NYCC 2013

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Intel Extreme Masters

10th - 13th October 2013 | Written by Maxxum

Marketing fluff is to be expected at cons, and certainly at NYCC. The Upper Expo Hall of the Javits Center where vendors are kept is 410,000sqft; that's larger than Lower Exposition Hall (250,000sqft) where panels are, and the Special Events Hall (100,000sqft) combined. However, Intel's Extreme Masters by the Electronics Sports League were true to the words of its title. Intel had the largest swath of the expo hall, at least one quarter of room 3E, the largest exhibit by far and not even counting affiliates. Intel and ESL were hosting one in a series of Starcraft II tournaments, a game where the level of play in South Korea is so high that it's common for players to live in boot-camp dorms to improve their skills to better their odds of becoming one of only 300 professional players that are allowed to be licensed to compete in Starcraft. It is no stretch to call these gamers both masters of their sport, and extreme in their dedication.

Intel's exhibit was split between a live gaming competition, and a showcase of their latest processors all within systems demonstrating their performance running the latest games. Saturday I spoke with George Woo, the IEM Program Manager about IEM, and Intel's PC specific (thus far) approach to the gaming market:

Maxxum: Tell us what you're doing here.

George Woo: This is our 8th season of the Intel Extreme Masters program and what it is is our global eSport Title Sponsorship. We have six stops this season, which is this is the second stop of the year. The first one was in China, so we're here competing for Starcraft II for $25,000 and we'll move on to Singapore, Brazil, Cologne, and then to our world championship in Poland.

These pro gaming leagues are beginning to look more like pro sports teams, do you anticipate experiencing some of the same problems where you might have a gamer taking stimulants to get an advantage in the game?

We enforce no drugs, definitely. We're a title sponsor, so it's not Intel's league. ESL is a really highly respected organization, if they ever caught somebody they'd probably disqualify them.

Do [ESL] perform testing?

I don't know if they're testing, I don't think it's that extreme. I think that if they saw someone probably not in the right state of mind in a competition, that they would probably pull them aside and, y'know, I don't know what they'd do the next steps because I've never asked about those things, but I know that we have had some problems before and they release players. That was a long time ago.

Does Intel have gaming scholarships like colleges have sports scholarships?

No, not gaming. I mean, we're all about... I mean, this is a marketing platform. Yes, we want to make sure that the community is served, we want to give them the best technology possible. The gamers are the best in the world and we want to believe that we have the best technology, so it's a nice synergy. We have the best hardware [ESL] have the best players, and people can watch it just like a basketball show. You've got Michael Jordan playing wearing his shoes, people aspire to be like him, they want those shoes. That's the same kind of backup we want on our products when people see this. So, people go "Hey, what's that type of game machine", and immediately you would say Intel.

So, given that this is a very powerful marketing platform for you, are you developing any sort of idea to have a super arena like they do in Korea?

Well, we wouldn't build it, what we would do is start working with government officials, looking at, y'know like what we had... that's exactly our model in Poland. We have a whole sports arena with our collaboration with the government. If it wasn't for that, it'd be highly cost prohibitive for us to be in the type of venue that large scale.

Gaming has traditionally been a PC realm, Intel has a relatively small share in the tablet market, around 1%, does Intel have plans to address the tablet gaming market?

Well, we're always going there - it's mobile gaming period. Y'know, smart-phones, to our 2-in-1's, and to our tablets. We have our new integrated graphics, which is called Intel Iris and Iris Pro. We have one here in the showcase, and we wanted to make sure we want to keep on developing where we close the gap between discrete cards and integrated graphics, so the consumer who ain't a hardcore gamer can do other things with it, and it comes with a small form factor because it's all integrated on the core, instead of like a discrete card. And, therefore you can do the regular work, they can play games, most of the good games at a really pretty good high setting. Sooner or later we will hope to be able to give you the competitive stuff.

Photos by Maxxum