Intel just capped off its tenth year in eSports with its biggest event ever. The Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) World Championship in Katowice, Poland attracted over 113,000 fans to Spodek Arena over the course of the event from March 4 to 6.
That’s up 8% over last year, thanks in part to an expanded IEM Expo featuring 43 booths from gaming companies and other partners interested in the gamer audience.
But the real benefit for Intel, as well as all of the sponsors involved in this mammoth eSports event, was the online audience.
ESL, which produces IEM, expanded its live-streaming reach for the first time with this event. Fans were able to watch the video game action in 26 languages across 14 platforms, including Twitch, Hitbox, Azubu, and new eSports entry Yahoo.
Nik Adams, senior vice president of sales and business development at ESL, boasts the gaming network produces world-class eSports content with the intent to ensure it reaches as many people as it possibly can. One of the ways it plans to achieve that is by targeting new audiences.
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“Cross-platform live-streaming brings the content to new verticals, such as local sports sites,” says Adams. “eSports is ready for the real sports fan, as we already see viewership and popularity on both reaching the same levels -- factors that help us bring our sport to the next level. When you look at the last 15 years of eSports history, and in particular the production quality, sponsor involvement, global reach and audience, you will notice that the quality and level of entertainment have always gone up with an audience boost. It won't be different this year, when once again we will see multiple ESL events breaking industry records and the production value reaching a new high.”
The IEM World Championship also kicked off a new "Diversity in eSports" initiative between Intel and ESL, featuring a female CS:GO tournament. Ubisoft also partnered with ESL to launch its Rainbow Six Siege Pro League.
Over 34 million unique viewers tuned in to the IEM World Championship broadcasts matched by over two million estimated peak concurrent viewers across multiple viewing platforms. This viewership represents a 32% and 25% rise, respectively, compared to last year’s corresponding events.
The end of the IEM pro-gaming tour crowned three champions on the main stage in Spodek Arena: SK Telecom T1 in League of Legends, Fnatic in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Polt in StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void.
Over $5.5 million in prize money has been awarded at IEM events in the last decade, with over $500,000 given out at the IEM World Championship in Katowice alone.
At IEM Katowice, ESL streamed five stages. Adams notes each stage was localized to at least one additional language by the crew on the ground. That was on top of supporting up to 20 languages through partners or ESL local offices.
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Overall, this year's IEM championship was the largest yet—not to mention the biggest ESL event as well. As the largest eSports provider worldwide, ESL already runs over 18 different eSports leagues and tournaments.
On top of the live-streaming exposure, the event broke all ESL engagement records on social media. ESL and IEM’s Twitter and Facebook accounts clocked over 3.2 million engagements with impressions in the hundreds of millions. Nearly 1,000 posts reached well over 30 million unique users on Twitter and Facebook over the course of the event.
IEM has visited five continents with 58 events over the last decade. As just one example of eSports meteoric growth, IEM's first season topped out at around 500,000 video sessions. Season 10 exceeded 132.3 million video sessions.