Over 60 foreign media and TV crews, were present, but what was extremely encouraging was the amount of local media coverage – significant because this was the first event of its kind ever held in China. Indeed, organising it was no mean feat: no fewer than three government departments had to be consulted, an approved venue found and inspected, and the final itself was conducted under the watchful eye of government representatives. While that might sound terribly Big Brother to us in the West, you have to remember that China is a Communist state, though thankfully they are warming up to the concept of geeks shooting the crap out of each other on-screen in the name of "fun".
Sponsors for ACON4 include some of the biggest names in the IT industry: ABIT
, [eurl]http://www.kingston.com]Kingston[/eurl], Western Digital
, and Logitech
. Of significant note is the addition of Korean car manufacturer KIA
to the sponsors list – not only was the total prize fund US$150,000, but the winner would drive away with a brand new KIA car!
The gamers were introduced one-by-one and lined up on the stage; while most received polite applause, there were clearly crowd favourites, as the gathered fans exploded into a roar at the mention of SK Sweet – a real indicator as to the esteem that these guys hold in this part of the world. The UK was represented by Alex "TAG-BoNd" Bond, proudly displaying his National Champion plague and already sporting the superstar sunglasses.
As much of a surprise to the players as it was to certain members of the gathered media was a pre-match meet & greet with the fans: the top players had guys queued up to get their autographs and take photos standing next to them. I spotted several fanboys collecting signatures from every single finalist, filling out their programs with squiggles in the hope that it might be worth something on eBay one day.