Not everyone can afford a trip to their favorite convention, but companies are steadily improving the at-home experience. That’s what Blizzard has been doing for the past few years with its Virtual Ticket—an online portal that streams content to those that can’t attend the show. With Virtual Ticket access, they can view panels, tournaments and other special events without worrying about missing out on anything.
Blizzard has begun offering this year’s BlizzCon Virtual Ticket, which goes for $39.99 and includes full access to watch November’s event along with a virtual “swag bag” of content for a bevy of Blizzard’s hit games, including Overwatch, World of Warcraft and StarCraft II. Those who purchase the Virtual Ticket will also gain access to physical goods, including a chance to pre-purchase a special BlizzCon Goody Bag, which sells for $35 (plus shipping) and is filled with collectibles. Those that purchase a physical ticket to BlizzCon are also eligible for these perks, so no fans are left behind.
Over the past few years, BlizzCon has provided a hub for tournaments with games like Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and Overwatch. This will no doubt play a huge part in getting the attention of both those attending BlizzCon in person and watching online, especially once its new competitive modes are thrown into the mix. Favorites such as StarCraft II still have a strong international following.
Attendance for the event has dipped slightly over the past year, going down from 26,000 for 2013 and 2014 to 25,000 for 2015, even with the highly anticipated premiere of Overwatch. However, Blizzard should have no trouble rising above this number again, now that Overwatch is out and has become a runaway hit. Additionally, the sixth World of Warcraft expansion, Legion, releases this summer, so there should be plenty to discuss at the convention.
Virtual Ticket has been an essential part of Blizzard’s success with BlizzCon, thanks to exclusive items and the convenience of streaming the show. Around this time last year, the company offered a similar Goody Bag that featured items from Overwatch and Hearthstone, and it sold out almost immediately.
Meanwhile, Valve is ramping up for its annual Dota 2 tournament, The International. The event, set to return to Seattle’s Key Arena next month, is expected to bring in thousands of fans from around the world, along with millions of online viewers. What sets The International apart from many other eSports tournaments is that the prize pool is raised by fans who purchase International Battle Passes. These passes offer in-game goods such as emoticons and seasonal special features while raising the prize pool. So far, the prize has reached $18.4 million, and it continues to grow. Bundles start at $9.99, and they can be “leveled up” incrementally with boosters, or fans can purchase the premium Level 50 bundle for $26.99. Reaching prize pool milestones unlocks new rewards for Dota 2 players to enjoy.
Having an invested fan base really pays off, as Valve has had no trouble maintaining a strong audience over the years. The 2014 International tournament attracted an audience of over 20 million viewers worldwide with a peak of around 2 million concurrent viewers. Even though official numbers weren’t reported for the 2015 tournament, it’s estimated that the event reached over 4.6 million concurrent viewers for the final round—which would rival other eSports giants such as League of Legends.
We’ll see how the final attendee numbers add up towards the end of the year, but for now, all eyes are on BlizzCon and The International as both events generate an even more feverish buzz in the world of eSports. Other upcoming events include League of Legends‘ summer and seasonal tournaments, and Activision’s Call of Duty Championship next month at the Call of Duty XP event.