Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018 Marks ESL’s First Esports Competition Held in the Midwest
Intel® Extreme Masters (IEM), the longest-running global pro gaming circuit in the world, launched the first installment of IEM Chicago on November 10-11 to rousing success, touting a near capacity crowd of 6,500 fans and viewership numbers nearly doubling that of its predecessor, IEM Oakland 2017. IEM Chicago is a critical stop leading into IEM’s Season 13 World Championship in Katowice early next year, and marked the inaugural ESL stadium event in the Midwest. The competition featured the world’s best 16 teams in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), battling for their share of the $250,000 USD prize pool.
Audiences watched on the edge of their seats as Astralis beat out Team Liquid during the Grand Finals. Via distribution channels both online and on linear TV, IEM Chicago generated over 38 million sessions streamed, nearly doubling viewership from IEM Oakland 2017, IEM’s previous North American event. Online viewers consumed almost 11 million hours of content throughout the event, a 110 percent increase from last year, and had over 12 million unique viewers. Astralis’s Chicago victory leaves the team just one championship away from taking home the $1 million Intel(R) Grand Slam prize -- the upcoming ESL Pro League Odense on December 7th-9th could serve as the final win for the powerhouse.
“IEM Chicago is a long-term commitment to ESL’s efforts in North America, underlining the global approach of the company,” said Michal Blicharz, VP Pro Gaming, ESL. “ESL has hosted events on the East and West Coasts, and now, the Midwest — truly spreading esports competitions across the entire United States. We look forward to returning to this amazing city and fan base next year.”
In addition to thrilling match-ups, IEM Chicago served as a platform for Movember’s charity initiatives supporting men’s mental health, as well as a collegiate showmatch between University of Illinois and Robert Morris University on the main stage. Additionally, the event featured several onsite brand activations from sponsors, engaging and entertaining esports fans during the weekend-long event. Activations at the arena included the Intel Experience Arena, which featured game and hardware demos and a mini VR tournament, powered by Intel’s leading Intel® Core™ i7 and i9 high performance processors. Attendees also got hands on with new game previews from AT&T, game demos and product sales from HyperX, Acer’s DJ Booth, and a Red Bull gaming station and themed cocktail bar.
“The decision to bring Intel Extreme Masters to Chicago was made to expand the reach of esports around the world, and we couldn’t be more thrilled by the enthusiasm and excitement that fans showed for the first IEM Chicago,” said said John Bonini, Vice President of VR, Gaming and Esports at Intel Corporation. “We look forward to an even bigger event next year with our move to the United Center and making IEM Chicago the best esports event in North America.”
Chicago will remain the home of the IEM North American event for the next two years. After this year’s installment at the Wintrust Arena, the event will move to the United Center, home of the professional basketball team the Chicago Bulls and professional hockey team the Chicago Blackhawks, for 2019 and 2020. With the transition to a new stadium, IEM Chicago hopes to accommodate an even larger competition overall, drawing from the historic prestige of the venue.