Thousands in person, millions online enjoy esports tournament in Raleigh

A major tournament, watched by millions around the world, is wrapping up this weekend.

It’s not the World Cup, it’s an esports competition in downtown Raleigh.

Players entered the arena Sunday, but the competition is not on a field or court; Sunday’s contest took place on a virtual battlefield.

Landing a tournament, like Sunday’s at the Raleigh Convention Center for the game, Call of Duty – is a big deal.

Jerry Spencer is with an esports team called Convoy gaming out of Mississippi.

“We are the number two seed in this tournament here,” said Spencer. “When these guys make their plays, the whole crowd jumps up and goes crazy.”

This tournament did not get to Raleigh by accident.

Loren Gold, the executive vice president of Visit Raleigh, said the city is making a name for itself in the esports world.

“We have been at this almost four years building the strategy,” said Gold. “Are we a leader in the U.S.? We absolutely are. Are we a distinct leader in the southeast part of the U.S.? Absolutely.”

This tournament could bring as many as 7000 people to Raleigh.

That’s great for business, but it goes far beyond that; The event is also streamed online – where many more people will be introduced to the city.

“We have seen numbers come in that are in the tens of millions of impressions,” said Gold. “That is a brand impression all over the world.”

Leaders in our area want to keep these tournaments coming: Highlighting game publishers based here in our area, offering grants to tournament organizers, building up venues to support esports – even developing curriculum in our schools to train students in esports careers.

But perhaps our biggest advantage, Gold said, is that leaders at many levels are buying into the importance of these events and pushing to grow them here.

Officials said bigger esports tournaments can bring more than 20 million dollars to our local economy.

There is also big money in it for the esports competitors; In competitions like the one in Raleigh this weekend, there can be a million dollars or more on the line.

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