This week, MCV Pacific Editor, Joab Gilroy discusses his thoughts on the future of esports in Australia.
Esports (not eSports or e-Sports) has Australia firmly in its grip, and things are only going to get bigger from here. Competitive gaming has existed in Australia for almost as long as there have been games. Aussies are naturally competitive, sometimes to a fault, and so it makes sense that multiplayer games would find a home on our shores.
Nevertheless, with historically sub-par internet our players have struggled when heading overseas. Plagued evolutionary isolation — of the sort that saw marsupials spring to life on our shores — Aussie competitions often develop unique tactics separated from those used in the rest of the world. The Aussie meta — a word used to describe the style of play — is almost always very different, and often a little less effective than the American, European or Asian metas.
As our basic level of internet improves, however, the disparity between Aussie teams and the rest of the world will narrow. Even now teams like the Renegades and players like OG's Anathan 'ana' Pham show how competitive Aussies can be as they duke it out on the world stage. Visitors have remarked at Australia's ability to compete despite their disadvantages — World of Tanks' Team Efficiency has qualified for the World Championships, despite World of Tanks being an aim-heavy game wherein Aussie teams have to play at a sometimes 200 millisecond delay. Anecdotally, Victor Kislyi — CEO of Wargaming — once remarked to me that success on that level shouldn't be possible. Yet it happens repeatedly, as Aussie players demonstrate. Dire Wolves Smite team captain Daniel "Rowe" Rowe made a name for himself in the competitive Smite community by kicking ass on the ranked leaderboards while playing with a ping of 300.
With the advent of better internet at the lowest level — that is, with the abolishment of a 56k modem base standard — Australia's ability to compete at the highest level, to keep up with international metas and to practice against overseas teams will improve. Although, as we pointed out, the best players in Australia haven't been letting these things slow them down anyway.
Also pushing Australia's esports scene are the companies like ESL Australia, Throwdown Esports and CyberGamer who are working hard to deliver platforms for competition. Riot's changes to the OPL this season have done great things to legitimise League of Legends as a professional esport in our region (regardless of some real world drama), and the League of Origins tournament will add a uniquely Australian and New Zealand spin to the scene.
The Intel Extreme Masters Sydney will bring the best Counter-Strike teams from around the world to play at the Qudos Bank Arena early next month, forcing Australia onto the world stage. Local team The Chiefs qualified earlier this week and will now take on teams from China, Denmark, the USA and… expat Aussie team the Renegades while playing Counter-Strike at the absolute highest level.
Esports in Australia will only get bigger — and it's already pretty big. Like most spectator sports, too, there's no need to play these games to get into the act of watching them — my advice is to pick one you like the look of, watch it a bit and go from there. A good starting point might be the League of Legends OPL Finals, playing this Sunday. There's a bit of natural drama in these Finals, as the Dire Wolves and Legacy — the top ranked and second seeded teams respectively — have no shortage of bad blood.
This article originally appeared in MCV Pacific Weekly, you can subscribe to our weekly industry touch point at no cost here.