Australia is a great place to be, it’s got an amazing sporting culture, so why isn’t esports big here?

This was a question posed to the industry recently. People are coming in from overseas and seeing how successful esports is there, trying to replicate it, and not getting the same results. So why is it that esports somehow isn’t as big here? Why are the events smaller? Why is the audience smaller?

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The International 8 is one of the biggest, if not the biggest esports live events in the world. It’s usually run at Seattle (above), but this year it’ll be in Canada (Photo credit: DOTA 2)

Well first of all, we’re behind. Traditionally we’ve been behind on all things technology based, mainly due to our location. Our access to stuff just takes that much longer. Think back to when movies were playing in the cinema. Often we’d wait six months or more to get a movie after it’s already been aired in America. When computers came out, we’re often around nine months behind getting the latest stuff when the rest of the world has it before us. Even our internet. Sure, we invented WiFi, but that doesn’t mean our speeds here match up.

So, that’s the first thing. We’re behind on having access to hardware, games, movies, technology in general. Granted we’re catching up and we’re pretty much getting things at the same time as the rest of the world here, but it’s going to take a little but of time for us to be at the top again. We’re playing catch up, and because we’ve typically been behind, esports hasn’t filtered through to the mainstream yet.

That’s the next problem. Our size. Australia is so small that the number of fans we have here, are yes, very vibrant and committed, but small. In order to make up the numbers we need everyone behind esports. As it stands now, we don’t have that. Therefore big multinational companies aren’t going to invest large amounts of money and resources to execute the big scale events that we see overseas – it doesn’t reach the numbers that events overseas hit.

Thus, we come to the next point – money. Everything is about money right? If you put money in, you want money out. At this stage, since the fan community is rather small, investing dollars into esports aren’t giving the return that investors want. Yes, it’s growing, and we’re starting to see bigger events, but still it’s relatively small compared to what you’d see in China or Korea.

Next, on the money side… it cost just so much money to run events here! Venue hire is one big expense, but Australia has lots of laws and policies in place that make running things a lot more expensive – insurance, equipment, testing & tagging, OH&S, staffing costs (which are way more than overseas). These costs make running tournaments almost impossible without big backers to put in the money. Would you put in lots of money for a spectacular event to only break even? Probably not. So unless you can sell out a huge stadium and get a lot of people there, it’s not worth it. Like I said, we’re a growing audience but not big enough yet.

Then there’s the talent cost. To have the world’s best events, you need the world’s best – commentators, casters, players etc. Sure, use local talent where you can, but you need some of the best players in the world to compete against the locals for a real spectacle. Is it cheap to get these teams? No. Wages and that aside, it’s expensive to fly teams to Australia since we’re so isolated here.

So there you have it – money, time, location, audience size – those are the areas we are behind in when it comes to esports.

Now I don’t say all these things to discourage events and esports here in Aussie land. No, I say it merely so you have an understanding of the industry and we’re it’s at here. As I said, we’re still growing. Esports is still in its infancy. It will grow and will continue to go, we just need to take things one step at a time. We have some amazing things happening here – PAX Australia, IEM Sydney, Australia Esports Federation, our footy teams getting into esports, Sydney Cricket Ground hosting teams, BAM, other sports such as motorsport (ie. F1) getting involved, as well as some other exciting things happening. It’s getting there, so heads up people!

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The Overwatch World Cup in Australia last year is a testament to what we can achieve here. (Photo Credit: Kotaku).

If you’re working in esports, get excited. These things I’ve talked about aren’t road blocks, they are challenges. As gamers we all love a challenge! So accept these challenges, level up, and be the best you can be!

What do you think our industry needs to move forward? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter, DMs, whatever. Keen to hear your thoughts and I’ll try and address them in the next post.

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