EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story included several more photos than this one does.
SooToday has kindly agreed to pluck those photos from the web after being informed that we were accidentally (and unbeknownst to us) allowed to photograph some proprietary behind-the-scenes goings on at Sunday’s Sault Ste. Marie UMG Pro-Am tournament.
We’re still not sure what all the fuss is about, but please do your best to forget those photos and any super secret behind-the-scenes goings on they may have revealed.
For two days this past weekend, local video game aficionados were invited to bring their A-game to the Machine Shop for the first ever Sault Ste. Marie UMG Pro-Am tournament. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was the challenge with $10,000 at stake as teams of four went head-to-head to work their way up the bracket. The entire eSports event was broadcast on Twitch.tv and Microsoft’s new streaming platform, Beam.
“A lot of people identify video game tournaments with where they came from – college dormitories and things like that. Around 2010, we got the ability to broadcast tournaments and that’s really what’s made eSports the billion dollar industry that it is,” explained Cynn Smith, event lead at UMG. “In many way we emulate traditional sports – we have analysts, we have commentators, we have massive production needs.”
The world of eSports has grown very quickly, Smith said, and the players responsible for that surge are now gaming as professionals. While traditional sports recruit new talent from college, eSports recruitment is a bit more challenging.
“It’s actually rare for new teams to show up,” he said. “We’re looking at places like Sault Ste. Marie, and other places in Canada and around the world where we can find that new talent – getting them on stage, getting them on camera – so they can be noticed. We see ourselves as a stepping stone for their career just as much as a provider for entertainment.”
And gaming can definitely lead to a career. Upper echelon eSports teams can make a living at it, Smith said, but not from tournament prize money. The real money comes by way of corporate sponsorships.
“That’s way we keep our production and broadcast quality high,” he said. “We’re making these amateurs look like professionals, and that’s going to be the number one thing they need to get sponsors and to go full time. There’s a lot of teams that can and do this full time.”
While the majority of participating teams in the Sault Ste. Marie UMG Pro-Am tournament were local, a few traveled from out of town for the event including the reigning COD world champion SetToDestroyX. The Canadian team managed to live up to its title, taking home first place and $6,000 of the prize pool. 1 Hype placed second followed by PrimeTime Nation in third.