As esports streams improve, live stage shows are evolving too

February 11, 2024
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We’ve come a long way from the early days of esports, where video was rare and basic text or audio reports were the only way to follow along with a competition remotely. Now, it’s possible to tune in at home and see a show as professional as any on terrestrial TV, with broadcast talent casting, experts explaining plays and comic interstitial segments to fill downtime and fulfil sponsor obligations – all cut with live views of LAN halls or arena stages showing competitors in the throes of sweet victory or torturous, heart-breaking defeat. Yet the advances in remote viewing can actually discourage live attendance – why spend hours or days travelling to an event in person when you can tune in on your phone, PC or TV anywhere in the world?

Clearly, the answer isn’t to make the online experience worse – it’s to evolve the live show by making it meaningfully different. It was this thought that I was struck with while attending the IEM Katowice Counter-Strike 2 tournament in early February, where it was clear that those attending the arena in person were being rewarded with a unique production that went well beyond the the other esports events I’ve attended in the past from ESL and its rivals.

To differentiate that live experience, tournament organiser and production company ESL is cutting away from the stream more frequently to make room for skits, crowd interaction, giveaways and other content. This makes attending the arena more of an experience and differentiates it from simply watching the stream on a large screen with the sound turned up. These are often helmed by broadcast talent, allowing fans in the arena to actually see the casters normally sequestered away in casting booths overlooking the show floor – and perhaps speak with them before and after the segment in impromptu photo and signing sessions, a nice bonus for those with more expensive tickets on the arena floor.

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