Katowice has become the global capital of e-sport. The largest business event in Poland gathers 170,000 people from around the world – says Marcin KRUPA
“Differentiate or die” is not only the title of the inspiring book by Jack Trout, but also one of the fundamental principles of marketing, both consumer and local self-government’s. Cities have always competed with each other in many areas. This is also happening today, at every level – global, regional and local. Local officials compete to gain new investors and residents, win EU funds or attract events of national or global calibre. Such efforts have three basic goals. Firstly: a durable improvement of the quality of urban life, especially through creating attractive jobs, building new flats, upgrading the leisure industry offering. Secondly: a long-term increase in budget revenues which are sourced mainly from taxes: PIT, CIT or real estate taxes. Thirdly: enhancing a city’s image value and differentiating from the others because in today’s world there is no room for dullness and mediocrity.
The consistent image building allows the municipalities to leverage the snowball effect. We do see it in Katowice. The securing of a top-class investor, IBM, put us in a better position soliciting others – such as PwC or Fujitsu. The construction of the new premises of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, with one of the best concert halls in the world, contributed to us winning the prestigious title of the UNESCO Creative City of Music. And the COP24 Climate Summit that we held in Katowice last December was our pride and a gateway to hosting other prestigious events in the future. This year, thanks to our cooperation with Witold Bańka, Minister of Sport and Tourism, we will be hosting the World Anti-Doping Conference, and currently, together with Jerzy Kwieciński, Minister of Investment and Development, we are striving to get the right to organise the World Urban Forum under the aegis of the United Nations.
However, I will venture a thesis that all this would not have happened in Katowice, or at least not on such a scale, had it not been for the idea, eight years ago, of Michał Jędrzejek, a city councillor, to invest in attracting to Katowice the world’s best … e-sports players! Many thought it was crazy spending vast sums of money to have thousands of computer nerds get together at “Spodek” [a multipurpose arena complex in Katowice]. But my predecessor as mayor, Piotr Uszok, who knew the world of computer games only from stories, found the young man’s initiative worthwhile and decided to back it. But even himself couldn’t have imagined how this project was going to change our city, becoming a vital factor of its development.
Today, Intel Extreme Masters (IEM), the world championship in computer games combined with the IT trade fair, is the largest business event in Poland. Last year, during two weekends, it attracted almost 170,000 visitors to Katowice!
Katowice has grown into a global capital of e-sport, and although last year’s IEM was also organised in Chicago, Sydney and Shanghai, it is here, in Katowice, that the most important finals are held.
Testifying to the event’s importance and prestige is not only this year’s million-dollar prize pool but, above all, tens of thousands of fans at “Spodek” and millions in front of computer screens. Last year’s IEM was broadcast in 10 different languages and viewers logged over two billion minutes watching the live stream. E-sport in Poland is only gaining momentum. But in Asia the heroes of such games as Counter-Strike or League of Legends, enjoy popularity comparable to that of the globe’s best football players like Cristiano Ronaldo or Robert Lewandowski. By citing these sample data, I mean to illustrate to what extent the co-organisation of IEM translates into the global promotion of Katowice as a city focused on new technologies and leisure time industry.
IEM is not an ordinary serial event that revives our city once a year. It is a kind of catalyst for new initiatives, and our excellent cooperation with INTEL and ESL Polska, which are IEM organisers, has resulted in such. We have in Katowice the Museum of the History of Computers and IT, and in the concert halls of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra you can listen to the most popular pieces of music from Video Games Live. The ESL Arena is the venue for of many gaming competitions, including Polish championships and IEM finals.
Business tourism in Katowice has become a lever for city development. While affecting the economic and social life, it also plays an important role in promoting Katowice, both on domestic and foreign markets. IEM itself means real profits for residents, too. Thousands of visitors generate revenues for hotels, restaurants, taxi drivers or local entrepreneurs serving the event. IEM contributed to stimulating the hospitality and conference industry. The event is so successful that its organisation and the money spent on it by the city are questioned neither by residents, nor the opposition in the city council, nor the media – a situation that every mayor knows is extremely rare.
There is a grain of truth in the Russian saying that who does not risk, never gets to drink champagne. As local officials, in the rush of ongoing affairs, we should also take the time to look for something that will differentiates us from others and will make us, our city, unique. If we fail to do so, we will end up as background for others, those more ambitious, making a painful account of the missed opportunities.