Recently opened in Burbank, California, Blizzard Arena is a new state-of-the-art e-gaming theater. The 50,000-square-foot auditorium is built on the former NBC Studios, where "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" and "Deal or No Deal" were filmed.
Recently I was invited to tour this incredible broadcast facility, and try my hand at playing Overwatch on stage. Here's what happened.
Most of the action at Blizzard Arena happens here, on the main stage in Studio 1. The area was set up for Overwatch gameplay during my visit, though the set will vary dramatically from event to event.
Here's a view from the top of the 450-seat arena.
The main analysis desk is located here, in front of the main stage.
Down the hall from Blizzard's main Studio 1 lies Studio 5, another fully functioning sound stage for announcers and commentators.
This small green-screen studio, just off of Studio 1, was built for more detailed commentary and analysis. Computers in this room receive a constant stream of in-game stats, which commentators use on the fly.
As a live-broadcasting facility, the Blizzard Arena is loaded for bear with studio lights, rigging, and cameras.
There are plenty of mobile camera operators, too, to capture all the drama of live competition. It was pretty neat watching them roam the stage as they captured trial matches between press, live-streamers and visitors as a dry run for the opening event.
Here's how the competitors' side of the stage looks. Now, let's play some Overwatch!
I got to play an Overwatch match on the main stage, which was pretty surreal. Though I'm a filthy PS4-playing casual, I still managed to score a couple of wins muddling through PC controls playing Soldier 76.
Before players go on stage, they can practice here in a small room adjacent to the Blizzard offices. It's not as glamorous as the main stage, but all the gaming equipment here is top-of-the-line.
Pro gamers are treated like real Hollywood celebrities at Blizzard Arena. Players get their own dressing rooms (with showers). Their hair and makeup are done here, in the same room once used by Johnny Carson.
Afterward, I got a look inside the owner's box on the second floor, which overlooks the main stage. The area comes with a well-stocked mini-fridge (and plenty of beer), and a pair of private bathrooms.
You can imagine an Overwatch team owner such as Robert Kraft or DJ Steve Aoki watching a game from here.
Here's a look inside one of Blizzard Arena's two control rooms; this one is nicknamed Talon. All parts of the broadcast are sent here, where producers decide what is broadcast live.
The control panels here truly are a dazzling sight to behold.
Control room 2, seen here, is nicknamed Blackwatch, after the cover-ops arm of Overwatch.
All the computers and servers needed to run the operation are housed here in the machine room, appropriately nicknamed Torb's Toolbox.
Sound, meanwhile, is mixed here in the nearby crossfade room.
Here, in the EVS room, matches are captured and stored until needed for instant replays or highlights.
Blizzard Arena's gift shop, located near the entrance to the building, has a rotating selection of gaming gear and collectibles. This setup here is for the Overwatch Contenders season finals.
Here's a close-up of all the sweet Overwatch merch Blizzard had for sale on opening weekend.
You can't have a live sporting event without drinks and snacks. To that end, the Blizzard Arena commissary has a decent, healthy selection.
There are a number of work rooms for the press located on the second floor.