When I was asked to take a trip out to Las Vegas to cover the first ever eSports tournament put on by Amazon’s Mobile App store I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The only details I had about the “Champions of Fire” tournament was that it was going to prove that casual mobile game can be just a competitive as League of Legends or CS:GO. So, of course I assumed Champions of Fire was a game. But I could not find anything with that name in the mobile app store. Turns out there was no CoF game on the market, which had me scratching my head a bit as I made my way to the Paris on the strip where the event would take place. It wasn’t until I arrived that I found out what was actually going on.
Amazon had flown in 16 of the best Twitch livestreamers they could find to throwdown in a single-elimination brawl that would have them test their skills against their opponents at some of the most popular mobile games out there. The list of games included Disney Crossy Road, Fruit Ninja Tournament Edition, Pac-Man 256, Eightball Pool, and Bloons TD Battles. Okay, definitely not the kind of lineup you’ve see at gatherings like this before. But Amazon Mobile seemed to know something we didn’t.
They must’ve spent a pretty penny putting together the impressive stage set up, not to mention all the the time and effort spent getting the elaborate lighting and decor ready. Would their unique gambit pay off?
The players themselves were eclectic and would be well-known to anyone that spends a decent amount of time on twitch watching folks stream games. But, unlike most eSports events these players didn’t spend all their free time dedicated to mastering the games they’d be competing in. Some streamed WoW, others streamed titles like Hearthstone, Binding of Isaac, or Destiny. All a far cry from the quick and unforgiving brutality of Crossy Road or Fruit Ninja.
Some were there simply because they wanted to take home the winner’s purse of $30,000 but others had more personal motivations. Lolrenaynay’s family had been going through some hardships and she wanted to alleviate some of their financial burden, Sky Williams came to win and was ready to crush his competition (in as friendly a way as possible), and BoxBox, one of Twitch’s most popular streamers was there to show his mom that he can make a living as a gamer while his mom’s friends had kids that were doctor or lawyers.
One thing that was abundantly clear even before competitors took the stage was a real sense of comradery. Some of these players were old pals and even streamed together, while others had just met and become fast friends. So, I guess you could say the champions were nearly as casual as the games they would be playing. That is until they took the stage and started throwing down. Then things got real. Sorta.
The preliminary rounds went by quick with a few hiccups like a game crash and a few sound issues. But overall the presentation was impressive to say the least. And once the semi-finals began we were in for a real treat. While the event did take a while to ramp up by the end of it all everyone was screaming and cheering along the players. While physical attendance was somewhat sparse there was still an energy to the room and there were tens of thousands of people following along live on Twitch as well.
I have to say I’m rather impressed with what the Amazon Mobile App store was able to pull off. They seemed to have opened the doors for a new kind of “celebrity invitational” tournament and at the same time they seemed to have proved that games that take less than a minute to play can carry the same sort of gravitas as a MOBA or FPS tournament. It’s hard to say whether this will be the last or the first in a long line of Champions of Fire events, but rest assured, Amazon, I am more than happy to head back to Vegas for another one if need be. You can check out the full competition on AmazonAppStore Twitch page or tune in to CBS Sports Network on December 12th at 7pm PT for highlights from the event.