At New York Comic Con, I was able to speak with George Woo, the Program Manager of Intel Extreme Masters, the branch of Intel that focuses on supporting and promoting eSports worldwide. Intel has been a supporter of eSports for more than 12 years, and Woo made it clear during our conversation that he's confident it's not only here to stay, but that eSports has strong potential to conquer the market in the years to come.
Intel influences eSports at a high level. In addition to hosting massive tournaments for games such as StarCraft 2 or League of Legends, Intel also contributes gaming technology and user gear to eSports players. While the company obviously is interested in promoting and advertising their technology, Woo made it clear that they're also interested in providing eSports players with the highest quality technology available, to help promote eSports and push it to be the highest quality content that it can be.
While eSports has been around for over a decade, the last two or three years have seen a major rise in the content's popularity, at least in part due to the major promotional efforts of companies such as Intel. While years ago spectator eSports was something of a niche interest, professional gaming has recently changed radically, with the League of Legends LCS World Championship selling out the Staples Center earlier this month. eSports has become much akin to football or baseball, with shoutcasters, replay screens, and advertisement-laden UI. This has helped to bridge the gap between generations, making the video game visuals more familiar to more removed viewers, and helping to bring eSports into the mainstream.
Woo and Intel Extreme Masters are dedicated to continuing the growth and promotion of eSports on an international level, and while it's progress is definitely visible, there is still much work to be done.
"In China, they consider it a sport," Woo said. "In Korea, they consider it a sport. In America...well we're not quite there yet. There's not really a strong hold on this market yet, and I'm not really sure there's ever going to be."
Because the market of competitive gaming is so filled in the American region by sports, eSports companies still have many hurdles to cross. One suggestion he had is to gain the support of major corporate sponsors. "The next step [for growth in eSports] is getting larger, lifestyle brands like Coca Cola...to see that this is something, not just games. I hope that someday this can be something like the X-Games that is covered by a major global sporting network."