At the Intel Extreme Masters (“IEM”) Sydney 2018 earlier this month, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the General Manager of Sales at Intel, Lee Machen, and talk with him about gaming and the future of esports.
Here’s what we discussed.
What do you do at Intel?
I’m the General Manager of Sales for gaming products and I make sure that our customers have everything they need from us like the latest generation CPUs. I also work with retailers and make sure we’re doing what we can to help them communicate our products to their customers.
Why does Intel sponsor events like IEM?
We make some fairly large investments in gaming and our largest is IEM because they are a great place to meet with our customers and local retailers. We also make a lot of the products that competitive gamers use and so we sponsor events like this in order to better connect with gamers who use our products, whether they are competitive gamers or not.
Why do you think esports is growing?
The driving force behind esports is that gaming is more fun when you’re in a friendly competition with someone else. This, combined with the ability to play with people all around the world is what has really made gaming grow and is what I think is helping push the growth of esports around the world.
Personally, among many parts of the world and age groups, gaming and competitive gaming is already mainstream and is a big part of many people’s lives. As people continue to play games and the next generation grow up playing games, it’s going to cement gaming as a more popular past-time and therefore we’ll see it grow and become more mainstream.
What initiatives does Intel have planned to get more girls into gaming?
As an industry, we collectively need to change the balance of who’s participating in gaming. It can’t grow if it’s primarily focused on one demographic. We’ve partnered with ESL to create an organisation called Anykey to encourage fairness and equality in gaming. One of the biggest things Anykey is doing is to host a separate competition at IEM in Poland focused on women. While there’s that question of “why do women need a separate competition?”, currently, unfortunately some of the biggest talents in gaming are men and therefore it’s a little difficult to have a large scale competition for women gamers. However, we’re trying to introduce the concept of equality by allowing women to also have their chance at competing, with the hope that in time, we’ll be able to introduce mixed teams and have more fairness in terms of the bigger competitions.
We also want attendees of events like these to walk away feeling that they’ve managed to take a piece with them, that the event spoke to them and meant something to them. If we didn’t have a women’s league, there’ll be several girls and women in the crowd who’d likely feel that this event means nothing to them and doesn’t apply to them. So we want to encourage girls and women to feel a connection to esports and esport events by having things like a women’s league that they are able to enjoy.
There are no easy answers but as an industry, we need to continually try to push for more so that we don’t need to have these same conversations in 10 – 15 years.
Will VR gaming be competitive and included in esports in the future?
I think it will. It may not take over but there will be a place for it. We worked with Oculus over the past year to run a VR Challenger League where we had regional qualifiers for two games, Echo Arena and Unspoken. We then had a finals event at IEM Poland. We decided to bring VR to IEM to see what fans and players thought and determine if there is a big place for VR in esports. We were pleasantly surprised at the reactions we received. However, we learnt that our biggest challenge would involve broadcasting VR competitions. How do we broadcast VR onto Twitch and the like?
We’re taking everything we’ve learnt and use it to figure out ways on how we can incorporate VR into esports gaming. It’ll be a long while before it competes with traditional PC gaming but there’s certainly a future for it.
For more on IEM, check out the official website here: https://intelextrememasters.com/