Esports series to debut in Las Vegas with ‘fight-card’ matches

A new esports tournament series will make its debut in Las Vegas this weekend with a format straight out of UFC.

The World Showdown of Esports, a multigenre tournament series featuring fight-card-style matchups, opens play Saturday and Sunday at the new PokerGo Studio near Aria.

Esports are professional video-game competitions that are growing in popularity, particularly within the millennial generation. Several casino companies have embraced them as a means to attract younger players to their properties and the gaming industry has taken gradual steps toward offering wagering on esports games.

“We’re taking esports to the masses,” said ESP Gaming President Jeff Liboon.

The first WSOE champions will be crowned at the conclusion of the Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) Pan-Continental competition Sunday. Representatives of ESP Gaming announced the fight-card format Tuesday, featuring head-to-head matches between players from Team Vitality, Team Envy, OpTic Gaming, Tempo Storm and 12 other leading esports teams.

Fans will be able to watch the competition livestreamed on Twitch at www.twitch.tv/wsoe. There’s limited seating at the PokerGo studio.

MGM Resorts International, which opened the first esports arena on the Strip at its Luxor property earlier this year, is partnering with Poker Central and ESP Gaming on the production. A partnership with undisclosed terms between MGM and Poker Central for the 10,000-square-foot studio and esports broadcast venue was announced in April. The studio is located in a retail strip just east of Aria.

The weekend matches, which have a $100,000 prize pool, are considered a rollout that will introduce the studio venue and the match format to fans. Liboon said the event will show off his team’s production capabilities. A full schedule of matches is expected to be introduced later in the summer with the first big event — dubbed WSOE 1 — planned in the fall.

Competitions are expected to be scheduled every month to two months.

Just as fight promoters in boxing and UFC work to develop compelling matchups for their fight cards, the WSOE plans to do the same on its cards.

“The WSOE will highlight the most compelling narratives in competitive gaming driven by the very essence of what makes traditional sports so popular, the players,” Liboon said Monday. “The WSOE will represent what gamers really love about esports with the intensity turned up to the max.”

Liboon said centering the production in Las Vegas is key to drawing top teams to a central location and the city’s many entertainment, food and lodging amenities make it appealing to attracting the numerous esports teams.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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