IEM Oakland — An Interview With Intel’s Esports Manager George Woo

Nico Faraguna
Games Overwatch
Games Overwatch

The Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Oakland takes place Nov. 19-20 and features competitions for League of Legends and Counter Strike: GO — currently, two of the world’s biggest esports. Fandom recently sat down with Intel Global Esport and Marketing Manager George Woo to discuss all things esports related.

What is the future of VR and esports? What does the future hold for the longest running independent esports tournament? Will we see Overwatch at IEM soon? Find out the answers to all these questions and more in the interview below!

The Past, Present, and Future of IEM

Fandom: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us George. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Intel Extreme Masters?

George Woo: I’m the Global Esport and Marketing Manager at Intel. I have spearheaded the development for IEM events alongside ESL for about ten years… We’re fortunate and proud to have established IEM as the longest running independent esports tournament.

IEM has been attributed to hosting some of the most memorable esport events in history, and we hope to continue that this year at IEM Oakland.

Fandom: What will IEM Oakland feature this year?

Woo: This is the third year in a row we’ll be in California. It will, however, be our first time in Oakland. We’re expected to have over 10,000 attendees for the event’s first time in Oakland. We’re all very excited.

You can expect to see world-class games from two premier e-sport titles; Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends. CS:GO fans, in particular, will be delighted to know that we’ve partnered with the IBUYPOWER Masters tournament that concluded last weekend.

The four teams top teams from the winner bracket of the IBUYPOWER tournament will be in attendance at IEM, giving the CS:GO community two weeks of excellent games.

Oracle Arena in Oakland
Oracle Arena -- home of the Golden State Warriors -- will host the IEM Oakland tournament.

Fandom: We heard that you’ll be broadcasting these games in VR, can you tell us a little bit about that?

Woo: With each season, we’re trying to raise the bar. We know that publisher events like LoL Worlds and Dota 2‘s The International are huge. The publishers pour a lot of money into the production of these events. We really want to give our fans a unique experience. We wanted to push the boundary and innovate a new perspective for esports fans in general. This is one of the main reasons why we partnered with ESL and, to provide that broadcast in VR.

We’ve added VR stations around the venue as well. Fans can visit the concourse and experience the broadcast in a different medium than they’re used to. For fans who are unsure if they want to spend the money on VR hardware or never experienced VR, we wanted to make it possible.

Intel is obviously invested in VR and we want to continue to be a leader in that market. We want to show consumers that the Core i7 processor is necessary for technology now and in the near future.

Fandom: Are there any particular storylines that intrigue you heading into IEM Oakland?

Woo: Obviously the big news of Team Solo Mid coming back to the tournament. They said they were tired after LoL Worlds, but fortunately reconsidered. TSM is one of the biggest brands in North American esports and to have them part of IEM Oakland is very fortunate.

Fandom: Why do you think so many teams, in particular LoL organizations, have dropped out of the tournament?

Woo: I think it’s a combination. It’s a combination that they’re tired and teams are simply in the process of reshuffling their rosters. Every year is a learning experience and we can see now that players and organizations are busier, making it difficult to find the perfect time to schedule an event.

Fandom: How important is it that the tournament has North American talent?

Woo: That is what we need. We need to have familiar faces and brands for viewers and attendees. It’s one of the challenges of esports, right? Nobody knows these guys and it’s really helpful having these big brand teams come, especially from America where people are more familiar and aligned with them.

Fandom: What are your thoughts on other titles becoming esport juggernauts? Particularly Overwatch — Do you think it will have a place at IEM in the near future?

Woo: Everyone is watching Overwatch. People have been skeptical about it because it’s not a MOBA and prize pools will need to expand because of the increased roster sizes. However, if there were to be a new esport to be added to IEM, it would definitely be Overwatch.

Will we be seeing Overwatch at an IEM event in the future?

Fandom: Thoughts on the Nintendo Switch trailer? Will they get into esports?

Woo: I know they have to be looking into it. However, it’s going to be a challenge. They are in the console market… and right now professional teams and organizations are using PCs. That is where all the sponsors are and where the money is.

Am I concerned with it? No — I think it’s good for esports. Intel hardware isn’t in their consoles but the more gamers we have, the better. It can only benefit the scene, regardless of business alignment.

Check back next week for full IEM Oakland results. In the meantime, check out our IEM Oakland preview below.

Nico Faraguna
I enjoy playing PC games, watching motorcycle racing, and eating good grub
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