Inflight editor Alexander Preston summarises the latest happenings across IFEC and cabin technology.

It may not rank up there alongside football, rugby or cricket in terms of mainstream recognition, but for the past few years, esports has been transforming the landscape of gaming through innovative technology, tournaments and events, as it makes the jump from the bedroom to the arena. And how.

Last year, Intel announced a US$100 million investment spread across three years in ESL, operator of a global circuit of esports events.

On average, ESL attracted up to 15,000 daily visitors to 10 mega-events in 2018, while last year’s Intel Extreme Masters and ESL One powered by Intel in Katowice, Poland, saw 169,000 fans in attendance onsite and 3.4 billion minutes of content consumed online.

And airlines and their content providers have taken note.

Back in 2017, ESL signed its first IFE deal with Emirates – a 15-month contract to show highlights, clips and stories from its major events. For Torsten Haux, VP Global Media Rights at ESL, the deal was a great way to increase the visibility of esports.

Then at this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg, Panasonic and IMG announced esports as the latest addition to Sport 24 Extra’s live IFE programming – the first time that live, organised, competitive gaming has been introduced to aviation.

Now this week comes the news that Sport 24 has secured the in-flight broadcast rights to screen the upcoming Fortnite World Cup, which takes place across three days, 26-28 July [disappointingly not two weeks].

The Fortnite World Cup Finals will be the culmination of 10 weeks of global online qualification rounds, with a record breaking esports prize pool, as $10 million of prize money will be distributed during qualification rounds, $30 million handed out at the Fortnite World Cup Finals in New York as well as a further $3 million available for the Fortnite World Cup Creative Mode.

Fortnite Battle Royale has become a resounding success, drawing in more than 125 million players in less than a year and earning hundreds of millions of dollars per month, to become a cultural phenomenon, with celebrities such as singers Drake and Travis Scott being streamed playing the game, while a number of athletes use Fortnite emotes as victory celebrations.

But, will airlines be celebrating their own successes by adding esports to their IFE libraries? It’s too early to tell, but any first movers will certainly be tapping into a market that is only going to grow. Let battle commence.

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