From the Herald Sun this morning…
Australian eSports industry set to explode as big money flows in for full-time gamers
THEY are professional full-time athletes who have coaches, team managers, personal trainers and nutritionists and plan to fill Etihad Stadium with fans within “three to five years”.
But these athletes do not play football, nor any other traditional sport for that matter.
Welcome to the world of eSports, which has experienced a meteoric rise from bedroom hobby to stadium-filler in recent years.
Yes, we are talking about professional video game players, some of whom are earning million-dollar paypackets for hitting a few buttons on their computer keyboards.
Already big in Europe and America where 80,000-seat stadiums are being packed with fans to watch gaming tournaments, big money investment is now being made in the sport in Australia which is considered the next big frontier.
Earlier this year the Adelaide Crows branched out from their football club roots to purchase a professional Sydney-based team which competes in the Oceanic Pro League.
The league has eight teams who battle each other in a variety of games including League of Legends, one of the world’s biggest computer games with an estimated 100 million active players a month.
Now, Essendon has followed suit joining with Executive Sports and Entertainment to take ownership of top-tier team Abyss.
The team, likely to be renamed the Bombers, will be based at Essendon’s Tullamarine headquarters and compete in the League of Legends — a multiplayer online fantasy game.
ESE executive director Rohan Sawyer — a former investment banker who has gone on to work in horse racing and with the Rugby World Cup — said eSports had the potential to be a major player in the Australian sporting landscape in coming years.
Speaking to the Herald Sun earlier this year, before the Bombers’ investment, Sawyer said: “I picked up on it about two years ago when I was in Europe.
“I definitely think it could be one of those top-tier sports here in Australia.
“It’s going to take time but I think it could quite comfortably pack out an Etihad Stadium within the next three to five years.”
With the increased investment in Australia has come a new level of professionalism.
Team Abyss train on their computers seven hours a day, six days a week in a “gaming house” and have a coach that trains them to better play League of Legends, a team-based strategic fantasy battle game with wizardry, demons and heroes.
“We’re not talking huge wages when you start to talk AFL and NRL but when you look on a global scale there are wages that dwarf AFL and NRL boys,” Sawyer said.
“I think a lot of people just think they sit behind computer screens.
“But we’re talking high performance systems with personal trainers, nutritionists, sending them away on training camps.
“So I think the thing that attracted myself was it has very similar attributes to mainstream sport here in Australia.
“As these teams begin to build and build they will be doing more of what the mainstream sports do and that is training these guys like full-time professional athlete.”
Abyss head coach Josh Slee said the growth of eSports in recent years had been incredible and he could not see it slowing anytime soon.
“It’s an avalanche as it marches its way forward,” Slee said.
The AFL bought Etihad Stadium last year and has flagged interest in potentially using the venue to host eSports tournaments.
Sawyer said a national eSports home-and-away season much like an AFL season might not be too far away.
“As the sport grows, being able to spread it across Australia and have a home-and-away season would be fantastic,” he said.
“That’s a discussion being had now.”
TEAM ABYSS (June 2017)
League of Legends has five player positions during battle
Top Lane: Jackson ‘Pabu’ Pavone (17)
Jungler: Seb De Ceglie (22)
Mid Lane: Carlo ‘Looch’ La Civita (20)
Marksman: Julian ‘Raid’ Skordos (19)
Support: Andrew ‘Rosey’ Rose (23)
Coach: Joshua ‘Drak’ Slee (33)
DIARY A PROFESSIONAL GAMER
11am — Wake Up
11am-1pm — Physical Activity session, normally gym or tennis
1pm-3pm — Lunch break
3pm-6.30pm — Gaming training session
6.30pm-7.30pm — Dinner break
7.30pm-11pm — Gaming training session
11pm-midnight — Daily review of training sessions with coach, encompassing video highlights and tips for improvement