"ELeague," the 10-week competitive gaming tournament airing live Fridays on TBS, kicked off Tuesday with the first matches of its "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive" airing live on Twitch. The broadcast featured four teams competing for a chance to advance in "ELeague," but also served as a preview for what people can expect for its highly anticipated television debut.
The "ELeague" presentation on Twitch will be the same as what viewers will see when TV broadcasts start on TBS this Friday. The action takes place in an eSports arena built by Turner Sports in Atlanta. The arena features the two teams playing on a stage separated by a large screen. Jason O'Toole, Mohamad Assad and Richard Lewis were the broadcast team calling the action Tuesday. Kicking off the broadcast was a brief explanation of the "ELeague" format and the teams playing Tuesday. An Arby's-sponsored overview of the map aired ahead of each match. There were plenty of highlight packages covering the action and competing teams. Chris Pucket, from Major League Gaming, handled interviews with players.
The screen was taken up by "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive" with the team lineup, player health and weapons to the left and right. A small map occupies the top left corner. The match overview — such as rounds won and time remaining — was displayed at the top of the screen.
The three-man team performed their duties well with a casual announcing style, including profanity, that may be cleaned up before the TBS broadcast. The announcing team was unafraid to share their opinions, which helped create a narrative beyond people playing a game. Before their first match, the commentators were critical of SpunJ, Renegades' captain and in-game leader, for his recent performance and tactics. Brazil's Luminosity was quickly declared the best team in the world, while North America's Team Liquid were criticized after a match collapse where they relinquished a multi-round lead.
Most importantly, "ELeague" was unpredictable. In sports, there are favorites, but underdogs can always spoil what appears to be a guaranteed victory. Even though many expected the 2007 New England Patriots to win Super Bowl XLII to complete their undefeated season, they still had to play the game against the New York Giants who finished the season 10-6. The Giants pulled off the upset, set up by David Tyree's "Helmet Catch," despite playing one of the best teams in NFL history.
— ELEAGUE (@EL) May 24, 2016
On Tuesday, the commentators discussed how Luminosity was the best team in the world. Luminosity was expected to beat Renegades handily in the first match of the day. Instead, Renegades pushed them to overtime with smart play. Luminosity eventually won, but there were some nervous moments for the elite team. Renegades' strong performance in the first match caused the commentators to rethink how easily Luminosity would win the next.
It was over before it really began. Luminosity swept Renegades 16-0 and made short work of Team Liquid to earn four points and cement their place atop Group A.
The "ELeague" debut could be the best-case scenario for everyone involved. For veteran eSports fans, the broadcast felt like a normal stream with only a handful of concessions to newcomers. The arena and presentation appear to be ready for television. With Twitch broadcasts scheduled for the next two days, "ELeague" will have plenty of time to get ready for its TBS debut Friday.