SAP’s involvement in competitive computer-gaming, or esports, began back in 2018. Right from the start, it wanted to establish its reputation as a technology partner to this sector. It recently hosted its very first SAP Community Esports tournament in Berlin. The event attracted a massive audience, sparking plans to take it global next year.
Esports is a rapidly growing industry. Online gaming and its competitive form, referred to as esports, are well on the way to becoming a global cultural phenomenon. These days, tournaments attract million-strong audiences and offer prize money also well into the millions. Gamers enjoy rock-star status and compete in sold-out stadiums. The pandemic took esports’ popularity to new heights and vastly accelerated its development. In 2020, revenue in the industry soared, surpassing US$1billion for the first time.
Tournament in Berlin: SAP Shows What Innovation and Data Can Do for Esports
SAP first joined forces with a professional esports team back in 2018. The company is the sponsor and official innovation partner of Team Liquid, one of the most successful gaming teams. SAP Labs Berlin has recently hosted the very first tournament of its own. The event’s executive sponsor, Martin Heinig, who is head of New Ventures and Technologies at SAP and managing director of SAP Labs Berlin, says: “It is the first time SAP owned an esports event, making this experience so unique. It excites me to see how we were able to bring together students and SAP employees to see them play against each other and contribute to their gaming success with SAP technologies, such as in-game data analytics. I’m very proud that SAP Labs Berlin hosted this special event.”
In holding its own competition, SAP showed how it is not just part of the esport ecosystem but that it can help shape it, too. SAP Labs Berlin is constantly looking for ways to raise its profile in the German capital’s esports scene, which is one of the biggest of its kind. Digital gaming has the potential to be a significant economic opportunity for the city.
Juergen Mueller, member of the Executive Board and chief technology officer at SAP, was at the tournament, too. He is a huge esports and gaming fan: “It’s amazing! The arena is packed, you can sense the excitement, it’s noisy, and many people are having a lot of fun. SAP and esports are a great match. As a technology company, we use our expertise in data analytics and innovation in esports just like in any other business area to help gamers tell the story behind their data. I’m happy to see the immense interest from our customers, partners, and students on-site.”
Competitors battled it out over Dota 2, the sequel to Defense of the Ancients, which aficionados abbreviate to Dota. In this game, two teams play against each other, with one side trying to take and destroy the main building, called the “Ancient,” and the other side defending it. Each team has five players, and each player controls a “hero” from a bird’s-eye view. The game has a pool of more than 120 heroes with different abilities.
Dota 2 has many facets and is tactically demanding. Each hero has a “talent tree”: when a player reaches a particular experience level, their hero can gain extra talents. This results in thousands of possible combinations, which makes each game unique.
New Insights from SAP: How Data Can Improve Performance
At the professional level, Team Liquid uses in-game data analytics by SAP. The data and analytics tools available to the team help ensure it is best prepared for competitions and for countering its opponents’ tactics. The solutions it uses are built on SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP) and include SAP HANA Cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) functionality. Being able to analyze data in real time enables professional gamers to optimize their performance and make faster decisions during the match itself.
Just like in the business world, the players need to be able to spot which information is most relevant to them instantly if they are to gain strategic advantage from it. An esport tournament creates huge amounts of data, so SAP realized it needed to display the data it captured in a clear and visually appealing way. “It’s inspiring to see that SAP technology provides value in an esports context by improving player performance through live data and insights,” says Heinig.
Match data and statistics can be shared with audiences and commentators in real time, giving them greater insights into each player’s performance and helping them better understand certain decisions. At the SAP event, matches played by the finalists demonstrated how this works. As at professional tournaments, Jonathan Liebig (nicknamed “PimpmuckL”), one of the top observers and producers of Dota 2, ensured spectators did not miss any of the action. SAP BTP was used to combine data from past games with live data from the finals, which Liebig could use to explain subtleties and player performance to the audience.
Bringing Together Students, Fans, and Employees
At the tournament in Berlin, SAP offered spectators a hybrid experience, combining an in-person event with live streaming. Almost 100 gamers took part, half of whom were students and the other half SAP employees. Since they competed as mixed teams, the event was also an opportunity to network. More than 230 guests came to the venue, with 2,500 viewers following the action on the live-streaming portal Twitch. On social media, the event reached more than 420,000 people.
The tournament was a big hit with the students: “I wouldn’t have thought that SAP has a connection to esports. I’m really happy to have been part of this special event in Berlin, and it’s great to see that SAP is doing something so cool. Also, it is an amazing opportunity to network and I could meet the CTO of SAP!” says Fritz Hinze, a student at the Free University of Berlin.
The competition brought friends and SAP employees together to share their passion for gaming. In a live online interview, Mathis “Jabbz” Friesel, one of Germany’s professional Dota 2 players and an analyst on Team Liquid, gave the audience a glimpse of how his team uses SAP’s data and analytics solutions to prepare for games by analyzing opponents’ playing style and strategies. The event was organized just like a professional tournament, giving spectators and the players an authentic experience. They could also try out tools that are normally available only to the pros on Team Liquid.