Ramin Delshad has been practicing about five hours a day for the last several weeks to train for a Nintendo gaming tournament he will compete in Tuesday. The thing is, he doesn’t really know what he will be playing.
Nintendo plans to debut the newest version of fighting video game “Super Smash Bros.” at gaming conference E3 this week, the first iteration of the game to be created for the company’s popular Switch console.
It’ll unveil the game with a big tournament featuring some of the world’s best Smash players – and the live competition will be the first time the professional gamers get their hands on it.
“There is no way we can be prepared,” Delshad – who is better known in the video game world by his screen name Mr.R – said Monday. He doesn’t care. He is just thrilled to be invited to the tournament and excited to see the new game.
All of the players are. Eight of them gathered together Monday in Los Angeles to talk to the press, and spent much of the time discussing what they expected to see in the game and lobbing joking insults at each other.
It’s the biggest year yet for esports events at E3, said Mike Gallagher, CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, which hosts the convention.
“The revenue still in esports is nowhere near approaching the entertainment revenue that you see from the platforms themselves or the core entertainment product,” he said. “But the engagement levels are off the charts.”
Online esports tournaments have millions of viewers – one competition had more than 46 million viewers – and tens of thousands of spectators pack arenas to watch skilled video game players battle it out on big screens. Lately, that phenomenon has hit a fever pitch with Epic Games’ “Fortnite,” which people have spent hundreds of millions of hours watching on streaming game site Twitch.
Arenas built for the games are dotting the U.S., including one planned in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood.
Gallagher expects the trend to continue gaining popularity among mainstream viewers and TV networks, he said Monday, pointing out that the average viewer is younger than in any other major sport, which could be an attractive quality for networks.
Delshad, 24, plays Smash Bros professionally as a sponsored gamer, as do many of the competitors this week. He has been competing for at least eight years, and practices an average of five hours a day.
Fellow competitor Gonzalo Barrios, aka ZeRo, is coming out of semi-retirement from competing to get a look at the game built for Switch. He really just hopes the game is built for fun.
“I want it to be something everyone can enjoy,” he said.
Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros Invitational tournament kicks off Tuesday around 2:30 p.m. following a tournament of its “Splatoon 2” game.