Paris, a passion for eSport

From 8 to 21 May 2023, Paris played host to one of the world’s biggest eSport events, the ‘Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Championship’. The final, which played to a full house of 12,000 spectators for over €1 million in prize money, was won by the French team, Team Vitality.

We took the opportunity to put a few questions to Robbie Douek, CEO of Blast the company that organized the event; an ideal occasion to find out more about a fast-growing sector, with codes little known to some members of the general public, and new challenges.

  • Robbie, you are CEO of Blast; can you tell us a bit about it?

Blast is an eSports entertainment company. This Danish company, founded 5 years ago, today accounts for 150 employees in Copenhagen and London. It has become one of the leading actors in the sector.

We organize events such as high-level leagues and tournaments, with professional teams, in a variety of major eSport events (Counter Strike, Fortnite Rainbow Six …).

  • What is the Paris Major Counter Strike and why is it so important?

It is the biggest annual Counter Strike tournament. It takes place once a year at a different venue each time. The tournament is open to all teams and qualifying rounds are held over several months before the big final meeting, which lasts two and a half weeks. The Major is broadcast to 230 million homes, in 150 countries and in 27 languages! It is an eagerly awaited tournament by the public and fans of Counter-Strike.

  • The tournament takes place over two and a half weeks at 2 venues in Paris: the Parc Floral for the qualifying stages and the Accor Arena for the finals. Can you tell us what the special requirements are for an eSport event?

Firstly, the duration. Apart from the Olympics, it is rare for an international event to come to a country and require on-site facilities for a period of 2 to 3 weeks. Secondly, you need a lot of space: in the qualifying rounds, between 6 and 8 teams are playing at the same time, so you need plenty of room for them (5 players, a trainer, the family ...). And of course, you need a very powerful fibre connection, as well as qualified staff on site for production, broadcasting, and the event itself: catering, hospitality, transport. For the final stage, 400 people worked at the Accor Arena, 70% of whom were French and hired specially for the occasion.

Finally, logistics are essential, and host cities need to be hubs for attracting players from all over the world: international airports are essential, as is general transport accessibility. Hotels must also be able to meet these requirements, as must transport services within the city.

  • What have you found particularly favourable about Paris in the hosting of this event?

Many things! Firstly, there's a huge French gaming community, with teams, players and people working in the eSports ecosystem. This helps us enormously because we need to hire a lot of local resources.

Paris also has many large function rooms and venues that are used to hosting major events, plus a big hotel capacity. The 32 teams require a large capacity in terms of accommodation. We are very pleased that the Majors are held in Paris!

  • How is the big show of the finals staged at the Accor Arena?

It is four days of high-level events, from the quarter-finals to the grand final. Each match lasts between 1hr30 and 2 hours, and the fans enjoy a thrilling experience, whether they're watching live at home or in the arena.

It is really something that you need to experience to be able to understand; when you arrive at the venue, there's a whole combination of light effects, sounds, and even a particular smell because of the technology and the huge screens. It is all part of what makes the moment so special and so eagerly awaited by fans. For hours, people don’t move from their seats! The atmosphere is extremely lively, with a lot of shouting and singing, like at a football match but indoors. People are really passionate about their team. Some fans follow them to every competition and proudly sport their team colours.

  • In your opinion, does eSport anticipate the major events of the future?

What I find fascinating is the link between what happens in practice and what we watch from a distance. If you take examples like Formula 1, football or tennis, the spectator is only watching the performance, they can't activate or influence anything. In eSport that is different: there's a real relationship between the public watching at home, the public in the audience and the players. Gaming and technology make that possible. Our platform, Blast.tv, broadcasts the matches live, but also offers Internet users the experience of interacting, activating, influencing …. They can decide: to vote, for example, for who plays first, speak to the commentator, chat with the players after the match, etc. The public in the auditorium also have the possibility of voting to influence the show.

This is the future: making technologies easy to use and enhancing experiences, turning them into something new!

  • Do you think that eSports tourism is something that should be explored?

The number of people travelling specifically for this event is considerable, and especially due to the fact that it was held in Paris. There are often two types of profiles: parents who travel with the children (mainly father and son) and groups of friends (4 to 8 people). The profiles are very diverse, some people have substantial means while for others it represents a real budget … ESport tourism is not yet very developed, and there are few specialists in the sector. However, the rapid sale of tickets for this event (50,000 in 4 days!) reflects its popularity. So that should change quickly.

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