Esports Central Episode 15/16 – With the news of Melbourne Esports Open, will Melbourne become the home of Aussie Esports?

Our discussion on episodes 15 and 16 of Esports Central talked about two key things. Firstly the announcement of Melbourne Esports Open on Episode 15, followed by the news of a potential Australian Overwatch team on Episode 16.

Watch the episodes if you haven’t already, then let’s take a look at whether Melbourne can be the home of esports, what are the positives and negatives, and how do the two cities stack up.

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Melbourne Esports Open

The Melbourne Esports Open seems like a no-brainer for the Victorian state government to hold. There’s a long standing (friendly) rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney. Typically, Sydney is seen as the esports capital of Australia, as it boasts a number of notable esports events, most prominently Intel Extreme Masters Sydney. Melbourne on the other hand, holds arguably the biggest and best gaming convention in Australia – PAX Australia. PAX is set to be even bigger this year with the addition of EB Expo. Whilst this isn’t an ‘esports’ event, there are a number of esports tournaments played at PAX, including ESL’s CS:GO, Red Bull’s Battle Arena (featuring Street Fighter and a range of other events), as well as many smaller esports tournaments.

And whilst the publishers themselves aren’t present, many exhibit holders feature League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League, and many other top esports titles. It’s an event which draws a similar, much bigger crowd than IEM Sydney. Therefore, it seems fair the Melbourne Esports Open could easily attract a crowd of 10,000 attendees a day.

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Crowds of people flock to PAX to see their favourite players, try the latest games, and network with people in the industry (Photo credit: ESL)

The Melbourne V Sydney rivalry is a big one, but I think Melbourne could win out in the end. With over 3,000 live events every week in Melbourne, it’s certainly a city that knows how to host a fantastic event, and draw a big crowd.

But can it do this with esports? Well, let’s look at what happened at IEM Sydney. IEM Sydney saw around 8,000 fans flock to Qudos Bank arena to watch the best teams from all over the world battle it out in CS:GO. Add onto that the insane number of online viewers (13.5 million unique viewers)* and it’s definitely the best Australia has to offer.

So what makes it a success? There’s a number of factors:

  • Organiser – the tournament and event organiser needs to be familiar with esports, and know how to run a successful event. ESL is definitely that!
  • Players – having the best players IN THE WORLD is certainly a massive key to success. If you have something the fans want (international talent) they will travel from all over Australia.
  • Game – the game choice has to one which is familiar, in the top of esports games internationally, and have good audience appeal; again CS:GO is such a game.
  • Venue – there’s nothing more capable of ruining a good event than a bad venue. A good quality venue is a must! This includes things like broadcast capabilities, location, seating, facilities etc.
  • Partners – if you can’t get key partners on broad, why would your audience want to attend?

IEM Sydney had all these things pretty well set. So I will ask the question again… can Melbourne replicate this magic?

Short answer – Yes, I believe so. And here’s why:

  • Organiser – ESL is on board to host Melbourne Esports Open. You already have this consistency, and a major brand like ESL is a good starting point for promotion and legitimacy.
  • Players – the Victorian government has promised “the world’s best gamers”. If they can deliver, then you have the international talent to draw the crowd.
  • Game – the titles to be played at Melbourne Esports Open haven’t been released, however many speculate games like League of Legends, Rocket League, Overwatch, and Fortnite are likely to be featured. Some of these games are part of the esports ‘big four’ and if played at MEO, are sure to draw the crowd. There’s also good scope here to break out into broader gaming categories too, such as sporting games like FIFA and NBA2K, or even racing games such as Forza and GT. Motorsport esports series are rapidly making their mark on the esports market, and I think we could see something like this at MEO, and will help to draw an additional audience.
  • Venue – this is definitely one big thing Melbourne has over Sydney. Unlike Sydney, Melbourne is carefully planned, with many of its major facilities right in the centre of the city. Melbourne Park, the location of MEO, is situated in the heart of all the action, with easy public transport in and out of the city. And let’s not forget Melbourne has public transport running all night Friday and Saturday night.
  • Partners – the government is on board, that’s one big thing. I believe having backing from state government is key to success. They bring many things to the table and help drive outcomes for the event as well as advertising. TEG Live is also on board to host the event.
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There’s legit a new motorsport esports series announced every week! I think sporting/racing games like Forza, GT, NBA2K, and FIFA will help attract an additional audience than the typical esports fans or gamers (Image credit: Drive)

With all these ingredients, I think Melbourne is certainly in a good position to host an amazing event. As long as all parties involved do their specified jobs, and work in harmony, there’s no reason why Melbourne can’t produce a spectacular esports event, and cement itself as the esports capital of Australia.

Okay, so we’ve talked about how Melbourne can RUN events, that’s all well and good, but you have to do more than simply run a good event to be the esports capital. That’s where Overwatch comes in.

Melbourne to be the likely home of the Australian Overwatch team

With the AFL and Riot announcing a partnership to bring League of Legends to Australia via “premier stadium tournament [in] Melbourne”, there’s no wonder Overwatch jumped on the bandwagon. Blizzard wasn’t going to be beaten by Riot and so Blizzard’s CEO said there’s a “really good chance that we end up with a team in Australia for next season”. This came from an exclusive interview with Max Laughton from FOX Sports, and also the host of our Esports Central show.

Basically, what this means is there will most likely be an Aussie team in the Overwatch League. This is huge! It’s essentially the equivalent of Australian being able to compete in the world cup for soccer or rugby. An Aussie team would mean there would be more international presence in Australia, and international tournaments would be more likely to run here. Furthermore, it means Australian companies, investors, and esports businesses will get a shot at representing themselves on the global scale by being part of the team.

Whilst the team will most likely go ahead, it’s still unconfirmed where the team will be based. The Australian Financial Review said it’ll most likely be in Melbourne now that the MEO has been announced. But there’s definitely arguments for both Melbourne and Sydney to be homes.

Sydney has more esports events under its belt, and is the home of the esports giant ESL. Sydney additionally has plenty of tech companies with their national or APAC headquarters in Sydney – Google, Microsoft, Amazon, GitHub, Atlassian, and many more. There’s plenty of entrepreneurs in Sydney keen to get their hands on esports teams and lots of locations for potential teams.

Melbourne on the other hand has a growing number of esports companies and businesses. The AFL’s HQ is in Melbourne and they are very much behind esports. Similar to Sydney there’s a huge number of entrepreneurs and businesses looking to sink their teeth into esports and this could be the perfect opportunity. Similar to Sydney, there’s many national and APAC tech company headquarters in Melbourne – Xero, Slack, Envato, Carsales, and many more. Any one of these companies (or the companies in Sydney) are well placed to bring strategic pieces to the esports table.

Essentially, there’s an even playing field for Sydney and Melbourne right now. I still think Melbourne will triumph (not just because I’m a Melbournian), but because there a number of external factors I think might increase the likelihood of an Overwatch Australian team being in Melbourne – public transport, the location of the CBD, open bars (including an esports bar), and the State government’s involvement.

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GGEZ, Melbourne’s esports bar, has become the home of fans to watch their favourite matches, but also a place for industry meetups, Twitch events, and even esports business events (Photo: GGEZ)

However, in the end, it could all come down to money. I think the team will go wherever the money is. If a big company from Sydney puts up the dollars for the team, then it’ll be there. The same can be said for Melbourne.

Melbourne V Sydney, who will win?

So what are your thoughts? Do you think Melbourne has what it takes to be the esports capital of Australia? Where do you think the most likely home for an Australian Overwatch team would be? What games do you want to see played at the Melbourne Esports Open.

Post me your questions, comment, smoke signal them to me, tell me on Twitch – whatever it happens to be. I’ll try and address them in the next article.

* IEM Stats from Intel Extreme Masters

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