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With no fans in place, X Games Aspen created a virtual X Fest | Instant News

Jan 28, 2021

When the producers of the X Games show on ESPN decided to go ahead with the 2021 event at the Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen without fans in place, they didn’t want to completely abandon X Fest which usually takes place simultaneously at the base of the mountain. In the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, they decided to take it virtually. “We had the opportunity to do something different and this is truly a leap of trust,” said Matt Gizzi, senior director of sports brand solutions at ESPN parent Disney, this week. And so, at midnight on this Thursday on the night of the most unusual of the X Games, the doors opened on the virtual X Fest. It is an immersive interactive environment that aims to provide a sense of experience in a place not available this year. The developers believe this will be the main way some X Games experiences this year, and maybe the second screen experience complements the main ESPN broadcast. “We are looking for creative solutions to not just give up because the live broadcast will be eliminated for the fans,” said Gizzi. “Over the last year, we’ve started to look at trends and we want to find a way that works for us and our events. We’re trying to find a virtual way for fans to experience X Fest. “ Over the last 20 years of the X Games in Aspen, X Fest has turned Buttermilk headquarters into a carnival of capitalism and snowy crime. This is where increasingly elaborate tents emerge from sponsors and vendors, providing swag and experience to the hordes of X Games fans. This is where you might once do a powder surfboard demo, watch a ski movie at Studio X, where young fans line up for athletes’ autographs. This is where you chug down on free energy drinks and munch on complementary snacks, where the college kids secretly overconsume their contraband. There are always prizes and competitions here – from obstacle courses to dance-offs, from US Navy pull-up contests to years of Great Clips haircuts and freebies. The action in the snow may be the main draw at the X Games, and concerts may have captivated more and more visitors in recent years, but whatever your reason for being there, X Fest is an integral part of the X Games live experience. . Virtual version aims to estimate that. It’s free to play, runs straight from the browser – no app or download required – and allows you to freely explore virtual festivals. When you enter, you customize your avatar – choosing whether to be a skier or snowboarder, choosing your outfit color scheme, whether it’s Henrik Harlaut fit or baggy or in between, whether you’re wearing a helmet or a beanie, and so on. The environment is kind of a fantasy version of the Buttermilk base and the X Fest terrain at the X Games venue. Developers used photos and videos from X Fest’s past to build this world. You’ll see familiar features like the firepit at the entrance to the Inn in Aspen, you’ll see Panda Peak and the Summit Express lift in the distance, Big Air and Superpipe leaps (of course) looming above, with a line of outlets no different than which usually fills the ground area during Buttermilk’s biggest weekends. There’s a big screen here where you can watch the competition’s live stream as well as a playlist of X Games highlights and content – during a reporter tour before the site went live, it featured skier Alex Ferreira recounting one of his gold medals in the Superpipe run. As with Fest X live, there are multiple product pushes from sponsors, a few sweepstakes, and a few other experience-based stops along the way. As your avatar is skiing around X Fest, other people convey ideas of where to go and what to do. In the Jeep section, you can get into the company’s new hybrid vehicle. At Wendy’s booth, there’s a retro arcade game set-up, where you can compete in the Knuckle Huck competition, detach yourself from the knuckles at the bottom of Buttermilk and try to pull off tricks (the leaderboard will track high scores throughout the X Games weekend) . Inside the “cold media zone” based in the Monster igloo you’ll find selected clips of snow sports. In the National Geographic photo booth you can browse the greatest collection of the latest images. On the Geico music scene, where The Chainsmokers and Kygo and Lil Wayne have ruled live, you’ll find music bars and roadis to help you explore some of the new music from X-friendly artists and labels (during the tour, this tour features songs from Tanpa White Rose Footprint and Moxie). Like the aim of everything at X Games is youthful, the producers just wanted to make it cool. “We wanted to make it feel like a real part of the X Games, not just additions because, ‘Oh, you have to do it for sponsorship,'” said Gizzi. It was built for ESPN by a team of developers and artists at Wisconsin-based experiential marketing agency GMR, who started working on virtual X Fest about two months ago when ESPN decided to move forward with a fanless, bubble-style X Game for 2021. Through your avatar, you can also find the X Games merchandise area and a place to take a photo of yourself and tag it with an X Games-related sticker, ready to use for sharing on social media – a way to replace the mandatory Superpipe selfie. GMR creative director Cam Schultheis called the opp photo “an artifact of the year COVID for people to share.” There’s also a bulletin board where you can click through and find info on the latest X Games news (as well as posters from the last two X decades). And there are also lots of Easter eggs and hidden features. You might find a yeti in the woods, for example, or the “Rocket League” video game. X Games producers believe that the virtual experience will attract interest and engagement from fans throughout the weekend as people learn about it through social media and live broadcasts. But they’re not counting on the near 100,000-plus attendance that regularly comes through X Fest live over X Games weekends. “If we have even 10% of what our presence interacts with this, I think it’s a win,” said Gizzi. “I don’t think anyone broke the code to replace live events for fans and engagement.”

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