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Esport & Oz – an introduction into the insane world of professional gaming

In eSports by Digital Bunker Overlord0 Comments

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Image credit: Jakob Wells,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESports#/media/File:The_International_2014.jpg, Creative Commons 2.0

“Is it like, where you can buy sports gear online?”

eSport, most of us Australians have never even heard of the word.

Yet, esport is a global industry worth an insane $613 million, with 134 million who participate and watch the sport worldwide. Huge in South Korea and China, it’s snowballing across Europe and North America to be one of the fastest growing entertainment markets, already surpassing the music industry in revenue.

In 2015, popular esport title Defence of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2), offered a crowdfunded $18 million prize pool for their world championships, selling out a 17,000 capacity sports arena in 10 minutes.

With huge stats like these, where’s esport in Australia?

Well, esport is here. It’s just niche, with a dedicated community inhabited by passionate gamers, grassroots competitions, and already with corporate interest from the likes of Asus and Red Bull.

Aussies are notoriously slow uptakers of tech. But with 68% of the Australian population playing video games – we can imagine that mainstream Australian slang will be shortening ‘top lane’ to “toppo” real soon.

So let’s get you started in this crazy world of esport. This one’s for the video games enthusiast, the sport lovers, the lost Google searchers and the newly curious. Here’s a quick introduction – in laymen’s lingo – to esport and what it all means down here in Oz.

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Image credit: ‘League of Legends Season 3 Finals’, artubr, https://flic.kr/p/ihAtJa, Creative Commons 2.0

 

Why is Esport popular?

Humans, for some reason, find real marvel in watching elite people do stuff really really well.

Which is why, while I like to kick an egg shaped ball and call it “playing footy”, there’s just something that makes you yell “You freagin legendddddd” when watching the pros do the real deal; training tirelessly to perfect their craft, pouring their individual souls into the heart of the team, riding the mental peaks, the brutal lows, the camaraderie, the controversy. I – and the estimated 240,000 Australians who play footy, think it’s a pretty rad thing to watch each week.

In 2015, one of esport’s biggest titles, League of Legends reported to have 67 million unique players a month. That’s almost the population of Australia three times over. That’s a lot of people out there who finds something in esport that makes them yell “G….G…!” when watching the elite play the real deal; training tirelessly to perfect their craft, pouring their individual souls into the heart of the team, riding the mental peaks, the brutal lows, the camaraderie, the controversy…

And this shows in the viewership stats.

The 2015 League of Legends World Championships attracted an epic 14 million concurrent viewers. To put this into perspective, this completely trumps 2015’s AFL final (2.64M), NRL final (4.2M), and the Masterchef finale (2.1M) viewership all combined together.

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Image credit: ‘League of Legends Season 3 Finals’, artubr, https://flic.kr/p/ihA8pL, Creative Commons 2.0

And interestingly, esport is gaining its epic audience numbers without the reliance on oldschool broadcast media.

Twitch, a social network where users stream and broadcast video games live – generates 100 million viewers a month and 1.5 million broadcasters. According to Quantcast, Australia’s Twitch audience count for over 750,000 unique monthly viewers. In the month of July 2015 alone, YouTube reports that its top 100 games channels on YouTube garnered a crazy 7.3 billion video views.

What confuses most outsiders to esport about these viewing platforms is the idea of the interactive mass audience. Kevin Lin, COO of Twitch describes it being “…very much like being in a crowd, only digitally”. The multi-directional participation with players, viewers and the game – is a radical departure from the one-way feed of traditional sport.

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Screenshot of Twitch livestream, 10 March 2016

So it’s obvious by now. Esport is popular. The idea of watching someone play a game – is an entertaining – and stupidly lucrative concept. If you need a pro quote to help you get your lagging friends comfortable with the idea of it all, here it is:

From SuperData analyst, Joost Van Dreuren “ …with 134 million esport enthusiasts worldwide, this is no longer a niche activity, but a shift in the way people consume games.”

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Image credit: ‘To the victors goes the cheese’, Dota 2 The International, https://www.flickr.com/photos/dota2ti/14700939752/in/photolist-o7AWy8-op5adu/, Creative Commons 2.0

Getting Started in the Esport community

You’re onboard with esport. Welcome. It’s great to have you here. Now where do you start?

One is to just pick one and watch it. Just because you don’t play the game, doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy watching it. You’ve been to the footy, there is no way that 180kg beer gutted man is running around playing the sport. But hey, he’s having a helluva time watching it.

Tournaments like DOTA 2’s International have a ‘newcomer’ show, to ease your way into the technicalities of gameplay.

The other easiest port of call, is to get involved with a game you already like to play. And the magic of esport is that it’s a Willy Wonka of game choice. Let’s break it down.

There’s 4 main categories of esport genres – RTS, MOBAs, FPS and fighting games.

RTS (Real Time Strategy) – generally involving individual players, these games include StarCraft II and Warcraft III.

MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) – historically a spin off from RTS games, this is the grail of the biggest and richest professional gaming competitions. Typically team focussed, games include Defence of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2), League of Legends (LOL) and Heroes of the Storm.

FPS (First Person Shooter) – played individually or in teams, FPS are the most popular for competitive gaming in North America. Call of Duty, Counter-Strike and Halo are frequently played in esport tournaments.

Fighting games – the Ferris Buellers of the esport community; infectiously enthusiastic, popular and always rebelling against the competitive gaming square with their oldschool arcade spirit. Often individually played in console formats. Games include Street Fighter, Super Smash Bros and Tekken.

If you still haven’t found a game to love obsessively in this list, there’s a few more alternatives:

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft – The game’s art director Ben Thompson describes Hearthstone’s design as a game for everyone, even people who have never played Warcraft. A free to play online collectible card game available across iOS, Android and PC, it’s an easy and highly addictive entry to esport.

Pokemon – yes all those hours clocked on your DS and studying your Pokedex can pay off. With its simple turn based game play, the league fosters a friendly battle community.

FIFA – in 2015, FIFA was the first live broadcast of a video game tournament on Australian national TV. Also, with the signing of a professional FIFA player to an IRL German soccer team, your classic sport gaming franchise is representing a convergence of ‘traditional’ sport over to the dark side esport.

So go forth, and find your true esport calling.

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Screenshot of QLD Smash official website, 10 March 2016, http://qldsmash.com/

What’s next in Esport & Oz?

In the next couple of weeks, the Digital Bunker blog will be looking further into esport and the question of Oz. Yes esport is lagging behind in Australia, but the foundations for something truly spectacular are here and we think this is a hella exciting space to be involved in, in 2016.

With competitive esport communities active all over Australia, we’ll leave you with a few links to get exploring locally. Stay tuned.

http://siliconsports.net/

http://oce.lolesports.com/

https://www.aclpro.com.au/

http://pokemonaustralia.com/

http://qldsmash.com/

http://www.ausfifa.com/#