Micro-Star International (MSI) is entering its third year of delivering an authentic eSports experience to League of Legends fans. The PC hardware company recently used PAX East in Boston to give fans a chance to be up on stage in front of a vocal crowd with professional casters calling the action in 5-vs-5 gameplay. This particular activation has grown over the years, and it continues to attract long lines at PAX East and PAX West, giving attendees a true taste of what it’s like to be a pro gamer.
Lenny Tang, associate marketing manager at MSI, told [a]listdaily these activations feature five MSI laptops and five MSI desktops, which allows the company to showcase its hardware on stage in a simulated pressure situation. Contestants compete for real prizes, such as MSI graphics cards, in these pro-style tournaments. “Bringing that eSports experience of being on stage is something unique for our fans,” Tang said. “It’s different playing in front of a crowd, and they feel the excitement. They also see the components they’re playing on and they want to bring that home.”
It’s this positive connection with the hardware, aimed at an enthusiastic hardcore PC gaming audience, that’s what bringing more brands into the eSports marketing fold. Having this captive audience lined up at the booth offered MSI the opportunity to unveil the military-themed Camo Squad Limited Edition product series, which includes the Trident 3, the world’s smallest VR ready gaming PC; the Aegis 3, the upgradable and compact desktop gaming PC; the GT83VR, the powerful gaming laptop with dual Nvidia GeForce GTX graphics cards and mechanical SteelSeries keyboard; the GS63 gaming laptop; and a selection of gaming components, including the Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon and B350 Tomahawk motherboards and GeForce GTX 1080 Duke graphics card.
Tang said while the focus to date has been on League of Legends, other games, including Overwatch, could be used in the future. In addition, the eSports experience set-up can be configured for 3- vs-3, 5-vs-5 or 6-vs-6 for different size events. MSI has also used events like Dreamhack and QuakeCon to connect with eSports fans directly.
“Gaming has really taken off with streaming and eSports,” Tang said. “MSI started developing hardware catering towards gamers with graphics cards and motherboards before creating desktops and laptops.”
Tang said what separates the MSI brand from other companies is that it’s always been focused on gamers.
“A lot of the other manufacturers target a broader audience and then started targeting gamers when gaming took off a few years back,” Tang said. “A lot of their hardware and manufacturing process isn’t targeted towards gamers. We know they need cooler temperatures when having the higher speeds. Our laptops have cooler boosts with heat pipes that can draw a lot of heat out of the CPU and GPU. That technology goes across all of our laptops. While Asus and other manufacturers might cut corners and have two heat pipes, we have six to eight heat pipes to make sure they won’t overheat. We’re usually the first to bring out gamer-focused products. We partner with different manufacturers like SteelSeries and Dynaudio to provide the feedback and audio gamers want.”
MSI has also been sponsoring eSports teams like Cloud9 and Fnatic the past three years. “Marketing to these teams speaks directly to the customers we’re trying to target,” Tang said. “A lot of our laptops are focused towards gamers. If the pro teams are sponsored by us and have our products in their videos, individuals watching the pro teams want to be like them and buy the same hardware. Having our brand exposure on their jerseys or having them call us out in interviews speaks a lot about MSI.”
Tang said loaning out laptops to these teams for travel and practice also has other benefits. For example, Fnatic said last year that, while the graphics were great on the laptops, they wanted a higher refresh rate panel. “After Fnatic spoke with MSI product managers, headquarters followed through,” Tang said. “MSI was first to come out with 120Hz panels across all 17-inch laptops.”
Tang said another thing that differentiates MSI from the competition is that it owns the entire chain from production plants to sell-through. This allows the company to implement features gamers want quickly and effortlessly.
“We talk to these gamers and ask them what kind of products and features they like and we take that feedback back to our production team,” Tang said. “Cloud9 talks a lot about the SteelSeries keyboard, which is brighter than most other gaming laptops out there and is easier to see.”