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EA Sports tournament draws in spectators like a real-life sporting event, says Virgin Gaming exec

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

The EA Sports Challenge Series has the potential to pull in spectators because it's an eSports tournament featuring sports games, said Virgin Gaming executive vice president Wim Stocks in an interview with Forbes.

Virgin Gaming held the second annual Challenge Series in Las Vegas earlier this month; players competed for a $1 million prize pool in the PlayStation 3 versions of Madden NFL 13, FIFA 13 and NHL 13. More than 150,000 entrants took part in the tournament, with the finals in Las Vegas hosting 896 competitors trying to finish in the money.

According to Stocks, the draw of a tournament like the Challenge Series is that as long as people understand the sports in question — football, soccer and hockey — they can follow the ups and downs of the competition.

"People who watch sports understand what's happening in these video games," he said.

Stocks contrasted that with more esoteric eSports regulars such as StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty and League of Legends, pointing out that "laymen are not going to understand nearly as well in that kind of a competition compared to a game that is sports related [sic]."

He added, "It's no different than real life."