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Can Shadowgun War Games be the next esports hit?

MADFINGER Games went to IEM Katowice to find out.

With Shadowgun War Games in production and eyes on a MADFINGER presence in esports in the near future, half the studio rocked up to the Spodek arena in Katowice to see what’s what.

Ninety seconds to go. The crowd noise hushed for a moment, then intensified as a countdown timer hit the huge screen in the middle of the stage. It was one of maybe two dozen massive LEDs dotted around the 11,500 capacity arena. Enough screens to cover two full-sized tennis courts, one source boasted.

The Spodek Arena, Katowice


Many of the fans had been in their seats for over five hours already, some to cheer wildly during the undercard as Polish duo AGO Esports won the CS:GO Danger Zone show match. But now it was time for the main event, the CS:GOGrand Final. The crowd fluffers had done their job, marshalling different sections of the audience with chants for each of the teams — Danish outfit Astralis, who had steamrollered their way to the Katowice final and hoped to complete the grand slam with victory tonight, and underdogs ENCE, a young Finnish crew looking to shock the favourites.

Sixty seconds. The noise was steadily ramping up, intensifying. Flames leapt into the air above the stage, adding to the heady atmosphere — propane fumes mingled with the smell of body odour, grilled mushroom sandwiches (Zapiekanka, a popular Polish street food) and the pheromone tang of Pringle flavours. The fans were sugared up, some wearing team colours. The floor was sticky from so many spilt soft drinks — no booze was served inside the arena, and the concession stand staff removed the lids from all beverages sold.

Down to the last ten seconds now, and the lights lowered. Thousands of fans lit up their smartphones and waved them above their heads, a sea of undulating blue light. Some added to the general cacophony with their obnoxious inflatable noisemakers.

“Dziesięć…Dziewięć…Osiem…”

This was it. Even a neutral spectator couldn’t avoid being moved by these final bombastic moments of fire, images and music. Some people in the crowd whooped, others cheered, a few even screamed.

“Trzy…dwa…jeden…”

Zero. Finally, the moment had arrived…except it hadn’t, not quite. The countdown gave way to a rather anti-climactic highlights reel before the big central screen swung open at the middle like the gates of Mordor. Out jogged our host for the evening, Brendan Fraser lookalike OJ Borg, looking amped up in his grey blazer over a Hawaiian shirt, tight black trousers and white trainers. The glittering prize, a UEFA Champions League lookalike trophy, stood on a pedestal before him. Then, the players…

Showtime at IEM Katowice


I had to pinch myself at this point. In my previous experience, this kind of overblown spectacle and stage theatrics were once reserved for rock concerts or wrestling matches. But here we were, ploughing through all this hype and anticipation to watch 10 young men play video games, for a top prize of $500,000…

Around two and a half hours later, Astralis gleefully lifted the trophy amid a flurry of gold confetti and blaze of indoor fireworks. The crowd roared, genuinely thrilled by the skill on display. ENCE had them worried a few times on the first map, but the experience of Astralis eventually won through, who were comfortable victors in the end. It was a glorious moment for the Danish team, who are now tied with Fnatic for the most major wins in CS:GO. They drank in the cheers and applause of the 11,500 strong crowd, with a further 1.2 million people watching their victory around the globe.

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As a spectator sport, esports has come a long way since its origins in the 70s. The first recorded tournament took place at Stanford University on October 19th 1972, when 24 players gathered at the Artificial Intelligence Lab to play SpacewarRolling Stone magazine even covered the event — you can read the article in its original form here. The prize for the winner? A year’s subscription to Rolling Stone

credit: Rolling Stone magazine


Skip forward 36 years — an estimated 380 million viewers tuning in to watch esports in 2018, and that number is projected to rise to almost 600 million by 2020. The top-earning pro esports player, Kuro Takhasomi, has racked up earnings of over $4 million — that’s enough for at least 80,000 yearly subscriptions to Rolling Stone.

The top esports tournaments are currently played on PC based games, and we’re still awaiting the first mobile esports game to genuinely capture the public’s imagination. Mobile gaming still carries with it a bit of a stigma as a distraction, a bit of throwaway fun, but developers are pushing further into esports territory. Guns of Boom were present at Katowice with their Gods of Boom Kick-off 2019, and Tencent’s PUBG Mobile Star Challenge recently had a $600k prize pool. But while the potential for mobile gaming esports is there, the platform is still awaiting its definitive title.

And that’s where MADFINGER Games hopes to come in…

Shadowgun War Games at Gamescom 2018


Shadowgun War Games, our team-based multiplayer shooter, made its debut last year at Gamescom in Cologne. The game used in the showcase event was only a working version, designed to test the reaction of the esports world. It attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd — not everyone could fit inside the venue — and both fans and critics were wowed by this first look. Even in its prototype stage, War Games won the Best Mobile Game Award at the show.

This hugely positive reception convinced us that War Games is on its way to becoming the first true mobile esports phenomenon. Watching the CS:GOfinal only reinforced our belief that we are on the right track. Who knows? War Games could be coming to a venue like Spodek Katowice in the very near future…

If you want to be part of the mobile esports revolution, don’t forget to pre-register for Shadowgun War Games here.