I recently visited the Blizzard Arena in Burbank to watch a live match of the Overwatch League and was blown away by the experience. It had me wondering, could traditional sports learn something from the experiences viewers have in esports arenas? I think so.
Esports arenas are here and they are amazing! They are visually stunning, and they make you feel like you are right there inside the action. With attendance at traditional sports arenas continuing to dwindle, I think that traditional sports could take a page from the esports play book.
I love the social aspect of watching a traditional sporting event with friends, especially when I get to watch the game in person, at the venue. But when I compare the traditional sports venues to esports venues, I feel like one represents the past, and the other, the future. And let me be clear, I like what the future holds.
This largely comes down to esports arenas’ use of technology and screens. The screens at the Blizzard arena are mind blowingly awesome, which in all fairness is probably how people reacted to jumbotrons when they first were introduced at traditional sports arenas. The screens at the Blizzard arena have all the real estate to clearly showcase the energy of the match, with SO much left to spare. I could envision more elements like real-time player stats, custom avatar animation celebrating a kill, and data-driven analytics on team strategies being presented on the monitors as I watched the match. I could clearly see the potential, and was completely riveted.
Now maybe I am biased because I love video games, and make graphics for a living. But, I do think that traditional sports need to up there game a bit. They continue to build big glorious stadiums that harken back to the days of chariot races, but they aren’t using technology to its fullest potential to enhance the audience experience.
Let me be fair, though. Traditional sports are doing a great job with their broadcast content. When I watch a football game on TV, there are stats and tons of engaging shoulder content. Conversely, when I go to the stadium, the visuals feel dated and limited, which makes me feel farther away from the action and looking for engagement… probably on the tiny screen in my pocket. While I can feel the game, I don’t have that nice digital texture that I have come to really appreciate. In fact, that most of us have come to appreciate. If you want to keep people off their phones and in the game, you’ve got to pull them in with engaging visual content.
So my question is, why can’t you incorporate all the engaging visuals that screens can now offer into a live sports venue? If esports can pull it off, and do so amazingly well, why can’t traditional sports? Sure the traditional sports arenas are bigger but technology has been advancing leaps and bounds as well. The jumbotron was an example of traditional sports pushing the technological envelope… but that was a while ago.
It’s time for traditional sporting arenas to go big or go home. Audiences’ needs are changing quickly. And I think that sporting teams should take a good look at esports as a guide or template on how to make better use of the screens at any venue. Technology allows you to get closer to the action. Closer to the players. Closer to a modern experience.