Halo Takes Fire For Finals Venue

With all the buzz surrounding esports as a new frontier of live events, the world championships of popular games are expected to draw the largest crowds and generate the most hype. Thus the decision to host the 2017 Halo World Championships at the relatively small ESL Campus in Burbank, Calif., had some fans disheartened.
Dan Hammill
– Halo World Championships
A photo of the 2017 Halo World Championships in Burbank, Calif.

The event was produced by ESL Gaming and took place March 24-26 at the company’s Southern California campus, which was well-suited for streaming a small- to mid-sized event to a global audience, but lacking capacity to take in the thousands that flock to League of Legends or Counter-Strike events.
The prize pool for this year’s competition was $1 million, which may sound like a lot for a video game tournament, but was a drop from 2016’s prize pool of $2.5 million.
In terms of streams, ESL said there was a peak of 135,000 concurrent viewers, with more than 13 million viewers across all platforms and more than 10 million unique Twitter users tuning in.
While the competition was intense, and was well-produced in the official videos and stream, a few attendees tweeted pictures of a nearly empty viewing tent and a sad-looking entrance area that seemed to more closely resemble a high school wrestling match than a world-championship event.
Those areas were shown at quiet points during the day, but even the main stage that showed the players competing live only had several rows of chairs set up, raising questions of why the Halo championship wasn’t pulling crowds comparable to the theaters and ballrooms, or even arenas and stadiums, that most other popular esports command.
The competition was dominated by last year’s champions OpTic Gaming, who claimed the first-place prize again.
“The Halo players deserve way better than this, man. It’s not ESL … they’ve done good work,” OpTic owner Hector Rodriguez said in a YouTube video. “But this is [an official] Halo thing. Halo [and developer 343 Industries] is accountable for who it is they are hiring to run this tournament … How do you run your Halo championships without a crowd? I don’t want to say that they don’t care, but it sure … looks that way.
This year ESL put on what it billed as the “biggest esports event in history,” the Intel Extreme Masters championship in Katowice, Poland, Feb. 25-26 and March 3-5. That event reportedly drew 173,000 visitors and had 46 million unique online viewers.