Last year, the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) – World Championship, held in Katowice, Poland, was attended by 173,000 fans. That’s up from the 113,000 that attended the year before. (It also became the most streamed esports event in history with 46 million unique viewers.) This year’s event drew 169,000 attendees.
While IEM may be the gold standard when it comes to attendance, it is not an outlier. Esports tournaments and events routinely attract tens of thousands of in-person spectators (not to mention the number of online eyeballs).
So, what is it that drives esports fans to these events? Why do they follow a particular game, team, player, or competition? Well, according to recent research by Nielsen, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise, there are a variety of answers to those questions.
- Hope to learn tips and tricks from the pros (29 percent)
- Interested in improving their own gaming skills (28 percent)
- Experience the competitive nature of esports (28 percent)
- Just a fun way to spend some time (28 percent)
- Experience games and gaming in a new and different way (26 percent)
With such a wide and diverse set of reasons for enjoying and attending esports events, you cannot expect that a one-size-fits-all approach to your experiential marketing and engagement techniques will work.
Know Your Audience
What? You already know your audience, right? Male, late teens to early 30s, blah, blah, blah.
Would you be surprised to learn that’s not true? Well, not entirely. Okay, it’s kinda true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Yes, at 71 percent the esports audience is disproportionately male, but that leaves a 29 percent female audience that is equally as passionate as their male counterparts, and there are not many people speaking to them. Putting a focus on female esports fans could be quite profitable and few companies are availing themselves of the opportunity.
Also, esports fans and demographics do not neatly translate from game to game. Just because someone is a fan of League of Legends does not mean that they are an NBA 2K fan as well.
So, if you are going to engage with the esports crowd, you need to know the community and who is most likely to attend this event. You know that the event is likely to attract a large crowd – that’s great, but it also means that their expectations are going to be through the roof. You just need to look at past esports events to see what the audience will expect you to exceed.
This is one of those areas where your audience expects you to put your very best foot forward. No one want to watch an esports tournament played on antiquated, laggy gear. The majority of folks in the audience are tech-savvy enough to quickly spot the differences between equipment. Which is all the more reason to showcase the latest and greatest hardware and software. Not only will it boost the perception of your presentation, sales may see a boost.
Additionally, all of the equipment need to be working in sync. If one computer, console, monitor, or controller lags, it gives opponents an unfair advantage. And every game needs to be running on the same settings. Even the slightest shift in a setting can change the game and give advantages to players. For example, maybe an advanced lighting effect allows one player to see the enemy a quarter of a second before another player. Believe it or not, that quarter of a second can make a difference.
The more you can make an attendee feel like they are a part of an esports event, the more likely they are to feel positive toward your brand. One of the most exciting methods for encouraging interactivity is multi-sensory experiences. These engagements are designed to integrate as many senses as possible: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. We remember events better and appreciate them more when multiple senses are engaged.
A way to put a twist on a multi-sensory experience is to actively remove one sense in order to heighten the others. An example would be a dining in the dark event, where the lights are turned off so the scent of the food, the clink of the dishware, and the taste of the meal, etc., are all heightened.
An example of an esports multi-sensory experience is The Riftwalk, an immersive experience that took fans through a physical simulation of many aspects of League of Legends.
This exhibition made its first appearance in 2016 at PAX East in Boston. It then toured to each location of the 2016 League of Legend’s World Championships: the kickoff in Toronto, Canada; the two-week group stage event in San Francisco, the quarterfinals in Chicago; the semifinals in New York; and the 2016 World Championship Tour Finals in Los Angeles.
Fans waited hours for a chance to tour The Riftwalk. Before entering the exhibition, visitors were given a bracelet containing a microchip. These RFID wristbands allowed attendees to reserve spots in advance, register their favorite character, and share their favorite parts of the game by filling out information online. During the event, the RFID wristbands would trigger monitors in each station of the exhibit and present content related to the attendee’s registered information – allowing fans to share their experiences on social media.
The Riftwalk took fans on a snaking path through the Summoner’s Rift, the main battleground map where League of Legends matches take place. The journey included several photo opportunities:
- An animated GIF at the Blue Platform, which allowed visitors to choose from a variety of prop weapons.
- A 180-degree, bullet-time video featuring a 14.5-foot Baron Nashor sculpture.
- A slow-motion video at the Red Platform.
- A 13-foot Thresh puppet where forced perspective would make fans appear as if they were standing inside Thresh’s signature lantern.
The visitor’s RFID wristband connected to each of these photo ops. The final product was edited together and sent to attendee emails as a professional quality video.
The Riftwalk also included a museum of physical recreations of weapons that are used in the game plus a gallery of artwork.
Here’s the interesting thing: half of the art pieces were created by Riot Games while half were created by the community. In fact, according to Jess Frucht, the Creator Support Program Manager at Riot Games, about 50 percent of The Riftwalk content was provided by the community. That includes some of the show-stopping pieces like a huge Thresh puppet that was created by a team of cosplayers and professionals.
What The Riftwalk achieved was a way to promote League of Legends while embracing and celebrating the fan culture that has grown around the game. Finding ways to organically include esports fans in promotions will increase your value to their sport.
What sort of sharable moments are you going to present to your crowd? It is essential that you generate buzz that lives beyond the gameplay.
Photo ops are one idea. These are a big hit with gamers, especially when they include “life-size” creatures or characters from the featured game. For example, at PAX West 2017, for the Shadow of War exhibit, fans could take pictures with a large, “rideable,” 3D dragon, while Studio Wildcard’s Ark Survival Unleashed exhibit had a 10-foot “rideable” raptor and a massive, 30-foot T-Rex, which was a fan favorite.
Fans loved taking photos with these creatures and regularly shared them on social media. The T-Rex was so popular that #PAXRex trended on Twitter. For some additional tips on engaging with the audience at esports events, give eGency Global a call at 972-323-6354.