Technology has come a long way since the whir of the cassette wheels were a pre-cursor to starting up a computer game, or the `70’s when “Pong” was the number one game to place. Now we have a 17 year old playing a computer game and becoming a dollar millionaire, and he didn’t even win the competition
In those days most games were single player in that one person at a time took to the console and racked up a score that the next player could try to outscore.
Nowadays were are in the multiplayer mode where hundreds of people can complete with or against each other, linked together via the dear old internet. “Esports” is the collective title for organized, multiplayer video game competitions,
So how did a teenager suddenly become so rich, because it isn’t just because he can press a button faster that someone else?
Alongside side the evolution of the gaming world, there are also people who enjoy the participation, but are not really good enough to compete at the same level as the best of the players, but they enjoy watching the game being played, in much the same way as people at football/tennis/rugby matches will watch on.
This is where the clever bit comes in.
To quote from the Weaver web site (Weavr.tv) “Weavr is a technology platform that uses live and historic data to create meaningful and personalised mixed-reality experiences for esports and sports fans, powers the creation of data-driven content, and opens up commercial opportunities for brands and teams. It lets fans move between physical and virtual viewing, see the stories they want and be immersed like never before.”
Remember the Pokémon phenomenon of a few years ago where people were using their mobile phones to “capture” characters that were invisible to the human eye, but were mixed with the real life information? Known as “augmented reality (AR)” that is one of the several strands of technology that Weavr are developing so as to bring a new way of presenting entertainment to you.
If anyone is unsure of whether or not there is a demand for esports, over 113,000 people visited the Spodek arena in Katowice, Poland for an esports event held over one weekend in 2016 and in turn was watched remotely by over 34 million gaming fans.
Esports generated £400m in revenue in 2016, has a global audience of about 320 million. It is expected to generate more than £1bn in global revenue and almost double its audience to nearly 600 million people by 2020. (*1)
So the concepts have been tried and tested, the market and the associated sponsorship, advertising etc. are available, so what are the next moves?
Weavr has been set up with the ambition to weave (hence the name) various strands together, such as AR, 360 video immersion and stereoscopic vision plus a touch of artificial intelligence, into one package of information that a user can then tailor to their own preferences.
The Birmingham Arena was used last May to host the ESL Birmingham event, where the first test of the WEAVR App and was deemed by James Dean (ESL UK, CEO & Weavr CEO) to be a great success for that stage of development. Three other demonstrations are planned with the next one being in Hamburg in October 2019 where the Weaver app will be made available to the public for the first time
Initially rolled out for the android operating system, it will be become available to all mobile platforms.
Clearly the UK Government sees the potential in this as they have provided Weavr with matched funding of about £6m from the Department of Digital, Media Culture and Sports (DMCS)
Non-gamers may think that this new technology lark is not for them, but one of the 6 collaborators in this project dock10 (other include REWIND, Focal Point VR, the University of York and Cybula) have already been extensively involved with the production of Match of the Day, though my suggestion of an “Alan Shearer” filter button does not seem to have been taken seriously.
Similarly, in December 2019 Amazon will exclusively host a full fixture list of Premiership matches, away Sky and BT Sport. How we choose to view entertainment is evolving rapidly and Weaver wants to be at the forefront of the market.
To satisfy the worldwide interest that exists for esports, new infrastructure is required in this country, whether it be stadiums to host events (and there may be a surprise announcement in the next few months), data networking or software developers. Along those lines, the development of a partnership via Vodafone in relation to the 5G network is currently being explored. Having noted that point, quite a bit of clever “cloud computing” goes on to ensure that the user experience will not be hindered by limited data capacity.
For the gamers themselves, the stereotypical images of people sat in a darkened room surrounded by empty pizza boxes are being confined to the past. Dieticians and physicians are increasingly prevalent as competitors seek to get an edge over each other. Winners are also required to take drugs tests. Whether or not that is to prove they are imbibing was not confirmed.
The ambition of the people behind esports is considerable. Discussions are ongoing to enter esports into the Paris 2024 as a demonstration sport, with an entry into the 2022 Asian Games as a medal event.
For the team behind Weavr, their ambitions will be equally high. After all, why only use the app for esports when a move into the “real” sporting world is just as feasible?
ESL, formerly known as Electronic Sports League, is an esports organizer and production company that produces video game competitions worldwide.
Words & Images – Ged Noonan