ESI Gambling Report: The duo at the forefront of esports innovation

ESL and Intel have found a treasured relationship through the esports landscape together in a partnership that stretches almost twenty years at the time of writing.

In the first edition of the exploration between the robust partnership between the two companies, we looked at its origins, and how the duo had learned to navigate an unprecedented industry as one. In the second part of this column, we’ll outline the inner-workings and long-term ambitions of the two companies, as told by a few of the individuals that fuel the fiery partnership, in this week’s ESI Gambling Report, powered by VIE.gg.

At the core of the game

Though technology is a core component of the operations of both Intel and ESL, the depth of its use is hardly acknowledged to its true threshold. ESL’s live tournaments are a clear demonstration of Intel’s top-of-the-line PC’s being put to its fullest potential in competitive gaming on larger-than-life stages. Beyond that however, it’s said that Intel technology fuels many of the other sectors in ESL’s day-to-day agenda from its streaming, all the way down to its dynamic content engine as its official technology partner.

Michal “CARMAC” Blicharz, Vice President of Pro Gaming at ESL elaborated on this when speaking to Esports Insider: “Content creation never gets mentioned, never gets thought about. But we provide literally sometimes hundreds of small media pieces into the broadcast or into social media. All of that needs to be done on ideally mobile machines, sometimes desktops, but sometimes laptops where we travel to Cologne, then we travel to Chicago, then we travel to somewhere else. And we need to pump out hundreds of small media pieces, and that little progress bar in the editing software… The quicker it runs, the more we can pump out.”

In organising tournaments with millions of dollars on the line, the margin for error when a match begins is minuscule. For precisely that reason, ESL holds itself accountable with cross-checks of PCs provided by Intel in comprehensive fashion before they are deployed in tournament atmospheres. After passing benchmarks at Intel’s facilities, ESL performs stress tests on the computers that replicates a stage environment with custom audio solutions to ensure they can match the pressure of the most paramount environments. Lastly, PCs are then tested by the competitors themselves, typically following elimination at an event.

CARMAC explains that trust is a linchpin in this process, saying: “So without a relationship that is built on trust and mutual understanding and common goals, we couldn’t have a process like that. That’s what the Intel relationship and the experience of working together and trying to find ways to achieve the same goals together… That’s what it has given us.”

Trust the process

Being at the forefront of any industry can be a toilsome position to be in, let alone the cutting edge nature of professional gaming; the unprecedented complexion of esports generates innovation all around it, and if you’re not pushing the boundaries, your competitors will be.

To understand how the two maintain its leadership position in the space, we decided to ask Mark Cohen, Chief Relationship Officer, North America of ESL how the company and Intel continue to be pioneers in the development of competitive gaming.

“I think the evolution of the partnership has very much been the trailblazer of the evolution of the esports space. So I think our partnership has always been a little bit ahead of the curve and kind of what’s happening in the industry as a whole,” said Cohen. “It’s what we’ve always set out to do is say how do we continue to ensure that what ESL and Intel does jointly really continues to be at the front of driving the industry. So I think that’s the lens that we use when we look at, okay, how do we keep this truly special, unique, fresh, and really allow Intel to maintain that leadership position.” 

With innovation comes some level of risk, and being that ESL & Intel have positioned themselves at the steering wheel of the industry, there’s a mutual degree of trust necessary in driving the next advancement in esports. For a company like ESL who has been at the vanguard of esports since its inception, there are valuable insights laid from a community, fan, and player standpoint – especially having facilitated a number of esports’ most iconic moments through its premier competitions. As for Intel, the company is a forerunner of esports in its own right, acting as a critical ingredient in esports’ establishment as a technology leader.

“We both recognise that sometimes you need to lean in, and nobody is going to bat 1000%. You’ve got to take some big swings – some of them are going to be fantastic and there’s going to be some that don’t work,” said Cohen. “I think you have to have that in order to be great every day, you have to have that trust and you have to have that really open transparent relationship where you know you can give [very] candid feedback and feelings aren’t going to be hurt and that it’s done with a lens of we want to build the biggest, best, greatest products and partnership out there.”

In December of last year, the two companies opted to extend their partnership through 2021, making mention of targeting the Asia-Pacific region, specifically; just last month, the first glimpse of this ambition came to life with the announcement of IEM Beijing-Haidian last month.

One big family

With constant products being rolled out internationally at a consistent pace, unity is key between ESL and Intel in its thorough delivery. As explained to Esports Insider through our exploration of the matter, there are a wealth of logistical complexities from the global shipping of products and utilising the architecture of broadcast integration to develop the evolution of tournament streams.

Though the two have become practically synonymous through joint endeavors, we sought out to discover how the relationship truly broke down behind the scenes on a surface level. Cohen helped us better understand this element of the operation: “They are spending hours and hours communicating on a daily, weekly basis. So it works as a very integrated team. It’s happening on so many different levels, so there’s a very deep integration in terms of how our companies work together.”

In setting up a model on the front line of the industry and to identify trends in esports before the rest, there is a level of synchrony needed between the two companies. Built upon years of trust, calculated risks, and working alongside the founding members in this partnership, ESL and Intel have been able to achieve that. 

“That bond that developed across multiple years of working with each other,” CARMAC said. “And I really call multiple people at Intel that I’ve worked with across the years, my good friends, and the hugs that I share with them are some of the most genuine hugs that I get to participate in at an esports event.”

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