Big e-sports event coming to Silicon Valley

You had to know that “e-sports” were big when Amazon and Google were both vying to buy video-game streaming service Twitch.tv for $1 billion each. But if you want further evidence, consider the latest event announced Tuesday for the SAP Center, the 18,000-seat sports arena in downtown San Jose.

It’s the Intel Extreme Masters tournament, set for Dec. 6-7, which will pit teams playing League of Legends and StarCraft video games against each other – in front of fans who will be packed (or so the sponsors hope) into an arena that’s usually the scene of rock concerts and NHL Sharks games.

Twitch, which is in the process of being acquired by Amazon, says it will stream the tournament live to an estimated 4.5 million viewers. The streaming service is already one of the fastest-growing video sites on the Internet.

That’s a lot more people than you can cram into your living room to cheer you on while you play that first-person shooter game with friends.

Live video-game tournaments have been drawing big crowds, with major brand sponsors and big-money prizes, in recent years. As the New York Times reported recently, this year’s League of Legends world championship is expected to draw a crowd of 40,000 to 50,000 at a soccer stadium in South Korea, where gaming enthusiasm is really big.

The San Jose event won’t be that big, but it will be a first for the SAP Center. And organizers hope it will be one of the largest U.S. events for a growing industry. “This is the new frontier,” said Michal Blicharz, an executive at gaming league ESL, in a statement announcing the event Tuesday.

(Image of SAP Arena from ESL)

 

 

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