If the last few months are anything to go by, Victoria is putting out a strong message: All your esports are belong to us.
The largest in a string of Melbourne focused esports announcements, the Victorian Government has put it’s weight behind esports, by announcing it’s backing for the Melbourne Esports Open in September. It will be held at Melbourne Park with a capacity of up to 10,000 people, making it bigger than even the Intel Extreme Masters in Sydney.
(The Rod Laver Arena, likely the place that will host the main events)
Minister for Tourism and Major Events John Eren announced the deal and said “The Melbourne Esports Open is a massive scalp for Victoria, tapping into one of the world’s most popular sectors of the sports and entertainment industry.”
It’s a tie up between Visit Victoria, TEG Live (the guys that own Ticketmaster and run live events) and esports old faithful ESL. The government is funding the event till 2022, which is a large, but smart commitment to esports over the next 5 years. There are still very few actual details about the event, but if this is an international event, attracting some of the world’s best teams, then it’s got the potential to bring Melbourne huge exposure, not just on a domestic level, but also as an international tourist destination.
The Melbourne Esports Open will happen on the 1st & 2nd of September and tickets should go on sale in June. Which actual games are going to be played is still up in the air, with announcements happening in about 2 weeks. Don’t believe any speculation before then. #fakenews.
Aside from the government involvement, it’s worth pointing out that this event is a huge achievement for the backbone of Aussie esports, ESL Australia. Without them this definitely wouldn’t be happening.
(One of PAX Australia’s exhibition halls)
Outside of this main event, Melbourne is quickly turning me into a frequent flier with all the gaming related events in their neck of the woods. Battle Arena Melbourne, Australia’s largest fighting game competition happened just a few weeks ago, celebrating their 10th anniversary, and PAX Australia is happening at the end of October. While it’s not an esports event, PAX is definitely Australia’s largest general gaming event.
More recently, the MCEC played host to the Zimo Australia PUBG Invitational and the AFL partnered with Riot Games to bring the League of Origin to Melbourne later this year. This means esports & gaming will take me to Melbourne 3 times over the next few months, bringing my hard earned Dollarydoos with me.
With the Victorian government taking steps to enable esports in Melbourne, I can only see more events being planned there, rather than in Sydney, where it seems like the government is apathetic.
What does the current home of Australian esports say to this? Well, that remains to be seen. The Sydney scene has been kept alive over the years by ESL and Nick Vanzetti, with most the professional esports finals happening at their live studio in Auburn. This means that Sydney has been the natural home for esports in Australia, but if ESL were to relocate their base of operations, that could all change.
(ESL Studios in Sydney)
Aside from the ESL home base, the crowning achievement of Australian esports, IEM Sydney, is as the name suggests, based in Sydney. I don’t see this event moving to Melbourne any time soon, as it makes sense to have large scale events in both cities, but it’s always a possibility, should the government offer major incentives to move it.
(IEM Sydney 2018)
Sydney is also playing host to both Riot Games’ Rift Rivals, and the finals of the ESL CS:GO Championship, which will be happening live at Supanova Expo in June.
What else does Sydney have going for it? Well, the brand new Gfinity studio is based in the Hoyts cinema at the Entertainment Quarter, but this could well change. That’s not the only Hoyts cinema in Australia and as it stands, their plan is to create similar arena’s across the country.
(Gfinity Studio in Sydney)
It’s really a bit early to be packing up and moving to Melbourne if you like esports, but it’s going to be really interesting to see how this plays out. As Mat Jessep (EGAA & Jessep Entertainment and Sports Lawyers) put it, the NSW government has been caught sleeping by this move and it will be interesting to see if they do anything to keep hold of Australia’s esports business.
If they decide to sit on their hands, Melbourne offers a fairly enticing environment for esports organisations, with a lower cost of living, so they can offer their players better facilities and/or a slightly cooler neighbourhood to live in than than Strathfield or Lidcombe.