The Intel Extreme Masters Sydney (IEM) attracted roaring crowds, more than 14,000
attendees, and over 8 million online viewers. Aussies love their sport – we have a
tradition of dominating the pool, the track, and the field – but what is this other
exciting arena where Australians are scoring accolades?
Growing in popularity year-on- year, esports has become big business as thousands
of Aussies head online to compete against each other in multi-player battles for
Managing Director of ESL Australia, Nick Vanzetti, says his gaming memories stretch as far back as the Sega Master System and he has warm recollections of afternoons button bashing Alex the Kidd.
“I have fond memories of multiplayer gaming and the love of competition is something that’s deeply ingrained in me. Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo, and later the Nintendo 64 were a great way to share some laughs with friends,” he says.
It wasn’t until the passionate gamer hit his mid-twenties that he realised a career in the esports business was on the cards. Abandoning a role in film and TV production at the age of 26, Vanzetti decided to “dive head first into organising gaming tournaments”.
The events started out with about 300 gamers attending tournaments in university halls, competing for prize pools ranging from $100 – $5000.
A decade later and Vanzetti heads up ESL – Australia’s most prestigious esports company which regularly organises online and live tournaments for thousands of players. And with prize pools of over AUD$260,000, plus serious local and international talent participating, these events are taken very seriously.
A recent example is the Intel Extreme Masters Sydney (IEM) which saw over 14,000 people attend, and attracted over 8 million online viewers. Companies such as Intel have always been very active in the gaming scene – and Vanzetti says they have been long-time supporters of ESL.
“The Sydney event really set a new benchmark in the industry and has definitely helped bring a lot of momentum to this evolution.”
“Intel were a key contributor in bringing Australia’s first ever mega esports event, IEM, to life. With many of the same staff that ran the university hall events involved, the team drew on their years in the space to deliver a world-class event. This partnership has also meant we are able to explore new and exciting avenues of delivering top quality content and tournaments for the fans and players.”
“Esports has been around almost 20 years, but the lack of availability and accessibility has made its growth difficult [until now]. The advent of content platforms like Twitch (a gaming-specific live streaming website) has meant that anyone can be a broadcaster. As a tournament organiser, we were able to share our events with anyone across the world who wanted to watch. The audience and number of participants have been growing ever since.”
Until recently gamers of any real talent have needed to go overseas to earn both credibility and sponsors but Vanzetti says this is changing.
“The size and status of the esports ecosystem in our region has been a few years behind more established markets like Korea, Europe, and North America. But the increased interest in the space, along with the investment and sponsor dollars are helping to drive better local tournaments and prize pools. This should, in turn, create a more stable economy for the industry locally.”
Vanzetti says having the right technology is imperative to helping a gamer achieve the best possible results and performance.
“Much like an Olympic swimmer requiring every advantage to shave off seconds in the pool, a lot of esports relies heavily on reaction time. The keyboard, mouse, monitor and processors all add precious seconds when sending the gamer’s actions, movements and decisions to the game, so keeping that delay to a minimum is key. Having the latest equipment and processors could mean the difference between winning a championship and going home early.”
So, is there something to be said about following your passion?
“Absolutely,” says Vanzetti. “We’ve come a long way from the university hall events and I am so proud of that, but I’m still humbled and there’s still a way to go to – specifically with creating a tournament and league structure that supports our local esports heroes.”