Jump back to the late ’80s and early ’90s where, for the most part, gaming was viewed as children’s entertainment or one of the less suspect activities performed by grown men in their parent’s basements. Fast-track to 2019 and gaming is the largest entertainment industry generating well over AUD$100 billion a year, and the average Aussie gamer is now 34 years old. It’s quite the contrast.
As the gaming industry continues to grow, one of the most significant developments is the rise of professional gaming, particularly in streaming and eSports. The role of professional gamer has become a realistic career path for some and coveted by many. A recent report from the Wall Street Journal revealed that the top streamers can earn up to $50,000 per hour. So you can see why game streaming is a popular activity.
What’s possibly more surprising, to non-gamers at least, is that eSports events are selling out stadiums, with huge cash prizes on offer for the winning teams. Recently at Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) in Sydney, the prize pool was USD$250,000, and Australia is one of the smaller eSports markets.
With million dollar prize pools up for grabs, it’s no wonder globally recognised brands are buying eSports teams and getting on board as sponsors. The NFL, NBA and McLaren all own teams. So does AFL club the Adelaide Crows, striking a deal with Sydney-based team Legacy eSports.
One brand that has been embracing eSports and gaming as a whole for well over a decade is Logitech. The Swiss accessory brand offers the Logitech G line of gaming accessories that includes premium headsets, keyboards, mice and controllers, as well as sponsoring over a dozen diverse eSports teams from across the globe.
We recently sat down with Damian Lepore, Logitech’s Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand to talk eSports, common misconceptions, and what Logitech brings to the scene.
“Gaming is already a big pillar of our business, and I think, for us, it’s about becoming that brand of choice,” said Damian.
“When people think about eSports, they want Logitech to be a part of that story. So, it’s about how do we connect with them on an emotional level as well as a physical and product level?”
“When it comes to gaming peripherals, our G502 mouse is one of the best-selling mice in the world. So, in that space, we’ve always been positioned in the right way.”
Although there’s more to eSports than owning the best accessories and being good at competitive games like Overwatch or CS: Go. It turns out a lot of training and physicality is involved.
“Most people don’t understand what it takes to be an eSports player. You have nutrition plans and training regimes. The teams train regularly, even physical training. Making sure they’re healthy, making sure they eat right. Making sure reflexes are right. The ability to think fast. These are all things that are incredibly important in becoming a professional eSports player.”
When comparing the physicality of an eSports player to that of an athlete, Damian believes it’s all a matter of perspective.
“You could play tennis, or you could drive a car. People will argue that maybe tennis is more physical than Motorsport. It all depends, right? eSports is the same. There are different grades, different styles and abilities.”
Speaking of Motorsport, earlier this year, two-time F1 eSports champion Brendon Leigh set an exciting precedent. The former Mercedes-Benz eSports driver made the shift to the real thing, racing in the Formula Ford series for Kevin Mills Racing (KMR). It’s an impressive promotion for the 19-year-old, and Damian believes there will be more of this cross-code transitioning in the future.
“We work with McLaren and a couple of other brands around the world, and they’re all looking for that next ability, that next opportunity. If a person has a skill set that can be replicated into a real car… I think it just shows you the ability of what eSports can really tap into.”
In 2018, over 300 million people watched eSports. As its popularity continues to rise, Damian expects spectators to ultimately emulate the professionals in a similar way to how we experience local sport.
“Like, you’ll have your league players, and then you’ll have your parliamentary setup. Then, you’ll have your amateur setups, and it will filter down, and before you know it, it’ll be like the weekend community sports.”
Fun fact: Colleges in the United States are already offering scholarships to rising eSports players like they traditionally have for basketball and football.
Sadly, when it comes to eSports, Australia falls behind most of the world. In 2019, Australia is expected to contribute just over AUD$8 million of what is now a billion dollar industry. Events like IEM and PAX Australia are helping raise awareness, but for the most part, Australian eSports is still in its infancy. It will likely take more sporting codes and major brands like Logitech to get on board before traditional gamers, and non-gamers realise its potential.
“A lot of people already see game launches receiving tens of millions of downloads within the first day. If we can just sit there, educate and show them what this industry represents, in a very short time, people will start to look at this and go wow!”
In the meantime, Logitech G wants to make your eSports dream a reality with its Challenge eRacing series. Players can compete in select racing games for a chance to win Logitech G gear, and the top prize includes a spot on the McLaren eSports racing team. Australian online qualifiers are taking place right now through ’til early August.
You can find all the details via the Logitech G website linked below.