eSports, or competitive gaming, is one of the fastest growing industries in the world in terms of viewership, money and diehard fans. Today eSports has a larger viewing audience (estimated at one-hundred and thirty-four million viewers) than most of the biggest sporting events in the world. Twitch.tv - one of primary broadcasting platform for eSports - has over fifty-five million monthly users and was purchased by Amazon for almost one billion dollars USD in 2014. eSports events are now filling some of the largest stadiums in the world such as Madison Square Garden's (New York city), Berlin's Mercedes-Benz Arena and the Staples Centre in Los Angeles.
This weekend is a big one for the eSports scene in Australia and New Zealand. Over two action packed days, spectators will have the opportunity to witness the highest level of competitive gaming on the No. 1 top-selling video game of 2015 at the Call of Duty World League Challenge Division, with $70,000 up for grabs.
We are very excited and proud to be a supporter of the Tainted Minds Call of Duty team who will be competing this weekend. Before they go up against the world’s best, we had a chat to the boys about how they prepare for a competition, the controversial question of whether eSports should be considered sports, and the future of the scene both internationally and at the ANZ level.
How do you feel in the lead up to the competition this weekend?
This is the first ever time we have home court advantage with international teams travelling to play us so we will be looking to make the most of it and show everyone we mean business, but we are really looking forward to this weekend win or lose. It's a huge step forward for eSports in the region.
How do you prepare for a competition?
To prepare for upcoming events we spend hours every day watching gameplay of both ourselves and our opponents to pinpoint weakness that could be exploited. We develop game plans for each opponent and practice to perfection these in friendly matches known as 'scrims' (short for scrimmage) against teams that we aren't likely to face in the upcoming event. Not to mention all the effort that goes in behind the scenes for each event. There is a lot of financing to get over the line for starters so that the squad can actually attend. We also need to schedule media shoots and fulfill arrangements with our sponsors and media partners.
Sport vs. eSports argument:
We are of the opinion that eSports fall in another category of sports, similar to how Poker is considered a 'table sport'. We are not trying to argue that our guys are 'athletes', but they are 'players' competing in an established tournament. There is no reason to lump them among professional football players because there is a difference.
The reason some people are trying to call eSports a sport along with traditional sports is because they want to legitimise the industry and make it mainstream. We believe eSports is already set to boom into mainstream media and culture and that having this argument is only adding fuel to the fire of those that oppose the rise of eSports.
How does the eSports scene in Australia and New Zealand compare to the scene globally?
Unfortunately, when we talk about the booming eSports industry we are talking about what South-East Asia, North America and Europe are doing. The Australia and New Zealand region is still lagging behind. There are plenty of factors determining behind this, the biggest being our relatively small population contributing to smaller sponsorship interest.
Yet we have already shown on the global scale that we can compete at the same level as some of the best teams in the world. What we need now is the infrastructure to facilitate new and exciting ways to engage with fans and bring in new ones. This will allow us to show value to sponsors and bring the resources into the scene that we need to grow and keep up on an international level. Big events like the Call of Duty World League Challenge Division this weekend are crucial to the future of our industry so we’re excited to be in the thick of it.
Will eSports ever go mainstream?
It's undeniable that eSports will become larger than most traditional sports and we believe it's less than ten years away. Extreme Sports is a good example of the potential of eSports. Sports such as skateboarding and motor cross burst onto the scene and became a global phenomenon despite backlash from mainstream media and existing athletes from traditional sports. It is now a huge industry with global events and billions of dollars involved. In a generation's time, eSports might host the largest events in the world with different titles having larger fan bases than some traditional sports.