Virtual meet-and-greets, social watch spaces and exclusive Overwatch League merchandise make their way to Linden Labs’ social VR platform.
UPDATE (5/16/18): A representative has reached out with an update stating that there is no official partnerships happening with either of the two teams nor the Overwatch League itself and that previously announced activities would not be moving forward at this time.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the demand for esports is on a meteoric rise. Research predicts the global economy of the industry to reach a staggering $905.6 million by the end of 2018 as commitments by major brands continue to grow by 48%. Thanks to innovative new competitive titles such as Rocket League, Hearthstone and Rainbow Six: Siege, it’s never been a better time to get into competitive professional gaming.
Linden Labs is fully aware of this, which is exactly why the creators of the social VR platform Sansar have teamed up with a few of the teams from one of the fastest-growing esports titles currently on the circuit, Overwatch, to bring a new level of interaction and virtual spectating to fans of the fast-paced FPS. A direct attempt at delivering a virtual viewing experience equivalent to that of a real life event, Sansar provides dedicated spectators with a bounty of exclusive VR goodies.
Partnering with prominent Overwatch teams such as the Houston Outlaws and the San Francisco Shock, fans can participate in virtual photo ops and official meet-and-greets with their favorite players, access exclusive giveaways, view live matches in a custom shared watch space, even show their love by purchasing branded merch from their favorite teams.
“We’ve seen a real need in the esports market for a deeper, more engaging fan experience – something that can go beyond normal spectatorship to really draw people in,” spoke Ebbe Altberg, CEO at Linden Lab, in an official release. “We feel social VR is perfectly poised to meet this need, and we’re thrilled to find forward-thinking esports partners that feel the same – trailblazing teams that recognize VR’s potential and are willing to evolve and innovate to deliver world-class experiences. Their investments in Sansar are investments in their communities.”
Two Overwatch League teams in particular, the Houston Outlaws and San Fransisco Shock, have dove head-first into the exciting new prospect with specialized virtual spaces for dedicated fans who can’t be there to cheer on their favorite team in person. The Houston Outlaws are no strangers to strong community building, having recently partnered with the city of Arlington, Texas to build an extravagant multimillion dollar esports venue as well having completed the first-ever esports player signing tour in the United States. Now the dedicated organization is bringing that same love to fans in VR with The Hideout: a virtual clubhouse built specifically for Outlaw fans which will unveil during the Outlaws 2018 Block Party, May 18th-19th at Coral Sword in Houston, Texas.
“We have a mantra here – we must focus on things that haven’t been done before in esports especially in the technology space and fan experiences,” says Simon Bennett, VP of Marketing at Infinite Esports & Entertainment. “We are beyond excited to be able to provide a club house that Outlaws fans can access and be a part of the watch party community from anywhere in the world. We hear calls for watch parties from China, Australia, UK and all over the world, and working with the insanely talented team at Sansar to make this a reality (virtually) has been a dream come true for us all. We can’t wait to show the community their virtual home away from home.”
Not to be outdone, fellow Overwatch League competitors the San Fransisco Shock have also made heavy strides towards the mass-adoption of e-sports with their own major partnership with the University of California, Berkeley, to create an esports community center. However, for those unable to make it out to the west coast for a live match, the team is also breaking ground on a virtual alternative dubbed The SF Shock Epicenter: the first-ever VR arena for esports. The innovative virtual space, available exclusively on Sansar, will launch in conjunction with the 2018 Shock Watch Event happening Friday, May 25th, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.
“We’re always trying to make the NRG/Shock fan experience as unique and exciting as possible, and embarking on this project with Sansar is helping us achieve exactly that,” spoke Andy Miller, owner and CEO of NRG Esports and the San Francisco Shock. “Fans now have a new cutting edge shared space to support the team, regardless of where they live. Our community is amazing and I can’t wait to see what the community ends up doing with it!”
“We see these spaces and partnerships as the first ripples in a bigger wave,” Altberg continues. “Gamers today need more than just 2D chat to connect and communicate, and we’re thrilled that Sansar can serve as their go-to esports destination – a place where players can interact more closely and directly with fans from around the world.”
Providing an immersive multi-person VR space for fans to interact and socialize no matter their location could be exactly what these eleagues need to help not only popularize themselves, but normalize as well – which is arguably the biggest hurdle currently plaguing the esports scene in the U.S. and Europe. You can access these sweet esports bonuses by downloading the Sansar client via PC or VR. Sansar has confirmed that additional features are already on the way, including real-time stats tracking, in-game player audio monitoring and much more.
Image Credit: Blizzard / Sansar / Overwatch Score