The Call of Duty World League Championship is coming to the East Coast for the first time, and Orlando, Fla., is the lucky city. Organizers of the leading eSports event announced the Amway Center as the host facility for the five-day competition, which will happen Aug 9-13. The main event will have 32 teams vie for a prize pool of $1.5 million.
That’s right: The site of the NBA All-Star Game and a Fleetwood Mac concert now will welcome the world’s most elite players of the popular first-person shooter video game that simulates World War II warfare. In Mickey Mouse’s hometown, no less.
“Orlando is an ideal spot for events like this, especially when you consider the eSports demographics — younger fans who likely travel with family members and come from all over the world,” Mike Taramykin, a co-founder at new fantasy eSports app HypSports, whose headquarters are based in Orlando, told the Orlando Sentinel. “So, over time, if Orlando can become a regular destination for eSports the same way it is for other conventions and events, then its reputation for gaming will start to grow.”
The reputation of eSports has been growing for the past few years, and it is now an estimated $700 million industry, according to research firm Newzoo — which also predicts that 385 million people will watch competitive gamers this year, either at events, on television or via live streams.
“When you break it down, it’s the same thing as being a fan of the [NFL’s Tampa Bay] Buccaneers and watching them play,” Ricardo Aguiló, department chair of Full Sail University’s game-design program, told the Orlando Sentinel. “Also, people feel like they have more access than ever. You can watch your favorite player practice or at an event all year.”
Earlier this year, a new 15,000-square-foot eSports arena opened in Las Vegas specifically to host video game tournaments and attract more millennials to that city. The facility’s first event was a Halo World Championship qualifier in March with a $50,000 prize pool. Later that month, it hosted an EA Sports-sanctioned Madden NFL 17 tournament.
It’s clear that eSports is on the rise — and more East Coast cities no doubt will soon be competing with Orlando to host gaming championships. Move over, NBA! Things are about to get interesting.