Stuart Ewen – ESL – Bridging the gap in esports with VR

ESL One New York will be the first event at which viewers have the option to consume their esports live streamed in virtual reality. Such a milestone event has been delivered thanks to a partnership between ESL, SLIVER.tv and WonderWorld VR

Stuart Ewen, ESL
Stuart Ewen, ESL

Esports Insider caught up with ESL Product Manager Stuart Ewen to talk VR integration and the FUTURE of watching esports. 

Esports Insider: Is virtual reality the future of esports from a fan engagement and viewing perspective?

Stuart: I don’t think it will become the dominant medium for viewing esports live for a while still, but it helps bridge the gap between the live event experience and watching a stream at home.

Eventually I envision VR stream viewers being able to interact with one another and having more viewing features than the live event itself. It’s only a matter of time before the technology becomes widespread enough that everyone who watches a traditional stream can tune in to a VR broadcast instead.

Esports Insider: Why was the New York event, and CS:GO, selected as the showcase and debut of VR live streaming?

Stuart: We lacked the ability to stream CS:GO in VR until recently, but I’ve been working on integrating stadium VR experiences into our live streaming portfolio for a while now. We had the ability to do it, but it wasn’t a complete experience so we did not launch it until now.

“No matter how good VR gets, there’s no way to replicate the electricity you feel in an arena packed with esports fans.”

Esports Insider: Why were the partners SLIVER.tv and WonderWorld VR chosen over others?

Stuart: SLIVER’s LiveVRCast technology lets them capture VR footage from games that do not natively support VR. This means that instead of just streaming from 360 cameras around the venue we could give viewers an ingame VR experience that nobody else can offer. WonderWorld VR has been live streaming VR for quite some time now, and have a lot of know-how and techniques that make the viewing experience much better than a “plain” 360 video. WonderWorld are very eager to deliver esports content in VR and have been extremely supportive in preparing for the event, and their experience in VR livestreaming is a huge asset.

Esports Insider: What do you think about the potential of VR’s cousin AR in esports, are there certain genres in which this is a better fit than VR?

Stuart: The two aren’t mutually exclusive. We’ve already used AR in broadcasts this year and the same techniques can be applied to a VR stream. I’ve got a couple of concepts to merge the two worlds in the works, but it may be a while before they see use in a VR stream.

Esports Insider: As the virtual reality product continues to be improved is there a cause for concern that stadiums of the future will be empty, or will the live experience always ensure bums on seats?

Stuart: No matter how good VR gets, there’s no way to replicate the electricity you feel in an arena packed with esports fans.

The VR experience exists to bridge the gap as much as possible. Going to a live event you have chances to get your favourite pro’s autograph, or shake hands with your favourite commentator.

There are some things that you just can’t simulate and for a majority of people, I feel as though the real life experience is always more valuable. That doesn’t mean that we can’t narrow that gap as much as possible for the enthusiast gamer who can’t make it to the event in person.

Esports Insider: Anything else coming up for ESL and VR that you’d care to share with ESI readers?

Stuart: Nothing specific I can share, but know that ESL One NY is just the beginning. We’ve been working with Jaunt VR for IEM events for a while now, and expanding the amount of content we produce around our esports events. Whether it’s live streaming, or documentary style post production, VR is here to stay.