Under the cover of darkness and the in amongst the shadows of the famous floodlights that have lit a club and a towns dreams alive for many years, on Wednesday night a new kind of legend is set to be born. The League of Ireland and the digital egaming world are set to unite in a unique and dynamic concept that has the potential to not only be groundbreaking, but set a global trend for years to come.
An amateur gaming event “EStars” is set to kick off at Oriel Park this Wednesday night with the first series of the online gaming tournament to take place in the shadow of a ground that has seen legends like Kehoe, McConville, Hasty and Towell all come to the fore. Now while the players of this tournament will not grace us with the footballing talents that bestowed us on the pitch, their unique talents, handpicked to represent Dundalk FC and other League of Ireland clubs is not to be underestimated. Over the course of 8 weeks, the players who will represent League of Ireland teams will be whittled down to 5 players who will play in the grand final of the EStars tournament in the 3Arena, Dublin on the 13th of May with a 20,000 euro top prize up for grabs.
How is Oriel Park and Dundalk FC able to host such an event? Well its all thanks to “Big Betty”.
“Next week in Oriel Park will be the first event, it will be all held on Big Betty, Betty is a large gaming truck and is the biggest gaming truck in the world” explains Liam Carroll, an agent for FirstforPlayers who represent Dundalk players Sean Gannon, Pat Hoban, Jamie McGrath and Chris Shields. Liam is one of the tournament organisers and has been instrumental in getting the project off the ground.
“It will roll up outside the stadium, as well as guest appearances from celebrates and footballers, Conor Hamilton and Holly Phillips will be the hosts for the night who are currently BBC presenters. We will also have casters who are gaming commentators”
The whole tournament while it has a local ‘League of Ireland’ feel to it is anything but local. While ‘Big Betty’ is based in Dundalk, the tournament itself will be broadcasted via the ‘twitch’ streaming system and will give exactly what this tournament needs, global recognition. To put it into context ‘twitch’ has as of February 2018 has 2 million broadcasters monthly with 15 million daily active users.
“Twitch is the Sky Sports of gaming, we are expecting a couple of hundred thousand to watch this online, maybe more. Twitch are behind us, they are sponsoring us too and they are going to be putting it at the top of their news feed for the tournament.”
“How twitch works is that it’s an app and you can stream yourself anywhere in the world, playing games. This tournament will go global and with twitch behind it being top of their newsfeed. In America alone, 30% of the people watch people online playing egaming. It’s bigger than the NBA”
So what about the gamers? Where do they come in and how do they fit into this unique process? While not everyone will have the prowess of a footballer their talents for gaming have a similar reputation that should grace an arena, and this is where EStars come in.
“We are taking these people from their bedrooms to the stage. People who are playing at home and don’t know what they are doing, we are going to make them a star” an intriguing concept from the outside looking in. “Funnily enough one of the people who is representing Dundalk is Micky Duffy – not the player or the PA Micky Duffy!! These are five lads who are representing Dundalk, most of them are from the town and they went through a process of application”
“We have been through a rigorous process, we have selected fair teams across the board. We are trying to make it as interesting as possible, we don’t want one team coming in and wiping the rest out.”
The game they will be facing each other in? You would assume it’s EA Sports ‘FIFA’ series but thats not the case, multiplayer online battle arena video game developed and published by Riot Games ‘League of Legends’ is the whats on show and it promises to be something never seen before.
“It’s the biggest game in the world. It’s not on playstation or Xbox, its on your desktop and you play it online on a server. A lot of these people are playing these games already in competitions but not a competition like this. This competition has the potential to take the gamer to the higher stage. The winning team will go on to a bigger stage, representing Ireland”
“It is said egaming will become an olympic sport in the next fifteen to twenty years, these players are ranked they have an online ranking, you can’t just declare yourself a platinum player, you have to prove you are at that level. When the players applied we checked their stats and their ranking, a lot of work has gone into this tournament”
We have the truck, we have the players, all that is needed is for League of Ireland fans to come out and support the players who now represent their club. The aim is is bring the Greatest League in the world and all it entails to the global digital stage. It’s taken a lot of work and a long process that is about to come to fruition.
“We will be tracking Big Betty coming across Europe as its coming in from Germany. It will kick off at 6:30, we will be offering the opportunity for kids to go on and play against Chris Shields or Sean Gannon on the actual truck. It will kick off then and we will have our five fixtures with nine teams of the Premier Division taking part and team3 will make up the tenth team”
“Each club will have their own merchandise, the gaming jerseys are being made by ‘Peak’ who is owned by Tim Krul. Every club will have their own jersey and merchandise for sale in each venue, you can buy your own favourite club jersey or buy the brand EStars. It’s all geared towards the gamers rather than your average football jersey. The colours are dark colours also, we have concentrated on their image.”
“We have a lot of staff behind the scenes, we have Three as our main sponsor, it’s moved very quickly but with former Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne, anything she puts her mind to, it works. It’s a market that nobody touched and she seen that, she is raising the whole egaming scene and no one has taken it to that level of fame.”
“A lot of people are looking at it and thinking I don’t know but when the exposure is out there and see whats happened in years to come I think it will have a bigger impact.”