Cineplex Gambles on eSports in a Big Way

eSports is an ever growing business within gaming. Every year millions of dollars are on the line, stadiums are filled, and a select few walk home with massive cash prizes. Cineplex, the major theatre chain in Canada, are now looking to jump into that action with the Cineplex WorldGaming Canadian Championship. With their unique take on tournaments, this could be a model the world may want pay attention to.

Gaming on the big screen is nothing new; theatres have been having small tournaments and parties on the screens for years. To take the eSports model and transplant it onto a theatre is exciting, though. It brings the spectacle of competitive sports to numerous venues and allows a new way for people to jump into the action.

The competitive environments for gaming are something that must be seen to understand. The announcers commenting on the playstyle, how the players are doing, and how the overall team is keeping up in the rankings adds another dimension to the atmosphere. It’s a stressful yet exhilarating experience; one that is emphasised once you see it in person.

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Cineplex World Gaming Regional Finals

There are plenty of cyber cafes around at the moment; places where you can throw a projector and a screen up, see the essential elements, and watch from the sidelines. What Cineplex is trying to do is create a place where you can go, compete, and experience the stadium-like experience of an eSports major. With 24 theatres currently offering the technology for these tournaments in cities across Canada, anyone, no matters the size of city they may be in, should be able to find a match near them.

Cineplex, with their purchase of World Gaming, has built what they believe is a valuable partnership, one that will help both brands. World Gaming bring the technology behind the casting and setup of tournaments, and Cineplex brings the big screen experience. It’s something that could pay off in a big way if done right, and also exposes the power gaming has over the cultural zeitgeist at present.

Sadly, these tournaments have a limited scale. Due to the nature of the theatre experience, there is a cap on how many players can actively participate at any one time. Where the current setup with Call of Duty: Black Ops III, the Online Qualifiers will welcome unlimited participants, the in-theatre gaming will be limited to 12 gaming stations at one time. During the first few rounds of gameplay, all 12 gaming stations will be used. If they are one-on-one matches, up to six games will be played at any given time. Cineplex expects that future tournaments will likely enable team play or other structures, but that will be contingent on the game.

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But the real question is how this will all work after real world testing. Can a setup like this work for a nationwide competition? How can people get involved? Cineplex WorldGaming Canadian Championship 2016 has set up their tournament in three phases: Online Qualifiers, Regional Finals and Canadian Championship. The Online Qualifiers ran from January 16 to February 7 and had players compete online in one-on-one rounds through a series of bracket competitions. They could then choose from 24 different ‘theatre locations’ to participate in, each with eight brackets. This phase would then identify the top 32 local players for each of the 24 theatres, who would then move on to the Regional Finals.

The Regional Final events welcome the top 32 local players to their nearest participating theatre on February 21 to take part in a one single-elimination bracket. This selection process narrowed the players down even further, whittling it down to one winner per location, leaving ten to advance to the Canadian Championship event. Cineplex then also allowed eight players to be selected in ‘wild card’, decided by high scorers from the Regional Finals.

The Canadian Championships are being held on March 6, with the 32 finalists from across the country flown down to compete for the winning title at Scotiabank Theatre in downtown Toronto. There’s $50,000 in total prizing up for grabs, including $20,000 cash for the winner to go home with, and $8,000 and $3,500 for the second and third place winners, respectively.

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Cineplex World Gaming Regional Finals

Once this tournament is over, there will be a better idea of how to better roll out this formula for future championships. It’s an ambitious move on the part of Cineplex, but if it pays off it could be a model that people worldwide could adopt. It brings the thrill of competition to local venues and makes local talent rise to the surface in a crowded global stage.