Competitive gaming is perhaps the biggest cultural phenomenon of our time that the average person knows nothing about. The scope of esports is larger than ever before, as games like “League of Legends,” “DOTA 2” and “Street Fighter V” pull in millions of players, but also a growing and loyal viewing audience.
Last year’s Evolution EVO World Championship in ‘Street Fighter V’ broadcasted on ESPN 2, live from the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, drawing in over 200,000 live viewers. This year’s SXSW Gaming Expo hopes to capitalize on the growing intrigue towards professional competitive gaming by bringing the fighting game community’s biggest stars to the Austin stage, as well as giving hopeful amateur competitors a chance at glory.
The Fighters Underground invitational tournament in “Street Fighter V” is a collaboration between SXSW and Twitch, as an attempt to expose a new audience to the commentary, stage and electric atmosphere that fighting games are known for. SXSW gaming coordinator Estevan Aviles sees a chance for cross-pollinations between other industries and their fans to learn about why esports are on the rise.
SXSW is a convergence of several industries, and what it does best is take up and coming stars within those industries and present them in bite-sized packages,” said Aviles in an interview at the event.. “Then, stars from other industries experience these things and take something new.”
Fighters Underground 2017 features 20 of the biggest names in fighting games today, including former world champions Justin Wong and Luffy, Ricki Ortiz and Houston, Texas native Adeel “FourWude” Soomro. A $20,000 purse awaits the winner of the invitation-only tournament.
If seeing the biggest names in esports isn’t enough, SXSW is also giving the chance for amateur players to test their mettle on the field of digital battle. Teaming up with the Swedish-based gaming festival Dreamhack, SXSW created the PC arena where badge-holders could game for free on the newest and best technology, or sign up for tournaments — with bragging rights and money at stake.
The “Rocket League” 2 on 2 open tournament featured the hit game best described as cars playing soccer and a $5,000 prize pool, while also being featured on the livestreaming service Twitch.TV. Other tournaments included a team-based “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” tournament and a “League of Legends” event with over 12 teams and 60 players total.
Whether you’re a fan of seeing professionals at work or were looking to find a spotlight of your own, the 2017 SXSW Gaming Expo was the place to discover the magic that is esports.
Replays of the PC arena tournament events are at https://www.twitch.tv/sxswgamingtournaments. The Fighters Underground 2017 tournament replays are at https://www.twitch.tv/sxswgamingesports, with the grand finals on Saturday from noon to 4:35 p.m. More information about the SXSW Gaming Expo: https://www.sxsw.com/exhibitions/gaming-expo/.