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Peanut Butter and Chocolate of Gaming: VR and eSports Events

Virtual reality (VR) and eSports are starting to meet at an intersection, which will allow tournaments and other events to portray new content in new ways. Imagine tournaments where VR-empowered competitive gamers play tournaments in more immersive environments, while their audiences watch the action on the big screens — or perhaps in VR themselves? It’s been widely reported how VR has entered a period of adjusted expectations, but a number of companies are invested in the overlap in the eSports and VR Venn diagram. Plus, there seems to be some optimistic views of virtual reality’s potential in rthe mid-to-long run.

Organizations like ESL can certainly see some sort of market possibilities, as does the VR hardware and platform company, Oculus, and Insomniac Games, developer of wizarding combat VR game, The Unspoken.

Following the recent conclusion of a national championship, featuring The Unspoken played on Oculus VR headsets in New York, comes the emergence of a new tournament series for, and about, virtual reality. The VR Challenger League, in partnership with ESL, features, unsurprisingly, The Unspoken and Echo Arena by Ready At Dawn Studios. These games will be featured in online and offline tournaments, and the top players will be seeded into the Intel Extreme Masters tournament at Katowice, Poland in 2018, with a prize pool of over $200,000 in cash.

Intel, a company invested in both VR and eSports, echoes its investments through their eSports Marketing Manager George Woo. Woo reflects on the potential for VR (and 360 video) and eSports in a recent interview with esports pro.

First of all it’s the viewership – last year we had 256 million viewers watching this stuff. That’s supposed to grow to 345 million by 2019. So there’s a huge growth opportunity there.

You’ve got the communities, the competitions are getting better, more digital platforms like Facebook Live and Twitter – this is all spurring the growth of eSports. And then tech companies like ourselves – we’re learning too. We’re learning how to address those audiences and create those amazing experiences, pushing the boundaries of innovation. And this year is all about VR.

We are going to continue to be that leader in VR. Are we going to say we’re going to have eSports in VR next year? No. But what we want to do is get this top of mind, get people experienced with the head units, start with the experience showcases, and the next iteration is broadcast – in which we did League of Legends and CS:GO with Sliver.TV.

If people didn’t have the head sets, they can still see in 360. It’s just getting that option rate higher and faster. The more that happens you get AAA titles, titles that might be more conducive towards eSports that the community gets behind, and so on. And we want to be at the forefront of that. Because we believe that IEM delivers the best VR Gaming streaming content in the world, and you need that with the whole suite of Intel products. It’s a natural fit. That’s why we want to continue to do this.

Companies like Intel, of course are materially invested in the success of eSports and VR. From the enthusiast and influencer media in VR, there is no shortage of opinions on why VR and eSports can succeed. Case in point, from Virtual Reality Pop, discussing the potential of live and remote spectator and participant audiences, funding and more, even predicting a time when this intersection of big businesses could emerge. Also, in the same posts the writer Marcello Miranda acknowledges the relatively small market and shortage of good content, which is almost mandatory.

Right now, there are only a few instances of significant visible corporate intersections between VR and eSports, but ass more games are developed and more technology developed and optimized for a top-notch experience, expect VR-augmented eSports tournaments with more participation, viewership and diverse competitive gaming content to take the stage.

Image credit: Oculus Rift VR

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