FFWS 2022 Sentosa: What it takes to run a US$2 million esports tournament

Image of the stage of Free Fire World Series 2022 that took place in Resort's World Sentosa in Singapore. (Photo: Yahoo Esports SEA)
The Free Fire World Series 2022 took place in Resort's World Sentosa in Singapore, where 18 teams battled for their cut of a US$2 million prize pool. (Photo: Yahoo Esports SEA)

The US$2 million Free Fire World Series (FFWS) 2022 Sentosa finished on Saturday (21 May), with Thai squad Attack All Around beating defending champions EVOS Phoenix and 10 other teams for the first place prize of US$500,000.

EVOS Phoenix walked away with US$250,000 from the tournament, which took place at Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore.

Both squads will likely have a rematch in six months, when the next World Series rolls around. While pandemic restrictions in Singapore have eased, Free Fire publisher Garena opted to not host a live audience, unlike other recent esports tournament such as the MPL Singapore S3 playoffs.

But having been able to visit the stage venue, one thing was clear, Garena did not skimp on the production.

The massive stage was filled with over 400 sq m of wall-to-wall LED panels, and was big enough to seat 48 esports players, camera crew, and referees.

There was also a lift at the top, whose only purpose was to raise up the Free Fire World Series trophy to the stage.

Technically though, it's strong enough to support a person as well, according to IO Esports, who were producing the event. Here are some numbers on what was needed to run the tournament:

16 observers

To pull off a seamless in-game experience, IO Esports Chief Operating Officer Lee Heng Leon also told Yahoo Esports SEA that there were not only four game observers, but also 12 team observers that he could pick from.

The game observers were located on-site, but the team observers are back in Malaysia, where IO Esports is based.

Game observers observe the general action and highlight to the show director when something is happening so they can switch to their feed.

Team observers constantly follow the team around in-game so there’s always footage of the team they can cut to.

Yep, an esports tournament is a live show, like a lot of others.

15 different broadcast languages

While the FFWS 2022 Sentosa's main broadcast language was English, the event was also broadcasted in 14 other languages.

These included Spanish, Arabic, Thai, Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Melayu, Hindi, Portuguese, Bangla, Turkish, Russian, Vietnam, Tagalog, Urdu, and Chinese.

That's a lot of languages.

13 live feeds

Because the tournament was broadcasted in so many languages, IO Esports pushed out a total of 13 live feeds.

There was the main feed, which is what you see for the English cast, and the other team observer feeds.

This allowed a local broadcaster to use the main observer cast, but cut to their own commentary, as well as switching to follow a team as needed.

It's quite similar to how football matches have the same live feed, but with different commentators.

Four main platforms

The game was mainly streamed on Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and Booyah. Twitch, which is usually popular with gamers, was not included.

It's interesting because Garena Free Fire has 12.5 million followers on Twitch, a big step up when compared to one of its competitors in the mobile battle royale genre, PUBG Mobile, which only has 7.8 million followers.

But when you look at the number of online viewers, though, it starts making sense.

Furthermore, YouTube and Facebook are a lot more popular in mobile-centric countries, which Free Fire is big in.

Strangely enough, it was also available on Singapore's national broadcaster's MeWatch streaming platform.

Images of a team sitting in front of monitors for production of an esports tournament. (Photo: Yahoo Esports SEA)
It takes a big team and a whole lot of equipment to run and broadcast an esports tournament, especially one as big as the Free Fire World Series 2022 Sentosa. (Photo: Yahoo Esports SEA)

Over 6gb bandwidth required

To stream so many feeds, you'll need bandwidth. IO's Lee told Yahoo Esports SEA that it's around five to six GB worth of data. There's also a backup ISP in place in case the network goes down. However, names of the ISPs were not revealed.

2,700m of Cat6 cables

To support the entire event, there were a total of 16 network switches, 12 routers, and five main access points.

And to hook everything up properly, IO used 2,700m of Cat6 ethernet cables. Great cable management is needed, but it didn't look like there were stray wires when we visited.

22 cameras

There were a lot of cameras being used, including two Jimmy Jibs (crane cameras).

Of the 22 cameras, there were 12 allocated at each team's desk. IO chose not to have one camera per player — which would have massively increased the amount of bandwidth and cameras needed, of course.

50 PCs

While Free Fire is a mobile game, you still need PCs to capture and re-encode content on the fly, as well as power the augmented and mixed reality LED stage.

That's why there were over 50 PCs at the venue, which could make the production area a little toastier than the rest of the venue.

Over 100 staff

IO's Lee also brought in over 100 staff members to run the event, some from Malaysia and some from Singapore.

While there were no lockdown restrictions in place, IO was doing a self-enforced bubble where possible.

That meant the staff weren't going out after work to grab a drink or explore Sentosa.

Thankfully, the main event was only two days long, so it's likely they could've gone out and party after.

One day (or a night, really)

While setting up the stage took 72 hours or three days, IO Esports have just one night to tear everything down and return the convention hall back to its original condition.

But it's always easier to tear something down than to build, no?

Aloysius Low is an ex-CNET editor with more than 15 years of experience. He's really into cats and is currently reviewing products at canbuyornot.com

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