“This is our 11th season; we expect that we’ll have a great competition in Oakland,” said George Woo, Intel’s Event Marketing Manager. “We hope that close to 10,000 fans per day will show up.”
Oakland’s Oracle Arena’s got the space for it to spare, and more – the home of the Golden State Warriors is well-equipped to handle crowds of almost any size, even the rampant hordes of Team SoloMid and Team Liquid fans expected to hammer their League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive programs respectively.
Granted, the League of Legends program did take a bit of a hit in prestige – especially given the multitudinous cancels from North American LCS squads working on revamping their rosters in Riot’s official preseason.
The Intel Extreme Masters are the only sanctioned third-party League of Legends circuit – both Garena and Tencent’s respective circuits being subordinate to Riot’s Worlds-centric ecosystem. And given that, IEM’s uniquely positioned with insights on working with two extremely disparate esports styles.
“They’re both great partners,” said Woo about Valve and Riot. “Riot obviously has a stronger esports arm, and certain criterias because of Worlds. It’s always going to be more challenging working with Riot because of their tournament.” Back in 2012, the IEM League of Legends circuit was much like it was with Valve’s events – now “we have a small window between November and first week of January. I know that Poland [IEM Katowice] was grandfathered in.”
Valve, of course, is a lot easier to work with – in the sense that, thanks to a lack of a weekly regular circuit or continual season, they’re extremely hands-off. To Woo, IEM’s pride is in their ability to work under either extreme.
“We know that IEM’s the longest-running global [esports] entity in the world,” he said. “We know we don’t get the largest prize purses – but we look at it as like the Wimbledon.” The history and prestige of IEM, along with the expectations of production quality and reliability, still gives the circuit that borne us Moscow 5 a luster unique to itself, and distinct from the regular season.
Still, history and reputation alone is ephemeral in esports, especially with its short memory. So, at Oakland, they’re pulling out a few notable tricks.
Intel, asserts Woo, intends to be at the forefront of virtual reality, and a leader in the space. Especially with esports. Though the information was technically under embargo, he was willing to confirm that there are, in fact, plans to bring virtual reality to the event.
Oakland will have the usual festivities – exhibits, fan-zones, etc. But they’ll also be installing VR concourses and viewing stations throughout the location, broadcasting the event to headsets to enliven the experience.
It’s no mere tech demo, but symptomatic of their investment. Woo wants to bring their works in spectator VR to a major triple-A title “hopefully down the road, in 2 to 3 years.”
And, yes – industry darling Overwatch’s under that spotlight. “All I can say is Overwatch is high on the list; I’m not sure when we’ll include it.”