The world’s largest competitive events often draw in millions of remote viewers from around the world. For some sporting events like the FIFA World Cup or the Summer and Winter Olympics, these numbers might soar into the billions.
However, not very many viewers will attend a live event to feel the charged atmosphere. Whether watching a sports event or a mental competition like poker, chess, and eSports, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make such meteoric events possible.
The upcoming World Cup in Qatar, for example, has seen around $200 billion in hospitality investment just to prepare for the tournament, according to Regency Holidays. While the FIFA event is one of the biggest in the world, this figure reflects the dogged work that goes into preparing many global events.
But what about competitions that aren’t covered on such a massive global scale? What goes on behind the scenes to prepare and organize convention halls for thousands of eager competitors? Let’s take a closer look at four of the world’s most prestigious and populous non-athletic gaming competitions.
Though most poker players at least get their start online today, many will also appear at seasonal events in which various poker groups crown champions—and shell out millions in winnings. In fact, some of the biggest events in poker history have seen hundreds of thousands of attendees shuffle through packed convention halls in locations like Vegas and Atlantic City.
So, what do event planners focus on for leagues of straight-faced poker pros? They use the ‘old-fashioned’ way of registering players: paper and pen. Players must show up, wait in line, pay their fee, then register their credentials.
From there, organizations painstakingly stagger the action for thousands of eager players, then work in a single-elimination style as the action advances toward the final ‘Main Event’. This format hasn’t changed greatly since the 1980s.
Magick: The Gathering
Though the most popular and successful trading card game in the world, Magick: The Gathering doesn’t see quite the same numbers as the other events on this list. Still, the most prestigious competition, the Grand Prix (now called MagicFest), usually sees between 1,000 and 1,5000 competitors.
Organizers host multiple main events to split up players, as games tend to take a while to conclude. There are side events called Last Chance Trials, in which players can battle their way back into the main action. From there, the competitors are whittled down to a Top 8 group.
The largest and most prestigious chess tournament, founded almost one century ago, is hosted every two years. Known as the Chess Olympiad, this competition regularly sees players from over 100 teams enter the competition to represent their country.
Unlike the other events on this list, the Chess Olympiad once used seeding to place teams, as there were too many competitors for a round-robin faceoff. However, this changed in the 1970s after seeding led to a handful of drawbacks.
Since then, like some Magick: The Gathering competitions, the Chess Olympiad uses a Swiss tournament system, which decides a group of finalists via a point system who then face-off in a finals series.
There are two important caveats to consider when exploring eSports event organizing. First is the number of spectators expecting to watch the live action. Second, are infrastructural considerations that ensure a single location can handle the electrical and Wi-Fi demands that come with mass video game competitions.
For example, back in 2018, 20,000 people packed into the Rogers Arena in Toronto to watch the Dawn of the Ancients 2 tournament. In addition to providing infrastructure for the players, teams, and spectators, organizers also had to make sure that broadcasting equipment could handle some 15 million viewers who tuned in to the live competition.
This isn’t just about hardware, which includes servers, chargers, hotspots, and more. It’s also about software. Most games in eSports competitions will need to be connected to a local host. In fact, these needs are so complex that there are now eSports event groups that specialize in creating a ‘heartbeating’ system to keep the whole affair aligned.