In a ‘dedicated gaming house’ in suburban Kellyville run by Avant Gaming, a group of gamers sit glued to their gaming chairs for eight hours a day, often forgetting to eat and stretch, as they practice like ninjas and train for victory in the electronic gaming word.
“It’s ridiculous how long they train for,” Perth-based Avant Gaming CEO and founder, Wesley Collier, told CIO Australia. “They train eight hours a day, they eventually stop for food, and then they head off to the gym. They don’t break a lot. But our performance coach tells the boys to lay off playing the game for so long. Eight hours is a long time and you don’t want to get burnt out.”
“Each team has a manager, each team has a coach and our League of Legend players have the gaming house and practice eight hours a day,” he said, also explaining sports psychologists also visit the gaming house. “We nurture and look after players. It is our job to make sure we are doing right by those players.”
Welcome to a snapshot of life in Northwestern Sydney for a host of players in the ‘wonderful wacky’ world of e-sports, also known as electronic sports, competitive or professional video gaming, or pro gaming.
Typically, e-sport takes the form of organised, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players. The most common video game genres associated with e-sports are real-time strategy, fighting, first-person shooter, and multiplayer online battle arena.
Collier, who runs the ‘dedicated gaming house’ as part of the professional e-sports organisation, Avant Gaming, which he registered as a business in 2013, said the e-sports movement - hatched in Asia (particularly South Korea) in the 1990s and evolved into Europe and America - is picking up steam in Australia. His audience is already sitting at 40,000, and steadily rising.
Certainly, the world of e-sports continues to grow at a phenomenal rate, with the online sporting world expected to capture an audience of 385 million people in 2017. The APAC region accounts for more than half of all e-sports enthusiasts, but Australia continues to lag behind, both in terms of participation and audience figures.
But tech companies like Netgear are aiming to change this and put Australia on the medal dais via supporting local teams, sponsoring local e-sports tournaments such as CyberGamer to raise the profile of the sport, and ensuring that local teams such as Avant Gaming, have the vital technology that they need to be successful.
Netgear vice-president and managing director, Brad Little, told CIO Australia while common misperceptions still abound about the e-sports industry, times are changing and many tech and media companies are getting onboard.
“The stigma of a bunch of guys playing games in a basement may have been the stigma five years ago, but now it’s a real industry,” Little said, explaining it is evolving as the ‘next great sport.’
“What we’ve seen across the world is that e-sports and its rise has basically allowed it to be treated like any other national big league sport. The investments that not only we’re making, but we’re seeing all over the world, means that e-sports teams are being run just like professional NBA, cricket, or football teams throughout the world.”
Globally, e-sports is already considered a $1.2 billion industry with an annual audience of 239 million people mostly in the 14-to-34-year age group.
Indeed, recent headlines suggest e-sports is gaining in popularity. The AFL, for example, is reportedly keen to run an e-sports tournament at Etihad Stadium, suggesting AFL clubs sponsor or create their own e-sports teams.
In other news, e-sports could become an official part of the Olympic Games by 2020 afer the International e-Sports Federation (IeSF), a South Korean organisation, received a response from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) outlining the process and next steps to allow esports to be recognised as an Olympic sport.
Additionally, in the last 12 months CrownBet has started to take live betting on e-sports games, Little added, explaining the industry is only going to continue to grow.
“It is appealing to more and more people everyday. As the games continue to evolve, the way they deliver content, how rich and immersive some of the games are, and as the current playing population ages, this is a market that is only going to get bigger and bigger.”
Tools of the trade
But it’s critical for the technology powering the players and platforms to keep pace with demands and be ground breaking in terms of design, speed and performance. Little said the technology behind the Avant Gaming operation - and aimed at gaming enthusiasts - is Netgear’s Nighthawk range of networking products, where users can optimise online gaming and streaming.
“Just like any sport or any competition, the tools and the weapons are important. The infrastructure and everything that powers the way these guys play games are critical - from every mouse, keyboard, router, switch, right through to the infrastructure that feeds the house,” Little said.
“The first piece, the infrastructure that connects us together, that’s where we still lag. The NBN will come a certain way to helping these guys connect, compete, train, and be able to communicate remotely and not have to fly from Perth to Sydney to get in and train regularly."
He said the regions that seem to excel - North America, Europe, and Northern Asia - generally have good infrastructure coming into the house.
"Good fibre connections are important because every millisecond or improvement on the connection sometimes gives you an unfair advantage. Pull that trigger at the same time and whoever has the fastest internet connection sometimes wins. So we have a couple of challenges in Australia, so that’s why we're bringing awareness to e-sports about how big and how exciting and how many people are actually getting involved in the community.”
He said the company plans to keep up its efforts in “embracing the gaming spirit” and continue to forge stronger connections with e-sports organisations like Avant Gaming and the broader gaming community.
“We will continue to try to drive awareness into e-sports as a phenomenon to make sure the Aussies have a greater fighting chance,” Little said, explaining the rollout of vital high-speed networking products will mean that Australia’s geographic isolation won’t inhibit the country from competing on the global e-sports stage.
Aussies leading charge
No doubt, Avant Gaming is at the heart of the Australian push to make the sport mainstream - and pushing video content is vital in attracting a loyal fan base and generating interest in players, Collier said, outlining his business model.
“Our biggest thing is content. We just keep bringing out as much content - video content - as much as humanly possible. We try to bring out two to three videos a week,” he said. “That’s how we hit our audience and how we get people interested in our players. We want our audience to relate to our players - and the way to do that is to create video content where our fans can watch our players be ‘who they are.’”
Collier, who got involved in e-sports back in 2000 as a player, said he’s excited by the growing momentum he’s seeing in the industry.
“I started playing at a local LAN centre and it evolved from there. Counterstrike was my first ever game. I started joining teams and then played online, and played LAN events for awhile,” he said, explaining the industry is on the cusp of mass popularity.
“I am growing this into something that is more of a future thing. Right now, it is already scaling. It is already getting there. Big investors, big sporting clubs, are looking to get involved. It is definitely evolving. It is very exciting times for e-sports in general, and very exciting times for us, and our partners, of the organisation. If you get in early, then you really create a local fan base,” he said.
“It is probably two years away in Australia before it becomes huge.”
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