Nikita “Clawz” Marchinsky took home the two top prizes at the inaugural $1 million Quake World Championships competition at QuakeCon this year, winning both the individual and team competitions (playing for Team 2z) featuring id Software’s Quake Champions game. Esports and virtual reality were two key marketing messages at the three-day Dallas fan fest, which attracts over 12,000 gamers annually.
Pete Hines, vice president of marketing at Bethesda Softworks, told AListDaily that this year’s ESL tournament is the first step in an esports roadmap that includes the $75,000 DreamHack Denver Quake Championship and the $350,000 Quake Champions Invitational at DreamHack Winter in Sweden.
“This isn’t just a one-off,” Hines said. “We have other big events planned this year, and we have a whole suite of things planned for next year. And it’s not just for the top-level players. We really want Quake Champions to be a thing where folks can compete at lots of different levels. We want that element that is the equivalent of a weekend warrior, so that you’re not going to practice every day, but you enjoy the skill-based aspect of it and you want to enter a tournament every now and then or get some friends together and compete at a local amateur level. We want to have the amateur, semi-pro and pro levels so a player or team can come from out of nowhere and work you’re their way all the way up to the top to compete against some of the best players in the world. We want to create a competitive scene that doesn’t always have to mean playing for a million dollars and going up against the best players.”
Outside of esports, QuakeCon has evolved into a major marketing vehicle for not only id Software’s game, but the entire catalog of Bethesda console, PC and VR offerings. When Zenimax acquired id Software nine years ago, Hines said the parent company didn’t want to change QuakeCon unless it was for the better.
“We worked with the volunteers and the fans to figure out how to make this celebration of gaming and competitive play and esports better,” Hines explained. “QuakeCon has become a great place to show press and fans new content we have coming out, including hands-on with games like Quake Champions, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, The Evil Within 2 and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus. Timing-wise it’s a great point in the calendar between E3 and PAX West to connect with fans and press and show everyone what we’re doing.”
QuakeCon remains a draw for sponsors as well. AMD was the lead sponsor for both QuakeCon and the Quake World Championships, while companies like 5-hour Energy, Alienware, Filthy Casual, Razer, Corsair and MSI all had booths at the event.
“QuakeCon is now in its twenty-second year and we’ve established relationships with brands like Alienware, AMD and 5-hour Energy, so esports is an opportunity for us to widen the pool,” Hines said. “We’ve talked to lots of non-endemic brands, whether it’s snack food or beverages, and they all understand and see that this esports is a growing business. It’s very nice to be able to talk to them about Quake Champions as an esport from the standpoint because Quake was the original esport. We’ve always been doing this type of competition, and while there are other games right now that are bigger and more popular and have bigger prize pools, Quake was the game that started it all.”
QuakeCon also served as a hands-on marketing opportunity for this fall’s VR titles, which includes Skyrim VR for PlayStation VR (launching Nov. 17), Doom VFR on PlayStation VR and HTC Vive (shipping Dec. 1) and Fallout 4 VR for HTC Vive (releasing Dec. 12).
“Whether it’s mobile games, VR, console or PC, our studios are always looking at how our game experiences can be good fits,” Hines explained. “In the case of Bethesda Game Studios’ Fallout and Skyrim, these franchises are known for immersion and giving the player a sense of place where they get to explore these worlds and do what they want and completely lose themselves. VR is another incredibly immersive way to bring those experiences to players. Even if you’ve played these games before, playing it in VR is a very different immersive experience in a post-apocalyptic wasteland or in this hidden dungeon. In the case of id Software’s Doom VFR, VR gives you that experience of being a badass marine and a better sense of scale when you’re facing these huge demons. You can’t get that level of scale playing the game on a monitor or TV.”
QuakeCon, as well as upcoming events like PAX West, offers Bethesda the opportunity to get gamers into these VR worlds first-hand.
“You really have to put it on and try it and see for yourself to understand how powerful VR is,” Hines said. “We can talk about what the combat is like in Doom VFR and show you trailers, but you still don’t really get it until you play it. So having it here for folks to experience and taking it on the road to other shows is a big part of helping to spread the word.”