Arts & Culture News

The Esports Behemoth DreamHack Returns to Its Live Form in June

Two pro-esports teams face off in a round of Rocket League during the 2019 Dreamhack tournament at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
Two pro-esports teams face off in a round of Rocket League during the 2019 Dreamhack tournament at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Danny Gallagher
The first DreamHack tournament scored some serious points with gamers and the city when it moved from Austin to Dallas at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in 2019.

The weekend event packed an impressive number of professional and amateur esports gaming tournaments and contests, with $2 million in prize money on the line. It covered just about every kind of gaming competition your mind could muster, from classic arcade games to modern team battles like Rocket League and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. DreamHack even got Jeff Freakin' Goldblum to make a very public appearance at the gathering.

Thanks to COVID, DreamHack hasn't had a chance to top its impressive start in Dallas until now.

"We've been waiting for this ever since 2019 when we hosted our first DreamHack after moving from Austin," says Shahin Zarrabi, DreamHack's vice president of strategy and growth .

DreamHack returns with a three-day gathering of competitive gaming and other interactive events and showcases for all strides of gamers starting on Friday, June 3 at the downtown convention center.

The second incarnation of DreamHack in Dallas is happening under the banner of a new corporate merger between several companies and conventions. Last year, DreamHack announced a merger with the esports giant ESL Gaming that will bring huge, prestigious tournaments like the Intel Extreme Masters tour featuring the world's top CounterStrike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) players, and the finals for the first all-female CS:GO tournament with a combined prize pool of $400,000.

Even less tech-heavy forms of gaming like tabletop and board games are getting a massive amount of playtime at the next DreamHack thanks to partnerships with companies such as Wizards of the Coast, the Washington-based game publisher behind massive franchises like Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering.

"I think that's really cool," Zarrabi says. "In a period of time were people are talking about VR and the Metaverse, that is still growing."

More recently, DreamHack also announced a partnership with the long running A-Kon anime cosplay convention, which will run the same weekend at the Irving Convention Center, by offering bundle packages for attendees of both events.

"Now we're a much larger organization with much more backing," Zarrabi says. "Since DreamHack is a platform that brings a lot of different gaming activities to one place, it's not just one tournament. It's not just one convention focusing on one game. We have so many different esports tournaments and cosplayers dressing up as their favorite characters. We have musical artists coming. We have tabletop gaming. We have game publishers and everything gaming under one roof."
click to enlarge Team Liquid take a solemn moment to celebrate their hard-fought victory against Team ENCE in the DreamHack Counterstrike: Global Offensive Masters tournament in 2019. - DANNY GALLAGHER
Team Liquid take a solemn moment to celebrate their hard-fought victory against Team ENCE in the DreamHack Counterstrike: Global Offensive Masters tournament in 2019.
Danny Gallagher
It also makes sense that the next DreamHack would be even bigger and more ambitious than its first Dallas gathering; they've had three years to plan the experience.

"Full transparency, we obviously had some scenarios where we thought we could open in 2020 or 2021 and just as everyone else or any event organizer or someone planning their wedding or a birthday party or whatever, we had to push that back and couldn't host those events," Zarrabi says. "Now is the first time we're confident we can host an event starting next month. How we use that time is reorganizing the entire organization behind DreamHack, reevaluating our priorities and how we make sure to bring the gaming community to life in the very best way for all those gamers out there who are planning to come to our event."

DreamHack is also lucrative for the city thanks to the tens of thousands of attendees it brings to Dallas. According to a study conducted by DreamHack following the 2019 gathering, the event brought over 30,000 people to the downtown area, who spent $3 million at nearby hotels and restaurants and on services like deliveries and transportation.

"Texas in general and Dallas in specific as well as Austin in the past, of course, has a very large gaming community and a lot of content creators are out of Dallas," Zarrabi says. "A lot of professional esports teams, some of the largest in the world and even the smaller ones are based in the region. So for us, that just makes sense because we're coming to the heart of gaming and esports in the U.S." 
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.