Over the weekend, ESPN aired a replay of a recent esports event that saw the world’s most advanced Microsoft Excel users compete against each other in a knockout tournament.
Hosted by the people behind the Financial Modeling World Cup, the Excel “All-Star Battle” took place in May. It started with eight competitors going head-to-head in a series of spreadsheetbased challenges until a champion was finally crowned.
The action may have been hard for mere mortals to follow if not for the live commentary, player interviews and post-tournament analysis, all of which were delivered with an eagerness to rival other sports coverage. The internet loved it.
The “Excel” World Championships are now on espn2 by the way. pic.twitter.com/QbhsTsZyIUAugust 7, 2022
The next big e-sport?
ESPN has a longstanding reputation for embracing non-traditional sporting events, including esports. The network launched its coverage in 2015, before becoming the first to broadcast an esports event in a prime time slot three years later.
It’s not all been smooth sailing for ESPN — the company had to rely on its daily esports coverage at the height of the pandemic for cost-cutting reasons — but its continued willingness to embrace events like the Excel Esports All-Star Battle show that the broadcaster intends to stay on track.
It may come as a surprise to some that there is an appetite for a spreadsheet-based esports tournament, but the rise of streaming culture has proven that there is a market for just about anything.
The commentary section of the All-Star Battle live YouTube broadcast was filled with people suggesting strategies, cheering the participants on and generally expressing their joy at the match.
“If you had told me 20 years ago that we would all watch Excel matches, I would have thought you were crazy,” said Bill Jelen, one of the commentators, as the event drew to a close.
“But it’s actually fascinating to see how these people come up with different ways to solve problems – and solve them very quickly. And the same formulas and logic can be used to solve everyday business problems.”
Microsoft Excel matches may not rise to the top of the Twitch rankings anytime soon, but you may find that they capture your imagination in ways you didn’t expect. The next event in the calendar: the FMWC Open (opens in new tab) early October.