THE Australian e-sports scene is going from strength to strength with a bright future ahead of it, according to representatives from both a prominent team and an industry sponsor.
Head of e-sports at Legacy Esports, Tim Wendel, and the Legacy League of Legends team recently travelled to South Korea as part of a special tour organised by sponsors Samsung, where they visited the HQ of renowned Korean team Gen.G.
The trip was a real eye-opener for Legacy, which is owned by the Adelaide Crows Football Club, giving them some valuable insights into ways Legacy can boost their skills, communications, and in-game strategies.
It has also provided a chance to look at the state of the e-sports scene in Australia, which has come a long way in recent years.
Mr Wendel said in many respects the Australian e-sports scene could be compared to the A-League (soccer) in that it was relatively new and young and hadn’t been around for ages locally except at a specialised level.
He noted the Australian e-sports scene had come a long way in the past few years, however, pointing to the establishment and success of large-scale international level events such as the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM, held in Sydney) and the Melbourne E-Sports Open (MEO, held in Melbourne).
Mr Wendel said although Australia had a geographic disadvantage, culturally we were well placed for supporting e-sports.
“Culturally [Australians] are very about competition, they take it seriously, they look for opportunities to get better,” he said,
“The fandom is there, Australians are used to the idea of supporting a [sports] team or competition; they grew up with it.
“People froth e-sports here the same way they froth regular sports.”
Growing the Australian e-sports industry was a matter of creating compelling, local-driven content, Mr Wendel said.
“Individual players in the US command large followings. There aren’t many players here trying to push themselves [in that way],” he said.
He said stage events were another really good way to help boost e-sports in Australia.
“I’d love to see more international events in Australia like IEM,” he said.
“From a production standpoint, from content and entertainment, we share a lot of our audience with international leagues and I think we need to make the local leagues interesting and unique – that will help a lot.”
Mr Wendel also identified branding, resources, content creation and fan engagement as other key parts of e-sports continuing to grow and thrive in Australia, pointing to the Korea trip as a perfect example
He said ultimately e-sports would likely end up in the mainstream anyway, even if it wasn’t there yet.
“E-sports will continue to grow, regardless of whether or not the mainstream accepts it,” he said.
“People who like e-sports now are young, they will have kids and they will become the new mainstream.
“I think it will happen organically.”
Samsung Electronics Australia’s memory and storage division head Matt Nelson also accompanied Legacy on the tour, saying he was incredibly proud the hardware manufacturer had been able to make the trip happen for the team.
“They’ve played [against Korea] but never seen the infrastructure there,” he said.
“They came back invigorated, they’re excited about what the future is and what it holds.”
Samsung have been supporting Legacy for the past two years, providing solid-state drives and monitors to the team, which Mr Nelson said was part of a broader strategy for Samsung to be at the forefront of the Australian e-sports scene – as well as ensuring Legacy had top-tier equipment to be competitive on the international stage.
“It [e-sports] is a growing sports field in Australia and we’re looking to position ourselves as the leader in supporting them,” he said.
“We’re looking to remove technological barriers, so Australian e-sport teams are able to compete in the international space.
“We want to make sure they’re on the same playing field as the best in the world from a hardware perspective.”
The company had chosen to partner with Legacy for several reasons, including their approach to training and player development, Mr Nelson said.
“We really like Legacy’s ethos and how they develop their players and the training regimen,” he said.
“It’s not only practicing the game and mind and body, it’s a player-centric club.
Mr Nelson said Korea were the technology leaders in the e-sports field and the Seoul visit had given the Australians a glimpse into what the future held, as well as opening a few doors for the team too.
“I think that go to Korea that had the experience that Legacy had is really a looking glass into the future for Australian e-sports,” he said.
The goal was to have Australia at Korea’s level within five years, Mr Nelson said – and the way to do that was to ensure Australian e-athletes were armed with the best equipment and had the opportunity to play against high-tier teams.
“As far as League of Legends goes, Korea is the country to beat,” he said.
“Our driving message is we’re really excited about the future of e-sports in Australia, we will do what we can to provide the technology to the people who need it, and it’s going to be a great five years.”
One interesting observation Mr Nelson made was the different platform focuses in the various E-sports areas.
“Korea is PC game focussed, the US is console game focussed, while Australia is a hybrid of both,” he said.
“I think it provides us more opportunity.”
More Australian players on the world stage would only be a good thing for the industry and scene in Australia, too.
“We need to get players on the international stage to get them to next level,” Mr Nelson said.
“It’s very, very useful for them to go to Korea, to get an idea of the infrastructure the competition has, and their structure.”
More events like IEM, MEO and PAX would only help the popularity of e-sports in Australia, Mr Nelson said, providing more exposure, getting players on TV, and helping people understand the game –creating more interest from fans and potential e-athletes alike.
He said it was only a matter of time before e-sports became a mainstream affair as well.
“I think we’re well on our way – I don’t think anything is going to stop us,” he said.