Intel and Oculus have teamed up with the eSports League for a season of two thrilling titles: The Unspoken and Echo Arena. Teams will compete in these multiplayer titles to establish dominance in the new realm of VR, and to compete in the grand finals in 2018 for a chance at $200,000.

The Unspoken, from Insomniac Games, is a game of spell dueling. Mages stand apart from one another and utilize several different spell combinations, along with a destructible environment, in order to score hits on the opponent. Mages are stationary, so there isn’t much workout potential, but the game looks like a fun way to utilize VR.

Where things begin to get more physical is in the Echo Arena from Dawn Studios. This competitive sports game pits floating avatars against one another in a pseudo water-polo-style game in VR. Players will need to reach, turn, dodge, attack and change directions rapidly in response to the fast-paced action. Not the kind of heart-pumping workout you get from Thrill of the Fight, but it’s a start.

The League will make multiple stops to eSports venues around the world, and players can already compete for a chance at that prize money. Simply sign up for an ESL account and grab both games (available on Steam). ESL will announce weekly “cups”, so be sure you’re following their various channels to catch the announcements.

Gaining Traction

ESL launched in the year 2000, and it’s headquartered out of Cologne, Germany. It’s the world’s largest and oldest continually operating eSports League currently in existence, and it’s hosted many games near and dear to my heart. The one that most recently comes to mind is Street Fighter V, but the League has a thriving presence in the Counter Strike community as well.

ESL has weekly qualifiers for Echo Arena happening now. Credit: ESL

It’s a major platform for competitive gaming, and where those looking to elevate their game go for serious competition. One missing link in VR has historically been multiplayer, and ESL is establishing its foothold in that growing scene. This is a good thing for VR as a whole, because ESL believes there is a future in competitive eSports for the platform. ESL features very high production values and live audiences. They are designed as much to be a spectacle that showcases the game, as they are a live sporting event.

Why it Matters

ESL’s support of VR is putting money on the table. Whenever big money is out there, American players find ways to stay dedicated. $200,000 is a small prize pool for eSports, but it’s a large pool for the VR community. ESL also has broadcast coverage on major television networks. If VR gains viewership, we’ll see much wider exposure for it as an eSport.

That said, these games are noticeably light on fitness. While we think there are better ways to show the athletic benefits to using VR, we believe that Echo Arena especially gives players a good springboard. We feel that many of the people in the target market for entry-level VR fitness would be able to work up a sweat playing Echo Chamber for long periods of time, and if that gets them interested in the next VR fitness application, then everyone wins.

A healthier lifestyle through VR relies on the user having fun and suspending disbelief. Without that, you feel that pull in your body that says “stop!” and you listen. When you’re having fun, accomplishing goals or playing for big prize money, you’re more prone to push past your physical fitness barriers and look for ways to both improve mobility and increase skill.

Overall, ESL’s embrace of VR can bring nothing but good things for the future of VR and we encourage everyone to get involved.

 

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