Growing up in India, sports were a big part of the culture – dare I say almost a religion. Traditional games such as kabbadi, kho kho, and pehlwani (wrestling) were watched as well as played in school, but my favorite was the English game of cricket. There are several flavors of cricket – the purist 5-day test cricket, the 1-day cricket, and the recent entrant – the T-20 short form cricket for those who want all the excitement packed in a 3 hour window! At school, we had cricket tournament that lasted months and we played several matches (i.e. games) during this time. This required strategy as well as endurance, but it was well worth it, as nothing was as exciting as being on the winning team after a long match.
Moving into a more digital age where the average attention span is eight seconds, it’s hard to imagine an appreciation for games of endurance. But the world of esports has proven that there is an appetite to both compete and watch competitive tournaments to crown the world’s best. This was why I was particularly excited when we announced our new partnership with Riot Games last month to serve as the Official Enterprise Networking Partner of LoL (League of Legends) Esports. I was blown away by the excitement and enthusiasm from the global community. Gaming enthusiasts, fans and players were energized and proud of Cisco’s foray into the world of esports.
Now we are even more excited to embark on our first joint venture, as the League of Legends World Championships – the largest global esports event – has kicked off in Shanghai, and the entire production is being delivered to the world on the strength, reliability and security of the Cisco network.
Watch the short overview:
As we have seen with nearly everything during this unprecedented time since March’s shut down, Worlds 2020 isn’t quite happening the way the organizers might have envisioned a year ago. Restrictions on travel, staffing, infrastructure and more caused Riot Games to go back to the drawing board and completely re-imagine the experience for players on-site and fans tuning in from around the world. Which is where the new partnership with Cisco becomes critically important.
“Simply put, Riot Games wouldn’t be able to do the show safely in a COVID world without Cisco,” according to Esports Tech Lead Scott Adametz. “The speed, reliability and global nature of Cisco’s network allows us to proceed, and with our most high-tech production ever.”
In a “normal” year, more than 1,000 Riot Games staffers would travel to China for Worlds; in this new virtual world, that number is closer to 200. Which means that remote support, production and execution have become more vital than ever before, all of which relies on a robust network. While the action will take place in Shanghai, production work is also being done in Berlin, Los Angeles and remote regional broadcast studios. All day, every day throughout the six-week tournament, more than 100 individual video streams will be sent from China to these remote studios over the Cisco network, where they will be ingested and produced into a broadcast in 19 different languages. Needless to say, the bandwidth required of the network is immense. The Cisco network in place is capable of handling 20 Gbps, or equivalent to approximately 1,000 times the bandwidth of a typical home internet connection. In just the first two days of the show, the network saw nearly 200 TB of traffic transmitted, with much more to come as the event ramps up ahead of the World Finals on October 31.
“We are not okay with putting people in harm’s way to produce this event, and with the network, we don’t have to,” Adametz stated. “The network enables us to produce the show at the highest quality without compromising safety. This show is the most complex we’ve ever attempted, and with the fewest number of people on-site.”
In addition to being vitally important to Riot’s production and delivery of Worlds, Cisco’s network will also improve the experience for fans watching at home. In 2019, more than 100M unique viewers tuned into the World Championships, with 44M peak concurrent viewers – and Riot expects to exceed those numbers this year. With Cisco powering this year’s event, Riot anticipates that the broadcast feeds will be delivered to fans several hundred milliseconds faster, thanks to the near-zero latency of the network. And as every esports fan and player knows, milliseconds matter.
While LoL fans undoubtedly tune in to follow the competition, they are also treated to one of the most cutting-edge, visually-engaging and dynamic show productions in existence. This year Riot will bring a never-before-seen production technique to its Worlds event broadcast – extended reality. Using 32K screens rendering at 60 frames per second (!!), this will be a first-of-its-kind deployment using next-gen computing and compositing techniques pioneered in the Disney+ series The Mandalorian. Riot Games hopes to migrate this cutting-edge production technology to their regional studios running on Cisco hardware by 2021.
Watch the League of Legends Esports overview:
I hope that you are as excited as I am about Cisco’s role in the 2020 League of Legends World Championships. This is truly a culmination of all of the work that we’ve been doing throughout the pandemic to help businesses and organizations around the world adapt to challenging and ever-changing circumstances. Our impact in the sports and entertainment space is strong, and our ability to help our partners at Riot Games execute on their largest event of the year is something I am particularly proud of.
Worlds runs through the end of October, and you can catch Cisco during the broadcast in North America and China, available on watch.lolesports.com.
Read the Riot Games blog Innovating to Power the Future of Esports