Last updated December 8, 2017 at 10:52 am
Purpose-built training facilities and arenas, a take up by traditional sports clubs, and an Olympics berth – that’s the not-too-distant future of eSports, according to Australian eSports pioneer Nick Vanzetti.
- eSports, or professional video gaming, is already a $1.2 billion global industry
- About 239 million people watch gaming tournaments annually on the web, TV broadcast and in stadiums
- Traditional sporting leagues and teams overseas investing in eSports include soccer powerhouse Manchester City FC and US professional basketball league NBA
- AFL club the Adelaide Crows this year signed up to acquire a professional eSports team
“In Australia it’s estimated there are about 2 million eSports enthusiasts and that number is going to grow,” said Mr Vanzetti, who studied business at QUT and was a dedicated gamer himself in the early 2000s.
“While most of the audience for eSports watches online, because it is so accessible, it fills stadiums. For example, at the Intel Extreme Masters that we organised earlier this year at Sydney Olympic Park, we had 7000 people through the door each day as well as 8 million unique views online.
“Gamers who play online want to have that social interaction, meet each other, cheer on players and teams like fans do at a traditional sports event. We had a lot of ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi’ chanting during the tournament.
“Three years ago we were educating people on what eSports is. We don’t have to do that any more. Now we’re educating companies and sports bodies on how they might be involved.
At the recent Bathurst 1000, a Forza Motorsport game challenge was held for the first time under the auspices of the V8 Supercars race organiser. At the 2022 Asian Games in China, eSports will be an official medal sport, and there is talk of the Olympics in Paris in 2024 following suit.
Mr Vanzetti said while eSports is considered a disruptor, with television viewership of traditional sporting events declining, it presents opportunities for established sporting teams and codes.
“The disruption is not as fast as in other industries. It is not going to impact attendances at a stadium for a good footy game next year,” he said. “But if you are not growing, you are dying.
“There can be a harmony between conventional sports clubs and eSports. It can be a way to attract a younger audience, to expand a fan base.
“In the next 10 or 20 years I see that there will be mainstream acceptance of eSports worldwide, every traditional sports club would have picked it up, and there will be dedicated venues in cities for training and arenas for regular fixtures.
“Those conversations are already being had about building new facilities that can accommodate eSports in the future.”