Never Heard of eSports? It’s Alive and Kicking Here in Australia

One of the fastest growing sports in the world might not be your traditional idea of an athletic contest.

Esports - shorthand for electronic sports - is, in a nutshell, electronic gaming gone pro, and here in Australia, it's big - really big! Gamers from all over the world form teams and compete against each other, and if you're into video games, chances are that you're also into eSports. And we're not talking about people who just know each other online and form teams but never get together for real. We're talking about giant gaming centres brimming with seats full of fans who come to watch their favorite teams compete, cheering them on like sports fans cheer on their favorite football team. Esports may have started small, but today it's a bonafide network of pro gaming tournaments and leagues with genuine teams, many of which are backed by big-name sponsors!

 

Why eSports?

Gaming is a "sport" that's enjoyed by millions of people, just the same as there are millions of people who enjoy traditional sports like baseball, racing, basketball or soccer. Whenever that phenomena happens, it's pretty much inevitable that people will come together and organise around it. And come together they have. NewZoo, a company that provides market intelligence for eSports claims that the eSports "economy" is on track to reach a value of $1.5 billion by 2020, and estimate that eSports currently attracts a worldwide audience of 385 million people. Esports tournaments have become a big - and lucrative - business, and in 2016, esports even got its very own organisation, called the World eSports Association, to oversee tournaments and players alike.

 

Name of the Game

There are a number of popular video games with corresponding teams that make up the world of eSports. Here are a few that you may have heard of:

League of Legends is arguably the most popular and lucrative eSports game today. In standard play, the player acts as a summoner that controls a champion with unique abilities, skills, and powers to battle against a team of other players. The objective of the game is to destroy the opposing team’s "nexus", which is essentially a structure situated at the core of the enemy base and protected by defensive structures.

The Call of Duty World League hosts monthly events, which culminate in the Call of Duty World League Championships held in August.

Dota (short for Defense of the Ancients) 2 is a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) that pits two teams of five unique hero characters against each other with the objective of destroying the enemy's "Ancient" - a large structure inside enemy base.

These three well-known games represent only a snippet of the action in the ever-expanding world of eSports.

 

The Sky's the Limit

Dream about being a teenage millionaire? It's not as far-fetched as it sounds if you're an ace gamer and can manage to find sponsorship. Esports isn't relegated to the realm of the hobbyist - it's for the pros, no matter what their age happens to be.

Case in point, Chinese Dota 2 player, Hao, age 24, has already earned a cool $1.2 million in prize money alone through esportsearnings.com. (Wonder if his mum ever nagged him about spending too much time playing video games when he was younger?!) But if you think prize money is the only source of revenue for a pro gamer, think again. There are endorsements to be had like the one American Tom Taylor of the Halo games had with Dr. Pepper. Taylor, aka T-Squared, took advantage of his face being prominently featured on 175 million Dr. Pepper bottles by also offering private video game lessons for around $100 an hour for some extra pocket change at the time.

 

What's New in Australian eSports?

In late November of last year, Australia opened its first esports high performance centre in Sydney, and it's the home base for Oceana's leading "League of Legends" team the LG Dire Wolves. The new facility is part of a partnership with the University of Technology Sydney, and sits on the side of Allianz Stadium facing the SCG. It will boast an impressive array of new technology in eye-tracking and performance analysis, and the LG Dire Wolves, along with the "Counter-Strike" team Supa-Stellar, will share space in the same neighborhood as some of Sydney's traditional sports teams such as the Swans (AFL) and Roosters (NRL).

The opening of the new centre is historic, in terms of eSports in Australia, since most OPL (Ocean Pro League) teams have to beg, borrow or rent space for training and events. LG Dire Wolves owner, David Harris believes the new facility will be a great opportunity for Australia to increase its presence in the global eSports space, as well as a place for fostering new and budding talent.

 

Sports Figures and Celebrities are Enthusiastic About eSports Too

Until recently, the bulk of the revenue for eSports came through sponsorship and advertising, but that's starting to change as celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and sports figures such as Formula One driver Fernando Alonzo are investing in the eSports phenomena, and they're not alone. Sponsors from a variety of industries are jumping onto the bandwagon, and Esports will, for the first time, be part of the 2022 Asian games. This piece of news has already started a buzz that it might become an official event in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

 

Success in Esports Takes Training and Dedication

If you're thinking that eSports as a career choice sounds like a dream come true, you need to rethink your logic. It's not all fun and games - far from it!  Players - when they're not competing - are training hard. That's because raw talent alone isn't enough, just as it isn't for a champion gymnast or a figure skater. It takes a combination of personal dedication, long hours and real teamwork in order to make it to the top.

Andrew Meola, writing for Business Insider about the eSports phenomenon points out an even more obvious fact when he notes that "The market for eSports continues to grow, and it's showing no signs of slowing down in the coming years." According to ESPN (yes, the "sports" network), the industry hosts events with viewerships that "rival the Super Bowl". Esports is truly the "new frontier" in entertainment for the 21st century!

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