Virtual Athletics League Launches Global VR Esports League for Arcades with Sponsorship from HTC and HP, Inc.
Following decades of speculation about when virtual reality would reach a level that could support competitive gaming, VR leagues are thriving only two years after the release of the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
Virtual Athletics League Receives HP, Inc. and HTC Sponsorship
The Virtual Athletics League is the premier resource for VR arcades. According to founder-CEO Ryan Burningham, the league started out as a concept out of a Salt Lake City arcade called Virtualities. They began with local tournaments and then began organizing some national tournaments with other arcades.
Earlier this summer, VAL was selected as a tournament partner for the International Beat Saber Tournament. This tournament was incredibly successful and accentuated the desire for organized VR esports competitions. Several thousand players participated in the tournament in 168 locations globally.
This week the Virtual Athletics League officially announced that they would be building on that success as they join LIV and SpringboardVR in the pilot season of the VAL with sponsorship from HP, Inc. and HTC esports.
According to Will Stackable, co-founder of Springboard, tournaments “get new customers in the front door” of arcades.
“The launch tournament for Beat Saber was incredibly successful,” he adds. “On the backend we saw the quickest install base of any title to date.”
The interest in VR esports, the desire for competition, and the rapidly expanding industry is exactly what sponsors are looking for as they consider whether to invest in virtual reality gaming.
“These groundbreaking tournaments are a prime example of what HP looks for to drive growth in the VR space,” said Joanna Popper, global head of location-based VR entertainment for HP, Inc.
Andrew Wu, partner marketing manager of HTC esports shared similar sentiments regarding the decision to come on board as a sponsor of VAL. “We had been looking for a way to help support the network of arcades around the globe and this type of community organized play is key in building esports.”
For their premier season, the VAL team reviewed over 100 VR games before settling on seven official titles. They were seeking VR games that met standards for community building, competitiveness, and high quality.
While global tournaments will remain open for all VR arcades, team based games will be launched with arcade versus arcade gameplay.
“The whole concept behind the core league,” explains Joe Gabriel, CCO of VAL, “is that eventually city based play will take place on the same scale as professional sports franchises around the world.” This means each arcade would have their own jerseys, dedicated teams, professional casters and of course Twitch fans.
For a full schedule of tournament gameplay as well as a full list of titles, participating arcades and information about how to join, visit Virtual Athletics League.
Other VR Esports Leagues
While VAL is the first virtual athletics league centered around arcade gameplay, it isn’t the first VR league. Interest in virtual reality esports has grown rapidly during the past two years and leagues are being created to meet the demand.
The VR League, sponsored by ESL and Oculus, was announced last June as the VR Challenger League and had additional sponsorship from Intel. Despite the fact that there were only two games – Echo Arena and The Unspoken – featured in the inaugural season, the league drew in competitive VR gamers and built up a supportive community.
Last week, the VR League held season 2 grand finals at Oculus Connect 5 in San Jose, California. The world’s best VR esports players and teams from Echo Arena, Sprint Vector, Onward and The Unspoken competed for a portion of the $120,000 prize pool.
Over 80 spectators drove or flew to California from around the globe to cheer for their favorite teams during the Echo Arena grand finals. This wasn’t the only VR esports with dedicated fans. Between the four games, there were approximately 200 spectators who paid for plane tickets, lodging, and other expenses simply to be part of the event and show their support for VR esports.
Regardless of their game of choice, members of the VR esports community wanted to hang out in the giant inflatable flamingo from Ready At Dawn.
VR Master League
One of the games featured at the VR League grand finals was Onward, a military tactical simulator created by Dante Buckley. Onward is part of the VR Master League, created by DaKinMan as a place where Onward and Pavlov players could create teams, organize matches and play competitively.
The VR League announced in May that they would be collaborating with the VR Master League in a summer championship series that would lead up to grand finals. There were invitational LAN events, prizes, and ultimately an invitation for the top four teams to compete at Oculus Connect.
VRML recently began its sixth season. You can read news, check out teams, find links to Twitch streams of current games, and learn more at VR Master League.
Collegiate VR Esports League
In January of this year, visionaries from Baylor University created Collegiate Virtual Reality Esports, a league specifically designed for collegiate level VR esports. Despite the fact that most colleges haven’t yet invested in VR esports, the league is adding members as students at colleges and universities across the United States create teams and want to be part of something greater.
At this point the CVRE is focused on bringing other collegiate level groups into the league, finding sponsorship, and organizing tournaments. They hope to work with Oculus at some point in the future to accomplish their goals of growing collegiate VR esports.
Read about teams that have already joined the league and find out how to become a member on the CVRE website.
Future VR Esports Leagues
Virtual reality will continue to blaze a trail through the billion dollar esports industry. There is already a well-established foundation and the leagues that have cropped up within the past year will no doubt create their own marks in the history of VR esports.
It’s an exciting time as we see pioneers such as the forces behind VAL, CVRE, VR League, and VR Master League strive to provide the best competitive experiences possible for VR gamers. Whether they’re catering to arcades, college students, dedicated first-person-shooter fans, or other emerging athletes, each league has a purpose. Since some of the leagues are still relatively small and the populations are quickly expanding, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with prizes or expenses associated with the league without the support of sponsors such as those mentioned above.