In May at the Venue Management Association Conference, we were able to listen to an excellent forum discussion around “The Rise of Esports” that featured panel members from ESL, TEG and MOPT that focused around the 2018 Melbourne Esports Open event.
Presented by JB Hi-Fi and co-promoted by ESL, TEG Live and Fairfax Events with the support of Visit Victoria, Victoria’s tourism and events agency, more than 12,000 fans attended over the weekend on September 1-2 at Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct
The online audience was also huge, with fans viewing content over 12 million times across Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. The esports community conversation on Twitter saw #MEO2018 trending #1 nationally on Saturday.
ESL bring the event expertise from being involved in some of the largest global events, including Katowice, Poland “ground zero for the world of Esports, that attracted an audience of 90K+ in 2019 and considerable government and community support, along with more than 40 events in Australia.
As explained by Josh Inman, Operations Manager at ESL Australia, Esports is still a “growing market untested” here in Australia, yet the experience for fans around “atmosphere, environment, access to stars and the ability to connect live” is the same as any other event in the world.
Heath Williams, Venue Manager at Melbourne Arena, felt the attendance was a great success in 2018 given the event came together rapidly in eight weeks after Visit Victoria and JB HI-Fi became involved to create almost a “mini-Olympics” event for Esports with five stages operating.
The Overwatch Contenders Australian Semi and Grand Finals shared the spotlight on the Rod Laver Arena main stage on Saturday 1 September, while the League of Legends’ Oceanic Pro League Grand Final was the main event on Sunday 2 September.
The event featured branded activations including the 'JB Hi-Fi Game On Zone', giving gamers early access to some of this year's upcoming titles.
The strategy by JB Hi-Fi was around offering interactive gameplay open to all ages, abilities and skill levels, dedicated to a wide range of the latest games, esports events and free play zones. This was also combined with a retail outlet and conference for stakeholders and vendors.
Murray Hodges, Head of Sport at TEG, delivered a deep insight into the logic of planning around delivering a valued outcome for their clients from experience as an owner of Qudos Bank Arena who are “always looking for events and content” with the view that “Esport are baby events in the growth strategy.”
The brief and feedback post event as per the following summary:
Objective: Showcase exclusive releases
JB Hi-Fi wanted to demonstrate relevance and showcase exclusive releases for industry and consumers
Response: Retail activation, conference for franchises and vendors
TEG Live provided a suite of partner benefits, including a retail store activation, supplier engagement and staging their annual conference for key stakeholders
Results: Game On Zone lauded as the only destination
The JB Hi-Fi Game On Zone was lauded by the gaming industry and MEO event patrons alike as the only destination for all the latest things in Esports and Gaming
Other observations from Heath included that JB Hi-Fi offering 15 minute try zones for the new Spider-Man game delivered considerable volume of sales and that overall that it was “comparable to tennis as an event, is a long day of attending yet they will spend.”
With the event appealing to a broader community, being on the AFL bye weekend before the finals, being able to participate as a competitor and getting on stage, was “like kids from Auskick being able to play on the MCG.”
A space had been set up for Fortnite with 40 PC’s yet this was unable to cope with demand 😊, however thankfully for dance contests it was possible to extend the interactive experience.
The headline event on Saturday saw the Sydney Drop Bears defeating Dark Sided in the Grand Final of Overwatch Contenders Australia in a 4-1 victory where the decision making of the Drop Bears was too much.
The Sunday League of Legends Oceanic Pro League Grand Final was taken out by fan favourites and four-times champions the Dire Wolves defeating The Chiefs 3-1 with a victory that booked a ticket to the World Championship in Korea.
A small start, yet very promising with the projection of close to double the live crowd attending in 2019 as the event has support from JB Hi-Fi as a presenting partner for a further three years and Visit Victoria for four years.
“We see in Europe, Asia and North America that major esports tournaments attract live audiences of 40,000 to 50,000 fans and millions online," TEG CEO Geoff Jones says.
“There is no reason to doubt that Australia can follow that trend and make the Melbourne Esports Open a huge live event and a significant global esports competition."
With corporate interest rising, homegrown stars beginning to emerge, increased volume of content and exposure along with the development of infrastructure within schools, the future is bright.
And anyhow, if being active with keyboard, headphones and screen is not your thing, can always revert to costume in any character of choice 😊 #LOL
Flip Danson - Flip Asaurus-Rex