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League of Legends helps e-sports association double online audience for key European event

Above: The Katowice ESL event in Poland.

Image Credit: James 'Obscurica' Chen

Fans watched more than 12 million hours’ worth of competitive gaming last week as e-sports continues to grow with the help of one of the biggest online games and livestreaming platform Twitch.

The Electronic Sports League held its annual Intel Extreme Masters Katowice event in Poland on March 14 through March 16, and its peak concurrent viewership more than doubled to 643,362. That’s up 169 percent from the previous year. ESL broadcasted the proceedings live through Twitch’s streaming service.

Katowice hosted tournaments for League of Legends, StarCraft II, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and FIFA 14. More than $500,000 in prize money was on the line.

“It was only six or seven years ago that we were happy to see 12,000 concurrent online viewers on a single match,” ESL managing director Michał Blicharz. “We had 12,000 watching matches live in the flesh in Katowice and hundreds of thousands online. This growth is simply mind-blowing.”

League of Legends was the big draw. The final match between KT Rolster Bullets of South Korea and Fnatic of Europe had more than 511,000 concurrent viewers alone. That made it the biggest match in ESL history.

Clearly, e-sports is still growing, and it is starting to regularly pull in viewership numbers that match cable television.

“E-sports events now regularly attract a global audience that rivals cable and broadcast television-sized audiences,” Twitch European regional director Stuart Saw said. “Intel Extreme Masters World Championship is one of the industry’s premier events and is a standard-bearer for its high level of gameplay, production quality, and audience engagement. As testament, the traffic achieved during this event achieved a record concurrent viewership for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and one of the highest single-stream concurrent viewer count for League of Legends.”

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