For a country with a talent pool one thirteenth the size of the USA’s or about one fiftieth that of India, we can safely say Australia is a powerhouse nation in the world of sport. For decades, we have been watching the Aussies run rings around the rest of us at cricket and rugby. But now, a new type of athlete is emerging from the Land Down Under.
The profile of eSports has grown significantly over the past decade. What was a decidedly niche pursuit in the 2000s has seen a steady increase in investments in recent years, most notably from well-known non-endemic brands entering sponsorships and partnerships with esports teams and events. These include the likes of Qantas, Telstra and CBA, one of Australia’s “big four” banks.
This has generated more grass roots interest in eSport among Australians, which in turn raises the profile of tournaments and encourages bigger sponsorship deals in a virtuous circle. Australia might not have as large an eSport presence as some countries, but that has never stopped it from being influential in traditional sports. In fact Australia is starting to change the rules in terms of what we mean by eSport and the direction it is taking.
Mobile eSport is the future
Mobile eSport has been around for years – Clash Royale came out in 2016 – but despite its popularity and accessibility, it is still dismissed as a sort of “eSport lite” in pro circles. But old on, isn’t that what they used to say about mobile banking and mobile casinos and mobile internet in general?
Australia is famous for taking a laid back attitude and has little time for such loftiness. After years of latency issues due to being thousands of miles from most other players. Aussies are heading rapidly towards full 5G adoption, and this will be hugely influential for mobile eSports.
Valorant is ranked within the top five eSport games, and there is massive excitement surrounding the imminent release of a mobile version. It is currently being tested on limited release, so waiting is almost over. When it becomes available, expect mobile eSport to take another leap forward as more Aussie sponsors queue up to get involved.
Changing preconceptions around the poker table
Poker? An eSport? It might sound out of place, but Australia is all about challenging preconceptions. The fact is, since online poker became widely available in Australia (see https://www.casinoaus.net/online-poker/ for examples), the game has found a new generation of younger players, ready to take on the world. Of course, in poker, the world means the WSOP, and there are plenty of top pros who make a living playing exclusively online, including Australia’s very own Shaun Goldsbury.
Just think about it for a moment. What defines an eSport?
- Competitive games on digital devices
- Players competing in structured tournaments
- Opportunities for the most skilled players to play professionally
- Substantial prizes for the best players
- Promotion and sponsorship of events
- Live coverage with commentary for spectators
- Passionate fan bases
Poker checks all the boxes. The potential issue according to some is the element of luck inherent in the turn of a card. However, even that can be overcome in match poker, a team version of the sport in which players are split across multiple tables and the same cards are dealt to each of seats 1,2,3,4 across the tables, with the same community cards. This levels out the “luck” and means the most talented team will win.
CS:GO still rules the eSport roost
Australia is the origin of some game-changing developments in eSport, and it is fair to assume that their influence will be felt across the world over the coming year or two. But it is not change for change’s sake, and Australians recognize a good game when they see one.
That’s why CS:GO is still the number one eSport in Australia, despite it being a little old fashioned in terms of the platform, PC or console, and its age – the game has been around since 2012.
But The Dark Side of the Moon was recorded 50 years ago. Bleak House was written 170 years ago. They are both masterpieces and games are at a sufficient stage of evolution that they can be looked on in the same light. Other eSport games will come and go, just like other albums will be recorded and books written. CS:GO will always attract players, audiences and even bettors because it is a gaming masterpiece.
Some of the world’s top CSGO teams come from Australia, including Renegades, Legacy, Greyhound, Kings and Chiefs.