An Introductory Guide to eSports Technology

Liz Alton
Liz Alton

eSports are being propelled to the forefront of the sporting world. Technology plays a critical role in delivering the experience to fans and enabling players, from the streaming platforms that distribute broadcasts to the ergonomic setups that prevent injuries. The meteoric rise in popularity has led to competitions and gaming lounges being built around the country, and having the right technology setup is crucial to a successful eSports experience.

As Goldman Sachs analysts recently noted in an industry report, “To play a traditional sport, one typically needs access to an appropriate venue (field, court, arena, etc.), and to be successful, it almost always helps to be big, fast, strong, or coordinated—or better yet some combination of all four. To play multiplayer video games, all that is necessary is the requisite hardware and an Internet connection—and there is a community of millions of players online that are ready to play at any hour of the day.”

Whether you’re creating a setup for your unique gaming needs or making critical choices for a school’s new eSports lab or large-scale arena, here’s a closer look at how technology can help you master gameplay.

Building eSports Infrastructure: Agile Networks, On-Premises and Edge Technology

Technology can make or break an eSports venue or lab, and the cornerstone of your setup is the infrastructure that runs the games and connects fans to gameplay. There are a number of areas to consider, including security, your data center, connectivity, cloud computing, digital signage, and cabling solutions. Here’s an overview of some of the most important considerations to keep in mind as you get started.

Network

Your network speed, agility, and bandwidth are critical. One of the biggest issues that has affected the eSports space is latency. Primarily, tournaments are broadcast via streaming platforms such as Twitch and Steam. Imagine a system trying to work in high definition, with detailed graphics and large groups of highly skilled players making moves that need to be played back in milliseconds. As VentureBeatnotes, a strong infrastructure is essential to fast-growing eSports, from reducing latency to delivering the real-time experiences eSports demands. 

Cloud companies are focused on building network stability and reducing latency to as much as 20% of standard acceptable lag for hard-core gamers. The explosive growth of titles such as Fortnite on mobile platforms has led toexplorations of how emerging mobile technologies—including Wi-Fi 6, 5G, and edge computing—can reduce lag and better meet the needs of mobile gamers. Connectivity at all levels is vital to gameplay and the fan experience.

On-Premises Solutions for Security

From fan engagement to real-time cheating and fraud detection, since officiating happens online, on-premises technology is preferred for eSports. InformationWeek reported, “In other words, gaming faces transformation comparable to enterprises migrating from on premise to the cloud—with a vocal audience that despises lag.” On-premises solutions help eSports venues keep tight controls of security to prevent cheating, interference with gameplay, and hacks that can affect thousands of users.

If you’re not sure where to start, a partner can help you map out the technology infrastructure that’s right for your venue, level of competition, and hardware and networking considerations to make your vision a reality.

Gaming Devices

When building an eSports arena or the personal setup for a competitive gamer, the cornerstone is the gaming console or computer that runs the operation. Gaming laptops provide portability needed for gamers on the go, while desktops offer enhanced capacity during competitions. The leagues your team competes in will have guiding technology specs. The technology is constantly evolving, and the cutting edge is moving forward. 

Before you make your initial investments, get the basic specs provided by the leagues that your teams will be competing in. Many also offer a preview of how those tech needs will evolve in the coming year, which can help you invest in technology that will meet your needs over time. Often, these include guidelines on processing power, RAM, hard drives, and graphics cards. Working with the right partner can help you develop pre-builds that are based on competitive specifications.

It’s also important to think about the ongoing management of these assets. Asset tagging helps you keep track of devices and manage your setup. Working with an experienced eSports partner also opens up a host of complementary services. For example, do you want your devices laser engraved with your logo? You can also leverage features such as order management and ongoing partnerships for upgrades, repairs, and services. Keeping your fleet of gaming devices current and supported is a top consideration for long-term technology planning.

Monitors and Digital Signage

Monitors and digital signage bring the visual experience of your gaming arena to life. The first consideration is the monitors competitors will use during gameplay, practice, and competitions. Monitors are critical, as they deliver the visual interface that enables strong gameplay. A state-of-the-art gaming monitor has the graphics, size, and refresh capacities to offer a visual experience that pairs with a computer that processes gameplay at lighting speed. One of the biggest considerations is whether to go with curved monitors or flat monitors.Curved monitors offer a more immersive field of view, but there is a wider range of choices in brands, size, and cost for flat monitors.

Another factor to consider is digital signage and large-screen video displays. Onsite fans will often sit for hours, watching the gameplay unfold. Brands like ViewSonic and LG offer a variety of large screen options to customize your onsite displays. From streaming gameplay to displaying stats from a competition in progress, adding large screens creates a “big experience” feel for your arena and pulls everything together.

Accessories

Every part of your eSports arena helps take your team to a competitive level. Accessories are no exception. From keyboards to headsets, it’s important to think about how accessories impact the gaming experience. As you move through the process, there are multiple accessory classes to consider:

  • Headsets: Headsets allow your players to hear the gameplay and participate in team discussions via microphones. It’s important to consider models that are comfortable for long-term gameplay and offer sound quality that supports what your players need.
  • Keyboards: For PC- and computer-based gamers, the keyboard is an important part of streamlining gaming and offering an ergonomic experience. The biggest feature to consider is whether you’ll choose a standard membrane keyboard or go for a higher-quality mechanical keyboard. There are also specialized gaming keyboards—sometimes called MMO keyboards—with extra buttons that can be used to optimize gameplay.
  • Mouse: As you choose what gaming mice you’ll purchase, remember there are different options that align to game types. A shooter mouse works well with first-person shooter games, while a MOBA- or MMO-style mouse offers expanded button access. Discussing what games will be used in the leagues you’re competing in, and what mouse they recommend, is a smart starting point.
  • Cameras: To truly experience the thrill of eSports, video production, equipment and positioning are critical. Investing in broadcast quality cameras geared toward the high-performance needs of the industry is not only a requirement in many leagues but also a necessity that provides audience engagement.

Services

When outfitting an eSports arena or choosing the components to optimize your gaming experience, every detail matters. Keeping your technology on point is an important part of staying competitive, and laying the right technological foundation can be the key to building your eSports program’s momentum. A technology partner can offer services at a range of levels, from initial consultation and assessments to implementation and ongoing managed services. By working with a services partner, you can take advantage of a deeper expertise in eSports technology and dive into the pre-planning process to ensure that your investments and venue design support both your immediate needs and long-term goals.

Liz Alton

Liz Alton is a B2B technology and digital marketing writer and content strategist. She has worked with a variety of brands including Google, Twitter, Adobe, Oracle, and HP, and written for publications including Forbes. She is a regular contributor to Connected, Connection’s official blog.

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