As the power of the internet and computers continue to revolutionize industries, the reach has proven to have no boundaries. While communications and socializing were the first to witness technological disruption, others have remained resilient and are feeling the effects now. Sports is one such industry where technology has taken more time before changing people’s perception of sports events. However, the e-sports industry has witnessed rapid growth in the last decade fueled by increased computerization of traditional and modern games and a rise in the generation of computer game enthusiasts. This has led to the emergence of e-sports companies seeking to bring together gaming lovers in organized gaming events.
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DreamHack is one such Swedish company that organizes competitions in Europe and South Korea, helping bring together hundreds of thousands of professional computer gamers and fans while millions watch online through broadcast videos. The company was founded in 1994 with the key focus of building the largest digital lifestyle. To achieve this goal, the company has focused on creating the largest LAN parties in addition to computer festivals that help gamers and digital natives not only compete for amongst themselves but also build relationships over the internet. Every year, the company hosts a raft of gaming festivals, mainly in Europe and North America. In addition, it does broadcast gaming events over the internet in addition to managing productions of global e-sport games. DreamHack was founded in Sweden with its headquarters in Stockholm. Since 2015, however, the company was acquired by Modern Times Group. The company events comprise of major five events. First, it holds e-sport festivals where thousands of gamers are supplied with exceptionally high internet speeds but are required to bring own equipment. The company also holds gaming competitions where gamers compete for a price with total prize pools being as huge as 300,000 euros. Other competitions that the company hosts include digital arts competitions and live concerts. In 2015, the DreamHack held their e-sport in the event, attracting 104,000 visitors. As such, events grow to rival football and athletics sports events, the role of sponsors, impact on tourism in the destination countries, and security for participants and attendees.
Role of Sponsors
During the DreamHack London 2015, Eventbrite, Razer, HyperX, and EIZO were the main sponsors for the event. An underlying question about the role of sponsors in esports events is what value they deliver as Boucher (2017). While it may seem that supporting companies are just looking to market themselves, they play a crucial role in helping expand the prize, making it possible for the event holders to increase the category of games. For instance, DreamHack 2015 London event was meant to secure the winning team a $40,000 prize (Clift, 2015). Consequently, there were limited categories that competition participants would take part in. However, the sponsors helped increase the price pool to $200,000, making it possible to have five different categories where people could compete (DreamHack, 2015).
On the other hand, event attendees benefit from Eventbrite being one of the event co-sponsors. By being part of the event, Eventbrite was made the exclusive partner who would handle ticket sales. Consequently, event attendees had an easy time paying for their tickets as they could do so online from the comfort of their homes. In additional competition, participants had an easier time enrolling for the competition as the same was possible through Eventbrite’s Android and iOS applications. Overall, sponsors do add value to the sports by helping widen the prize pool for the top teams in addition to paying stipends to competition participants who did not emerge victoriously.
Lastly, sponsors play a crucial role in e-sports by helping creating the awareness and help build legitimacy of e-sports as true sports. Participants in esports are likely to benefit more depending on number of audience that video game draws. In any case, e-sports companies holds video game tournaments for profit purposes. As long as e-sports remains a niche game attracting youths with little to no disposable income, number of sponsors will remain limited to manufacturers of video game equipment’s and video game makers. With higher number of sponsors, however, Nicholas (2017) observes that gaming companies will raise more revenue needed to support aggressive marketing campaign geared towards popularizing esports. Such an approach will help participants secure better paying awards since revenue from gaming competition is the main source of prizes won by participants.
Suitability of the Venue and Impact on Tourism
Dreamhack London 2015 was held in Copper Box Arena. The venue is ideal for e-sports since it is constructed for indoor sports meant to hand different types of games such as modern pentathlon, Olympics, Paralympics, basketballs, and numerous other sports. The venue is located in Hackney Wick in London with easy access to high-speed networks needed to support bandwidth-hungry games and, subsequently, online streaking of the ongoing games for online fans. Dite (2019) proposes the key features that an ideal e-sports venue should feature. Chief among them is a sitting arrangement and proximity relative to a movie theatre. Similar is the design of the copper box arena, where a central pitch is surrounded by different levels of sitting arrangement with multiple lighting coming from the roof of the arena. Such an arrangement makes the venue ideal for attendees who can watch ongoing matches in giant screens mounted at appropriated angles.
The event’s implication for local tourism has significant, with the event attracting over 50,000 visitors, including players, according to DreamHack. This is not counting millions of people who watched the event online. During the games, visitors had time to visit key tourist destinations in London, including Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, British Museum, and the national gallery. Therefore, companies in tours and travel and the destination themselves witnessed a lot for traffic and potential future customers who could have fallen in love with London. In addition, the event drew London’s attention to millions of viewers who may develop an interest in visiting the city and country in the future.
Turtle Entertainment Hub (2014) offers a different perspective on the effects of esports on tourism in the event location. Recalling the GSL Season 2 Finals held in South Korea, the article notes that other than love for esports, the author has had no interest in visiting the country as South Korea is not known for tourism. While the event attracted less than 50 followers, the event was one of the pioneer events at time video games started emerging as a sport. A major contribution of esports to domestic tourism proposed by Turtle Entertainment Hub (2014) is increased in traffic as people are willing to go to lengths to watch a sports competition live if finances allow. In 2011, for instance, more than 1 million people who visited did so because of football. With major Europa league matches held in different cities in the U.K, the country has witnessed growth in tourism revenue. This shows that fans are ready to push themselves financially just to show support for their major teams or players. Alike, esports has resulted in video game superstars such as Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, whose online name is PewDiePie, whose channel of YouTube has garnered more than 100 million subscribers. Surprisingly, despite the popularity of traditional games such as football, none of the channels manage to attract online followership like that of video gamers who stream their games on YouTube. Therefore, when such gamers are taking part in esports, they will, in the future attract a huge number of visitors who will not only increase tourism to the location of the event but also boost the local economy through personal expenditure. Consequently, as esports gain popularity, games of the future will happen over the internet though powerful game consoles. As esports events increase, the number of tourists will increase as visitors spread their experiences in their social circles.
The implication of the Design on Event Experience
Dite (2019) offers some insights on design considerations that could help improve the overall event experience. First, the sitting arrangement should be made in such a manner as to mimic a movie theatre. Creating such an environment creates an engaging environment since most games will be shared on a screen. Secondly, Dite (2019) suggests including additional content that could give e-sports games fans a reason to stay glued to games lasting for days. For most online consumers of media or information, they tend to have short concentration time. Additional content will help them remain glued to the game for days. Lastly, Dite (2019) observes that focusing on offering an immersive experience is more appealing to an online consumer of games compared to one following sports from a traditional stadium. An immersive experience helps create an environment that makes a gaming fan feel they are part of the environment. Using 3D screens could give fans watching the games online or from outside arenas feel more connected to the game hence improving the overall experience (Jenny et al., 2018).
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Dosh (2019) contributes to the debate on how the design of e-sport venues of the future should be like. While esports are vastly different than traditional sports, esports organizers continue to rely on the same top-down approach to design. Such a design was ideal for traditional sports where fans connect with the games not by moves or strategy but by scores, mainly in terms of goals or points (Bull, 2018). Subsequently, fans did not require an immersive experience. Video games, however, quite different. Fans celebrate moves and ingenuity of the player in overcoming insurmountable hurdles. Consequently, there is a need for screens all over the venue to ensure fans can follow games sept by step. Top-down venues deny the fans this experience since displays are center hung hence taking action from the eye level of spectators (Bull, 2018). Such a venue tires the fans who have to endure prolonged times watching video games at screens that meters way from their eye level. Consequently, changing the sitting arrangements is proposed by Dosh (2019). The sports venues of the future should feature tiered venues where screens can be put at each tier, making sure that displays will be in the line of sight of the fans without the need to loom up. Such an approach, Dosh (2019) notes, will help increase the time fans spend in gaming competition in line with the goal of event organizers.
While discussing new arena arising from esports, Spivak (2019) emphasizes the need to incorporate future technology that makes virtual games and virtual reality experience for esports fans a reality. As opposed to traditional games where fans enjoy a real connection to the game by being in the same field, virtual reality makes esport fans feel like they are in the world of the video game. Along this line, Spivak (2019) suggests that architects should become more creative in designing esport venues to allow relaying of event data in expressive ways with the help of augmented reality. Such an approach would elevate video games experience in esports tournaments to a level that pushes the fans to want more.
Security for participants arises from both physical security and cybersecurity since most e-sports happen over the internet (Help Net Security, 2019; Osborne, 2019). From a physical standpoint, holding the events in bigger venues could help allay any fear since such events do have baseline security (Smith, 2018; RealSport, 2018). DreamHack London 2015 took place in Copper Box Arena. The venue enjoys baseline security, which helped allay any fears from external events. However, e-sports held in smaller venues where there is little security enforcement raises security questions for the participants. Such was the case in 2018 after a shooter stormed in into a Madden NFL 19 game tournament and opened fire, killing 3 people (Smith, 2018; Osborne, 2019). Where e-sports are held in venues with no baseline security, hiring private security to control weapons into the stadium would help improve participant’s security. On the other hand, gaming sports should focus on cybersecurity as the value of the industry climbs into hundreds of billions, as Miller (2019) observes. Most e-sport games are delivering using digital platforms such as Steam, which boasts of over 125 million users. Kaspersky Antivirus brought to light that hackers had stolen account credentials for over 77,000 of steam members. Such security issues call for e-sport organizers to invest in the best IT security services to prevent cyber threats that could occur during major events.
As video games continue to resonate with millennials and generation Z players, the importance of e-sports will only continue to grow. With the industry now surpassing $100 billion valuations, future e-sports events will only be bigger. Central to these sports are sponsors who will help improve the rewards hence attracting professional players. Further, with growing popularity, future e-sports events will be vital to host countries by boosting tourism and local industries. Compared to today, where e-sport holders have shown laxity to security, investments in cybersecurity and physical security during events will be crucial in allaying any security fear or attendees and participants.
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