Dell used CES 2017 to announce a new partnership with Turner and WME/IMG, and the company is now an official partner and exclusive PC hardware provider for ELeague. Alienware Auroras with Dell 24-inch gaming monitors will be used for all competitions, beginning with the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) Major taking place January 22-29 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Bryan de Zayas, director of Dell Gaming, told [a]listdaily that the company has been partnering with eSports organizations for the last five years.
“We’ve had long-standing relationships with Team Liquid and Team Dignitas and we’ve sponsored the Intel Extreme Masters and other leagues over the years,” de Zayas said. “What we helped to do is not just sponsor teams. Any brand can slap a logo onto a jersey or website. Our interest is in helping these teams and organizations become better at their craft.”
Just as a driver is tied to their car in racing, where they rely heavily on technology for performance, de Zayas said there’s a similar reliance on performance and power in eSports. “Sports teams that know how to market sports are buying into it,” he said. “It’s great for eSports teams and great for us because we helped to build and work with these teams over the years.”
The recent acquisition of Team Dignitas by the Sixers and Team Liquid by Axiomatic showcases that eSports is becoming mainstream. According to Newzoo, the global eSports audience will grow from 256 million to 345 million viewers and revenues will surpass $1 billion over the next three years.
“Gamers around the world are interested in what’s happening in eSports,” de Zayas said. “We see a synergy between what pro gamers are looking for in performance and what gamers are looking for. And eSports is reaching a wide range of gamers from those who want the best PC gaming hardware to those who want more affordable options.”
The Turner partnership will help Dell market its Alienware brand with both a television and digital audience.
“ESports tournaments have been online on Twitch or other livestreaming services for years and gamers around the world and in North America understand they can watch them,” de Zayas said. “That’s a key part of how ELeague is run. They stream over 90 hours of CS:GO for a tournament. What Turner is dedicated to doing is bringing this eSports tournament style gameplay to TV because there is a larger audience interested in it. It’s a natural expansion from digital online to a TV experience.”
While this sponsorship provides an opportunity to reach a lot of gamers around the world, what was most interesting to de Zayas were the opportunities to improve the experience for the pro gamers competing and the viewers watching.
“Turner wanted a partner to work with them on things like improving the analytics behind tournament gameplay, helping pros prepare for their game and tournament and helping them provide a better viewing experience for gamers,” de Zayas said. “It’s great for branding and playing on Alienware hardware, but for us, over the long term we’re interested in helping to build this industry overall.”
In addition to having Alienware hardware featured throughout tournaments, there will also be TV commercials and a digital ad spend. However, since the deal was just signed a few weeks ago, this first CS:GO Major won’t feature some of the new innovations de Zayas is interested in.
“But over time you’ll see more on the news around how Turner and Dell are partnering to make the pro gamer better at their craft through training programs and analytics, and making the experience better for the viewer,” de Zayas said. “You’ll start noticing this stuff in the second or third tournament this year.”
One example de Zayas provided, which hasn’t been solidified yet, would be working with eye-tracking company Tobii’s technology, which has been integrated into Alienware hardware.
“Their solution is unique because if integrated the right way it can bring a new level of analytics to eSports teams, including where their eyes are looking on the screen during gameplay,” de Zayas said. “It can track all of this information in real-time and convert it to data that players can use to get better at their craft. For the viewer, this type of real-time tracking of what pro players are doing and where they’re looking can help them get better at playing these games.”
The PC industry is currently seeing eSports and virtual reality drive renewed interest in upgrading hardware. These two popular segments are already beginning to blend with companies like Intel, Valve, ESL, NextVR and Sliver.tv getting involved. “The opportunities for VR and eSports are endless,” de Zayas said. “It’s a natural progression for folks who have a VR headset to have a more integrated viewing experience.”
Looking further into the future, de Zayas believes VR arcades could open up new competitive gaming opportunities.
“Something that may come to fruition in a couple years is the advent of VR in backpacks like what we’ve done partnering with Zero Latency and their free roam arcade,” de Zayas said. “I could see that turning into a cool physical sport element of running around and diving around things while playing in VR.”