Do Australians suck at eSports?

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The growing popularity of eSports brings the rise of events in Australia, such as IEM Sydney. Image: ESL/Sarah Cooper

Cultural differences may be the core reason Australian eSport teams are failing to perform on the international stage.

Team Renegades are Australia’s flicker of hope in the professional eSports scene, placing top four in the Counter Strike Major two weeks ago. This is the closest Australians have come to winning a Counter Strike Major. Commentator Nathan Mendez said there is a “strong negative stigma around legitimacy of eSports” in Australia.

“Typically they associate that with unfit, obese or super skinny nerdy types,” said Mendez, who is better known by his casting name ‘Mendrix’ in online communities.

‘Mendrix’ has commentated, or casted, for international ‘League of Legends’ tournaments. Image: League of Legends OPL.

The global eSports industry is huge, worth more than $1 billion, but in Australia the industry is only worth $20 million in 2019, according to IBIS World.

Streaming figures back this global industry. The Counter Strike Major saw more than 340,000 viewers tuning in during its peak period. A total of 41.3 million hours were watched over its two-week duration. And Counter Strike is nowhere near the biggest game, with more than 40 million people watching concurrently during the 2018 ‘League of Legends’ final. This final had more viewers than the Super Bowl.

“Slowly now other major providers are beginning to see how many eyeballs are actually watching the events,” said the Australian caster. This comes after Essendon and Adelaide football clubs purchased League of Legends squads.

Grayhound Gaming competing at an ESL Pro League competition with players ‘Dexter’ (second right) and ‘DickStacy’ (middle). Image: ESL

Like cycling, nationalities are often mixed to create a team with the best five players possible. Because Australia is so big, fast internet speeds are difficult to achieve. “You can see why consumers may decide to jump on pay TV or play traditional sports over eSports because their net just went down,” said Mendez. Connection speeds are one of the reasons Australian teams aren’t internationally diverse, choosing to stick with domestic teammates for better speeds.

Grayhound gaming are an Australian team who placed top 18 in the Major. Team leader Chris Nong, known as ‘Dexter’, said their training routine is always the same depending on where they’re located. “Just the skill we’re versing allows us to grow more,” said Nong, after training at a boot camp in Sweden. “There’s always a disadvantage when training on Australian servers, due to lack of competition or infrastructure, it isn’t ever really fun or enlightening playing here sadly.

 “Compared to Koreans, the internet is a part of their youth culture and [they] grow up with it, so there’s just basically less people in gaming overall due to the poor state of the internet here.”

Mendez agrees, stating traditional sports dominate households. “As much as we like to complain about Australian weather we have a pretty good deal, we can play standard sports all year round,” he said.

Due to Australia’s small population, Mendez said it’s difficult to find our huge eSport icons. “Those closest we have right now would be ‘Ana’ who won the internationals in Dota, or DickStacy from Grayhounds.”

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