Earlier this month, Esports Insider reported that Nicecactus had partnered with the Monaco Esports Federation and Monaco eSports to deliver the annual Monaco Gaming Show, with the esports platform serving as the event’s ‘engine’ (including the use of its competition platform to facilitate the qualifiers).
The event, which takes place from the 18th-19th December, will run a team-based competition in Rocket League and solo competition in Fortnite for a total prize pool of 40,000€ (£36,151) — 20,000€ (£18,076) in each title. Online qualifiers began on December 4th.
The announcement raised some questions regarding what the event will look like for this year and beyond; whether 2020 will be played entirely online, what games will be included in future events, and the general long-term ambitions for the event. As such, Esports Insider spoke with Nicecactus’s CEO, Mike Hessabi, as well as its Gaming Community Leader, Jordan Savelli, to better understand the platform’s vision for the Monaco Gaming Show.
The Show went with Rocket League and Fortnite over more popular esports like Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and League of Legends, which may have raised a few eyebrows. However, Fortnite is still incredibly popular as a game, whilst Rocket League is on the rise but isn’t a ‘tier-one title’, at least not yet. Most importantly though, both are bubblegum titles — sugary, fun, and easy to chew on.
Hessabi told ESI why the two titles were chosen: “We have several strong communities [on our platform] including Rocket League, Fortnite, League of Legends and Counter Strike,” he said. “But for us, Rocket League is a growing community, and Fortnite remains one of the most popular games globally. It made sense to start with our strongest and most active communities.”
The Nicecactus CEO also implied more titles will be added in the future. “When we were considering which games to feature, we reviewed CS:GO and League of Legends as well. But for our ‘warm-up’ event, we wanted a more approachable set of games. Rocket League and Fortnite were perfect for this first event.”
Naturally, this year’s event will take place online with a view to live events once COVID-19 disruptions have been tamed. “But of course, we are in the sports industry, and that means live audiences are a big part of the experience,” said Savelli, Nicecactus’ Gaming Community Leader. “We are very much looking forward to the opportunity of live events after the COVID threat has been addressed.”
Hessabi touched on the Principality of Monaco’s ambition to have a slice of the esports pie: “[The Principality of Monaco] is determined to make esports a major sporting event every year,” he said. Given that Monaco is home to some of the world’s most prestigious sporting events like the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, it seems wise they hedge their bets and establish some sort of esports presence. The city-state, if it were a country, would have the highest gross domestic product per capita in the world. Esports investment is a drop in the ocean for Monaco, and so dipping its toe in is a no-brainer.
The Monaco Gaming Show is also an attempt by the Principality to accommodate the new generation. “Society is changing and esports is a reflection of this change,” said Savelli. “Esports is synchronised with the emerging societal inspirations of the younger generations… The growth of esports is not cyclical, meaning it’s not affected by disruptions like COVID, but is structural, meaning it’s really about technology.”
In line with Nicecactus’s emphasis on grassroots competition, unsigned, unknown amateurs can compete at the Monaco Gaming Show. On the event’s competitor base, Savelli said: “Who knows, maybe there will be some surprises. Like any sport, heroes could come from anywhere. That encapsulates the excitement of esports and the magic of international tournaments.” Indeed, it seems unlikely that a prize pool of 20,000€ per title will attract the world’s best players: “For Monaco, our prize ceiling is 20,000 euros per game,” Hessabi said. Without a bigger prize pool, the event may only attract high-level amateurs. Nicecactus has, however, always prioritised openly accessible grassroots tournaments.
When asked whether future events would consider hosting professional players only (a top-tier qualification or invite-only format that would attract star-power), Savelli remained neutral. “We remain focused on providing gamers with the opportunity to become the best they can be — whatever level they start from. If we can help them realise their potential, we have reached our goal.” All future iterations of the Monaco Gaming Show will likely involve some sort of open qualifier, available to everyone.
While online competition is not ideal, Nicecactus and the Monaco Gaming Federation will be hoping for a successful online event that can build anticipation for live versions of the Monaco Gaming Show, as we all edge optimistically towards normality.