PARIS: Players greeted like rock stars, cheering fans and a spectacular set; the Zenith concert hall in Paris was transformed into a giant play room this weekend for a global tournament devoted to the blockbuster Call of Duty videogame.
The eight best teams in the world – three of them American, three British and two French – were disputing the title of Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) champion, one of the main competitions in the videogame arena.
Playing on stage, a giant screen above them, each team had to eliminate soldiers on the rival side in the videogame, which since its launch by Activision in 2003 has brought in more than US$10bil (RM35.69bil), exceeding box office receipts for smash film franchises such as Hunger Games.
The audience, mostly boys and men, scrutinised each of the players' actions which were also analysed by commentators, just like in a football game.
"It's impressive. I play this too with my friends, but it goes way quicker here," said Louis, 18.
After a game, the players responded to questions from the presenter and dissected their performances like in any other sporting event.
This is not the first time that the Zenith arena has hosted a videogame tournament.
Last year, a League of Legends competition took place there, attracting some 5,000 people.
Videogame – or electronic sports – tournaments the world over are gaining in popularity.
In 2013, a League of Legends American final that took place in the Staples Centre, home to the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, drew 18,000 people who had snapped up tickets in just a few hours.
This phenomenon stems from the popularity of the games played in such tournaments but also from the increasingly wide spectrum of players of all ages and of both sexes.
Video-sharing websites have also helped promote video game competitions by broadcasting the tournaments live, helping reach a higher number of people.
As a result, the most-followed competitions can attract more than 30 million viewers.
The craze is such that Twitch, a specialised platform that streams games and hosts gaming events, was bought last year by Amazon for US$970mil (RM3.46bil).
Back in Paris late on May 3, the two remaining teams disputing the ESWC champion title were both American – OpTic Gaming versus Denial eSports. – AFP
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