Game on - the age of the professional gamer and we're no strangers to esports

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Written by: Ed Tischler

On Saturday 4 August, 18-year-old Saudi Arabian gamer ‘MSDossary’ walked away from the FIFA eWorld Cup $250,000 richer. Hosted at London’s O2 Arena, the event was live-streamed around the world on Twitch, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and FIFA’s own platform, and was the culmination of a virtual championship that began with a global pool of some 20 million entrants. If anyone had any doubt about the rise and rise of competitive gaming, it’s time for a rethink.

At Gearhouse Broadcast, we’re no strangers to eSports. We’ve been active in this market since the outset, having been one of the first facilities companies to work out how to bring a game into a TV workflow – including overcoming the challenge of region-specific encoding. Ever since, we’ve been an integral part of an incredible success story, supporting the likes of Microsoft, Activision and EA Games at some of the industry’s biggest live gaming events.

Of those, the Call of Duty World League Championship Final in 2016 is one of the most memorable. Call of Duty is the most successful FPS franchise in gaming history, and similarly one of the most fiercely contested pro tournaments. The 2016 World League Championship was held at the 17,500-seat Forum in Inglewood, California from September 1st to 4th, 2016. The tournament would determine the World Champions for the Call of Duty: Black Ops III season, and the prize pool of $2 million was the largest prize pool in Call of Duty eSports history. $800,000 went to the winning team.

Consistently outstripping all other media – books, film, music, games – in terms of sales, Call of Duty is big business. With lifetime earnings for the franchise way over the $10 billion mark, it’s understandable why Activision would want to reach out to its fanbase and turn gaming into a physical as well as virtual experience.

Gearhouse was commissioned to supply the broadcast facilities for the 2016 event, live-streaming the event across the Xbox, Twitch and YouTube platforms. It was a high-spec broadcast set-up that not only required 14 cameras and a core crew of 30+, but also signalled the first use of our SkyTechno 360 camera – the world’s only all-axes, 24-foot underslung tracking techno jib. With no obstructed views, no seats taken up and impossible shots made possible, it was the perfect piece of kit for the futuristic gaming environment.

All the feeds were sent to one of our mobile units outside the arena, and we worked closely with eSports organiser Major League Gaming (MLG) to push out all the qualifying feeds, as well as the prime footage from the ‘hero stage’ – a raised gaming platform at the front of the arena, where the best matches were also displayed on giant screens for the live audience.

Team EnVyUs ran out the eventual winners, with key man John Perez virtually unplayable on all maps, although it was still a reasonable pay-day for runners-up Splyce, who took home $250,000 between them.

With the global pro-gaming market tipped to reach $1bn this year – with a global audience of 350 million – this is clearly an area that is only set to grow. Indeed, the past few years have seen pro tournaments increase in number from around 700 in 2010 to over 3,000 today. Gearhouse Broadcast is delighted to be in amongst it, controllers at the ready.

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