Why Sports Architects need to tune in to eSports

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eSports competition is continuing its world wide growth phenomenon especially amongst millennials. Therefore it’s becoming increasingly important for sports architects to consider the requirements of these steadily growing, non traditional sports in our stadia, arenas and training facilities to make sure fans get the best possible experience.

Asia dominates the eSports market contributing $374 million to the global E-Sports economy with North America second with $143 million, then Europe with $72 million.

eSports competition is renowned for its passionate and dedicated fan base. In 2015 alone, these fans injected $15.9 million in ticket sales, $17 million in merchandise and $55.8 million in gambling revenue into the US economy.

Australian eSports are also beginning to make a move. Populous architect, Jake Martin, a millennial himself, went to PAX-Australia, an annual consumer electronics convention held in Melbourne, to take a look at a number of e-sport tournaments and see how the event was received by spectators.

In Part One of a Two Part report he talks with the talent behind one of the newest but most popular eSport event to come to Australia, SMITE developed by Hi-REZ studios, to find out what it is like running an event here in Australia.

In Part Two he considers how sports architecture will need to adapt in order to provide fans with a superior viewing experience for E-Sports.

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PAX is an annual consumer technology & gaming convention held at the Melbourne convention centre attracting developers, game enthusiasts and professional players from around the world to share ideas on technology and videogames. 2015 was the first year that ESL (the world’s biggest global E-Sports competition organiser) was holding a live eSports event at PAX, the Oceanic Finals for this new craze SMITE.

The players are mainly young men, the attendees a mix of men and women between 18 and 30- young professionals, university students and teenagers- a typical mix of people you’d see at any music concert or Collegiate basketball game.

It was the first time SMITE had held a finals for Oceania and this was a big deal for Australian E-sports. There was a winner’s purse of $35,000 as well as a spot in the first SMITE World Championships. After an extensive day of play between the 4 qualifiers, new Australian team Avant Garde secured its spot in the US in January 2016.

The SMITE World Championships happened over the weekend of January 9th– 10th in Atlanta, and although Avant Gard didn’t make it past the first stage, being there was a great achievement for the Australian team.

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During PAX-AUS, I had a chance to sit down with Kevin Meier, Adam Mierzejewski and Alexander Hughes from SMITE’s developers, HI-REZ Studios. Kevin & Alex are SMITE commentators, commonly known as “casters”, who provide a constant narration on what’s happening in a match, while Adam is the eSports producer responsible for the overseeing the event.

How do you prepare as a commentator for this sort of Event?

Kevin Meier – Due to our travel schedules we don’t get to watch all the group stages. So the evening before the games, I’ll go through the teams’ rosters, make sure I learn the players and understand their individual styles. We want to be able to predict what we’ll expect to see to help give viewers an entertaining experience.

How has SMITE being received over here in Australia compared to the U.S.?

Alexander Hughes – It’s a pretty new scene, we only got the Oceanic servers a few months (before PAX-AUS) so the competitive scene is still relatively small. There are only eight teams in the pro league at the moment and the difference in the skill levels between the top two teams is minimal. Everyone is close and we can sit down with a lot of the players at events and parties and get to know the top players.

I can jump online at night and play with top athletes and have a game. In fact they’re happy to jump online and play with anyone, and that means new players have the chance to play with the top guys who regularly compete in big tournaments like this.

Why did you want to hold this event at PAX?

Kevin Meier – It gives us a lot more exposure, to people who might never have played the game before. The conference attendees get really into it; even if they’re just passing the stage they’ll stand in the back and watch a because eSports in general is really exciting to watch. eSports is so compelling that even if you haven’t seen a game of SMITE before, you’re drawn in to watch it.

Adam Mierzejewski – Typically at game one people are kinda quiet and just murmuring “cool” or “good job” and by game 3 or 4 people are standing up and going nuts. The fans love to watch athletes performing well at their sport.

It’s unique to this generation, Millennials, that we want this kind of event because it’s very new. People come to events and say “I like eSports” or “I want to see this again” because of how exciting it is.

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If you want to check out more of Avant Garde’s performance at PAX-AUS you can check them out on the SMITE Youtube channel; https://www.youtube.com/SmiteVOD

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