First Australian Intel Extreme Masters (IEM)

Although eSports is a relatively young industry, it’s growing fast and brings a host of specific event requirements for the teams, their fans and the media who cover them.

Populous is heavily engaged in the eSports conversation around the globe. From our recent collaboration at SXSW looking at the potential of the industry to transform the entertainment landscape, through to discussions with those staging the events, our designers are taking an active interest in both the creation of specific venues and the transformation of existing ones.

Ahead of the inaugural Australian Intel Extreme Masters (IEM), taking place in Sydney over the weekend of May 6-7, we spoke to Nick Vanzetti, Managing Director of ESL Australia about their venue requirements and future events Down Under.

IEM is part of the legendary eSports global pro-gaming tour and most Australian eSports fans have never seen an eSports event of this scale, especially in our own backyard. What are you looking for in a venue when holding an event of this size?

Infrastructure is a big one, with the venue needing decent internet and indoor capacity. Does a venue have the ability to provide a great viewing experience for our content? Essentially, how do we turn this space into a rock concert for eSports?

We have a huge list of technical requirements, but number one is the viewing experience, which is not just focused on-stage where the players are, but on the screens, which provide the audience with all of their information. The inter-relationship of these is paramount, with us needing to ensure that every fan is able to get a complete view of the game.

We’ve done a lot of touring pieces over the last 5 years and developed an extensive knowledge of what sort of back-of-house spaces we need in order to execute an event such as IEM. So despite the range of sporting venues or places that can accommodate the scale of our events, there are currently only 1 or 2 arenas in the major cities that fit the requirements for eSport events of this scale.

Coming off the huge success of IEM Oakland, which saw a peak of 490,000 concurrent viewers, and the situation of live sport having to increasingly compete with the attraction of at-home viewing by fans, how does ESL provide a unique in-seat fan experience compared to other sporting leagues?

Similar to how we’ve done IEM’s, the main arena content is 6-8 hours long, as opposed to other sporting events where the content is 2-3 hours. So we have to put a lot of thought into the spectator experience beyond that of the central gaming action.

As soon as fans walk in the door we’ll have a huge range of consumer gaming experiences on offer. The Intel Experience Zone will showcase the latest games and VR-ready hardware on a range of free-to-play machines.

The tech scene loves getting involved with huge eSports events like this, with hardware manufacturers setting up exhibition spaces and getting involved, typically with giveaways and side events during the weekend to keep crowds entertained.

The eSports demographic and the VR enthusiast demographic overlap considerably; so it’s an opportune time for developers and hardware manufactures to exhibit their works to their target audience.

What are the plans to grow ‘ESL’s AU & NZ Championship’ and will any of the championship finals be held at IEM Sydney?

We’ve announced recently that The ESL AU & NZ Rocket League Finals will be held on the community stage at IEM Sydney and a free-to-play area will be open to spectators during the event.

We’re hoping to showcase Australian talent on the community stage with more exhibition matches to be announced in the coming week.

IEM will definitely be a place where we can generate publicity for upcoming ESL championship matches. Hopefully we’ll see a boost in viewer numbers for the Overwatch & Counter Strike ESL AU & NZ Championships which are held a few weeks after IEM Sydney.

Will we see another IEM or ESL related events on Australian shores in the near future?

It is our long-term vision for IEM Sydney to be a recurring feature of the Australian eSports calendar. And we’ll be working hard to see that Australia secures more world class eSports events in the future.

For more on the future of eSports and the ways a venue can purpose built or transformed to create memorable experiences contact Jake Martin or Chris Paterson.

Photos courtesy of ESL

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