mobile — closely.