In the last decade, the digital landscape has been transformed, not just by the expansion of technology but by the upsurge of eSports. Once considered a niche hobby, eSports has now become a mainstream phenomenon, especially among younger audiences. Australia, in particular, has witnessed dramatic growth in its eSports sector. But what is driving this evolution, and which games are resonating most with the Australian youth?
eSports involves competitive video gaming, often featuring massive prizes. For perspective, the global eSports market was valued at over $1 billion in 2020. It’s not just about playing games; it’s a profession demanding skill, dedication, and strategy. Accessibility is key. In Australia, over 70% of young people play video games, with a growing percentage eyeing professional careers in eSports. Platforms like Twitch and YouTube amplify this interest, with millions tuning in to watch gamers showcase their prowess.
Countries like South Korea have long dominated eSports. However, Australia is rapidly carving its niche. Events like the Australian eSports Championship regularly attract over 20,000 attendees. The Australian government’s investment, amounting to millions in infrastructure and support, further propels this growth. In fact, in a move paralleling support for traditional sports, some Australian universities are offering scholarships to eSports prodigies, with over $500,000 awarded in 2022 alone.
The Australian eSports landscape, boasting over 1.8 million enthusiasts, has its clear favourites:
- League of Legends (LoL) – The Oceanic Pro League, focused on LoL, attracts an audience of over 50,000 Aussies during major events.
- Counter-Strike – Global Offensive (CS: GO): Australian teams like Renegades have competed on the global stage, with international events drawing over 100,000 Australian viewers.
- Fortnite – With its global craze, Fortnite tournaments in Australia have witnessed peak viewerships of around 75,000, especially among younger demographics.
- Rocket League – The Rocket League Championship Series regularly sees Australian participation, with national events drawing crowds of 30,000 or more.
With the rise in popularity of esports and its maturity, in recent years Aussie esports fans have started betting not only on sports (such as football, cricket, rugby, etc), but also on major titles like CS:GO and Valorant. The industry has developed so much that some online bookmakers have started accepting cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Tether. Games such as Dota 2 are hugely popular for BTC wagering as the demographics that play the game are predominantly young and crypto-savvy.
eSports has profoundly influenced Australian youth culture. The dream job is no longer being Miss Universe Australia, but holding a mouse and clunking the keys of a keyboard. Gaming cafes, known as ‘Lans’, are now as common in urban Australia as coffee shops, with over 500 such establishments in Sydney alone. Australian youngsters don jerseys of their favourite eSport teams, with merchandise sales exceeding $10 million in 2022. Beyond entertainment, eSports introduces skills such as teamwork, strategic thinking, and resilience. The digital realm has bridged friendships, creating a unique blend of virtual and real-life experiences.
When it comes to incentives in eSports, the prize pools are nothing short of staggering. They not only highlight the industry’s lucrative nature but also show the value and recognition attributed to gaming excellence. In global tournaments, some prize pools have soared to dizzying heights:
- Dota 2’s The International 2021 – Topping the list, this championship offered a mammoth prize pool of over $40 million, with the winning team pocketing around $15 million.
- Fortnite World Cup 2019 – A close competitor, this global showdown saw teenagers become millionaires overnight. The total prize pool was $30 million, with the solo champion walking away with $3 million.
- League of Legends World Championship 2021 – Riot Games, the developer behind LoL, set aside a prize pool of over $2.34 million for their world championship event.
Australia’s local eSports events might not match these astronomical figures, but they’re steadily rising. For instance, the Australian eSports Championship offered a prize pool nearing $300,000 in 2022, making it one of the most rewarding competitions in the Oceanic region. These hefty prizes not only entice players but also further legitimise eSports as a viable and rewarding profession.
eSports in Australia, driven by its enthusiastic youth, shows no signs of slowing down. If you can’t game but are a fan of gamer food, you might just enjoy 10 of the best burgers on the Gold Coast while watching. For everyone else, the fusion of technology, competition, and community has created an ecosystem that thrives on passion and dedication.