The Polish term spodek it can be translated in Spanish as "saucer". This is how the multipurpose stadium under the roof of the Polish city of Katowice is known because, they say, it looks like a spaceship. Opened in 1971, it is the largest of its kind in Poland. During the last three weeks, some 11,000 fans have filled the Spodek to burst every day to attend two of the main European eSports competitions: the ESL One and the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM), a videogame championship that ended yesterday and that this year, it has distributed nearly two million euros in prizes and in which professional teams from more than 30 countries have participated. The organizers sold more than 150,000 tickets for the event in an industrial city that does not exceed 300,000 inhabitants.
Next to the assistants to the stage, million followers of the videojuegos followed through platforms of streaming tournaments, usually of combat or strategy titles such as CS: GO, Dota 2 and Starcraft 2.
The audience of the eSports can reach in 2022 the 276 million people - a similar number, for example, to the follow-up of the NFL, the main league of American football, the most popular sport of the USA- and, its industry, to invoice annually more than 1,000 million euros, according to a report by Newzoo, a consultancy specializing in the sector.
Spain has several professional teams, such as Giants Gaming or Movistar Riders. In May of 2018, when the last edition of the White Book of the Spanish Video Game Association was published, the country was ranked twelfth in the world ranking of eSports audience, with more than 2.5 million enthusiasts, a term applied to those who they watch videogame retransmissions more than once a month and / or participate in amateur leagues.
The IOC wants to include the tournaments in the next Olympic Games
The Polish Michal Blicharz (Kielce, 38 years old) was judo. He decided to combine his competitive knowledge with his passion for videogames to dedicate himself professionally to organize high level tournaments. He is one of those responsible for the arrival of the IEM in Katowice. A councilor from the Polish city read an interview with Blicharz in the magazine Forbes and contacted him through Facebook to see how he could take the eSports to the locality. The IEM arrived at the Spodek in 2013. "It is the biggest event in the city," stresses Blicharz. The demand for tickets has led to the expansion of the competition since 2017.
The eSports industry has several aspects. Until Katowice traveled, for the second year in a row, Alejandro García, Black, youtuber Spanish that plays CS: GO most popular. A 26-year-old from Madrid, he has more than 330,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel and earns money thanks to the brands that sponsor his content. "There are helmet companies, for example, that want me to wear them while I play," he explains. "I upload a daily video to YouTube and I also go live on Twitch [la principal plataforma de streaming de eSports] at least 100 hours a month, "he says. The Polish city went for pleasure, to meet representatives of the industry and meet in person with other youtubers who only knew virtually.
The spectators live the games like any great football match. "The passion of the Polish public is incredible," says Black.
Blicharz highlights the Brazilian participants: "Nobody lives the CS: GO like them. Even Neymar watches the games! " He is enthusiastic about the public's fervor: "All competitions are driven by emotion. If it does not generate anything, what is the point? What the players do is happy or saddening millions of people in the world. "
The global audience can reach 276 million people in 2022
The most popular video game in Spain is still the League of Legends, a title of the real-time strategy genre. "The industry has grown thanks to the investments of sponsors in teams," says Black. Now, players have places to train. The Spanish sector has more than 300 professionals, including 100 players, according to Superdata figures. There is also the League of Professional Video Games (LVP), whose functions resemble those of a sports federation.
The interest of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to include eSports in a next edition of the Games is public, but there is still no definite date for it. The president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, recognized for months that his red line is the games of violence, without mentioning any in particular.
"What attracts the IOC is the accessibility of eSports. You can play wherever and whenever you want, "reflects Blicharz. The new generations feel alien to the traditional means of communication and, therefore, to the sports they retransmit. 79% of the eSports audience is under 35, according to a Goldman Sachs report. "When I'm working and I see a game of CS: GO, my son and daughter tell me, 'Dad, that's your job.' They do not know a world in which people do not compete professionally in video games, "concludes Blicharz.
The construction of the Spodek stadium, planned in 1955 when Katowice was still called Stalinogród, lasted for several years and was delayed because the masons first raised their foundations on coal and not on land. In December 2018, the city hosted the 24th UN climate summit. The Belchatow thermal power station, 200 kilometers from Katowice, generates electricity from the burning of coal and is one of the EU's factories emitting the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The EU's desire to alleviate the environment could end up with 40,000 jobs in Silesia, the region where Katowice is located.
"In Poland, they know this city for coal and mining, but the world knows about Katowice thanks to eSports," says Michal Blicharz. "The first year we put several pavilions of sponsors attached to the stage where the gamers competed [los profesionales de los videojuegos]. Now we have had to mount an exhibition of 8,000 square meters, "he says. "Restaurants and hotels bill in these two weeks more than in the whole year," he concludes.