For the past few years, AMD has been running Extravalanza, a tournament that brings some of the best PC players together while also showing off some of the latest and greatest tech from AMD. In past years, AMD housed the event at its campus in Markham, but this year the company has opted for an external space, with 99 Sudbury fitting the bill nicely.
Extravalanza is an odd beast when looking at tournaments in Toronto and North America. Due to the fact it is run by AMD, it has many things you would expect, such as PCs built with AMD hardware that players can use, AMD prizes to be won, and a showcase of indie games along with VR tech.
With 320 gamers taking part, and 4,000 people stopping by to see what was on show, this is one of the bigger events of its nature. While it has some way to go before it can compete against Dreamhack, Extravalanza manages to be a platform for PC gaming in a way few events can.
Talking to Dave Erskine, Senior Manager of Analyst Relations at AMD, you can see the excitement Extravalanza brings AMD and the community. As he puts it, “There is a whole community around Toronto that’s excited about [AMD] technology and the technologies that we are helping to drive, like virtual reality, augmented reality, and 4K gaming. This is something that we are a part of and we want to be able to showcase that to a larger community.”
Extravalanza has evolved from where it started as a showcase of AMD more than a major tournament.
“Past years were all about giving the Markham community a chance to see what AMD does and we put a LAN tournament on top of that. It was a big success, we had a lot of people come in especially from the community because you’ve got this is gem located in Markham that people don’t get a chance to see,” Erskine said.
“I think it’s a celebration of gaming as well. A large part of our DNA and our culture,” added Sean Skelton, Programming and Demo Lead for AMD, further outlining what Extravalanza offers the Toronto gaming community.
The bigger venue and the attention to all the players did not go unnoticed. The community as a whole was visibly excited, from the tournament to the contests taking place between major sections.
Despite its size, Extravalanza felt like a community event. People were talking, players mixed with fans, and everyone on site was enjoying the event. This sort of event in Toronto demonstrates the energy the community has, and people coming from all over the GTA can join in and have fun.
With AMD now at the centre of so many devices and the core of many of the ways we now play, it is great to see them giving back to the community. It was also the first year I have seen AMD promote the event in new ways. Walking down to Yonge and Dundas Square the digital signage was hard to miss.
Taking one of the big screens in the square, AMD had put clear effort into not only making a tournament players could enjoy, but also make an event players from all over the city could come to and have a good time.
As Erskine puts it, “There are many technologies that [people] may not always realize AMD is behind, and they might see the billboards and digital signage and see VR and say ‘man I’m interested in VR. I want to go to that 99 Sudbury Event.’ So they come down here and as a result of that, they get exposed to all the AMD technologies.
On the other side, there are the AMD fans—if you will—that want to see what we’ve done this year and we are showcasing what we’ve done—even in the last six months. I mean the launch of the Xbox One X [is] a great example. I’m walking around here talking to people going in saying ‘I didn’t know that 4K gaming could be so compelling and the realism of that. It’s like watching a movie.’ You know it’s incredible.”
With artists working in VR, demos set up showcasing the latest and greatest in tech, game developers and tech companies using the event as a way to promote their latest indie games, or the new technology, Extravalanza has quickly become the gaming event Toronto needed. One that while built to demonstrate what AMD has been working on still manages to offer fans a community event that celebrates the media of gaming and the technology around it.
While it is a tech company, AMD is made up of people who care about gaming, which was made clear with the story Erskine outlined about the development of Threadripper.
“It was a case of a small group of fans—actually gaming fans—within AMD saying ‘what if’, what if we take this part that has 16 cores and 32 threads [and] make it available to the gaming community. So we ran the concept up the flagpole and we had great support from Jim Anderson—he drives the client graphics business—and then he took it too Lisa Sue and she said ‘that’s fantastic let’s do it, Let’s try it.’ With their support this small team said ‘okay let’s go ahead with Threadripper’ let’s make this possible. Even on an incredibly tight timeline they actually achieved it. We were actually able to roll it out to the enthusiast community and they embraced it. They absolutely love this technology.”
It is safe to say that Extravalanza was a major success this year, especially for the fans. It offered a place where the community can meet, interact, and simultaneously experience all the new tech that is slowly entering the market. Few places are so accessible yet so eye-opening to the players of the GTA, and hopefully, AMD keeps Extravalanza going forward.