The fastest growing sport in the world
An all-new and exciting industry is taking the world by storm as esports becomes more recognised as a legitimate sport. NBA stars and AFL teams are buying their own players and teams now and sponsors are jumping on at an alarming pace. The world is steadily accepting the practice of professional video game players and tournaments are finally getting the reception they deserve with fans exploding onto the scene in enormous numbers.
Esports are growing exponentially across Australia, but for someone attempting to jump on this fast-moving hype train, the learning curve can be a bit overwhelming. To combat this, we have created a list of the top esport games in the country and just what it entails – from teams and matches to the game itself.
League of Legends
Riot’s fast-paced, real-time multiplayer online battle arena League of Legends (or more commonly known as LOL) pits two teams of powerful champions head to head in an open battlefield, using every element possible to overcome the other team and claim the main objective. The objective can alternate depending on modes but generally consists of some form of domination and slaying enemy heroes. The first team to fulfil the requirements of the map’s objective wins.
League of Legends tournaments are held year round, with the World Championship taking place across multiple countries and months. This year China is hosting the Worlds, with the preliminary rounds at the end of September and the finals concluding on 4 November.
Representing for Australia this year is team Dire Wolves. The team has had varying levels of success in Australia and overseas over the past few years but is currently ranked first in the country. The boys have been dominating the Australian scene, taking out the other top teams like Legacy eSports and last year’s Oceania tournament winners the Chiefs Esports Club, and will now go on to the World Championship against the best teams in the world.
Aside from the annual World Championship event, tournaments are held year round, with two to four main tournaments. Charity events and friendly matches are occasionally held and are usually announced via social media.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
TEAM FIRST PERSON SHOOTER
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (known more commonly as CS: GO) is a multiplayer first-person shooter developed by Valve. Teams are split into Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists, with the Terrorist team having to either plant a bomb or defend the hostages. The Counter-Terrorists must then prevent the bomb from being planted or rescue the hostages within the time limit.
Tournaments are held throughout the year for CS:GO, with many of them being qualifying matches for the ELEAGUE Major – the annual tournament with a million-dollar prize pool. Multiple matches are held online every month, either sponsored events or for charity.
Only one Australian team made it to the ELEAGUE CS: GO Premier 2017 this year; sadly though, the Renegades lost against the French team G2 in the qualifiers and were eliminated from the running. Renegades currently sit with a global ranking of 21, a considerable ranking considering the high skill level that comes from other countries in CS:GO.
Locally, matches are often played between teams Chiefs, Dire Wolves, Legacy, Exile5 and Tainted Minds.
From major offline leagues like ELEAGUE and the circuits/qualifiers around the country and Southeast Asia, there is always something going on in the CS:GO scene. Charity events and smaller matches can be found through each team’s social media.
TEAM FIRST PERSON SHOOTER
Overwatch is the latest team-based multiplayer online first-person shooter, released in May 2016, to develop an enormous esports following. Winner of The Game Developer’s Choice Awards “Game of the Year” for 2016, (along with taking three trophies for Outstanding Achievement in, Best Design, Online Gameplay and Action Game of the Year), Blizzard’s Overwatch has taken the genre by storm. Overwatch works much the same as CS: GO, but with a range of maps/objectives and a system of characters with unique abilities instead of customisable guns.
This year, Team Australia is going to BlizzCon to represent the country at the Overwatch World Cup after beating Japan in the Sydney qualifying match. This team is comprised of the best players across the country, picking out the cream of the crop from various teams for the best chance of winning.
In November, Team Australia must face up against some of the strongest teams at BlizzCon to win the Overwatch World Cup. We are up against countries that are playing in a league of their own; Team South Korea ran rings around every player during its qualifying matches and is fan favourite to win.
Popular teams in the area include Blank Esports, which sits at the top of the Sea & Oceania rankings, followed closely by 4Legs and Athletico Esports. The overseas teams to watch are EnVy, Cloud9, Rouge and Lunatic-Hai, who feature heavily in their region brackets.
Events are usually annual and held throughout the year, with the Overwatch World Cup in the months leading up to BlizzCon in November. Charity events and info about smaller matches can be found through each team’s social media.
Street Fighter V
Developed and published by Capcom, Street Fighter V is a side-scrolling fighting game set around two players fighting head to head. Alternating between attacks and special abilities, competitors aim to chip away at their foe’s health bar and knock them out. The first to KO their opponent three times wins.
Each year, 32 of the best players compete for the Capcom Cup title, along with the prize pool of $350,000+. The majority of players come from the USA and Japan, leaving Australia in the dust and unable to reach the top bracket. However, Australia has its own scene for games like Street Fighter V, holding local events for fighting game tournaments each year. The Battle Arena Melbourne is the first event of the year, followed by the Evolution Championship Series and the OzHadou Nationals 15. All information for these events can be found on their social media.
The only notable Australian competitor is BurnoutFighter (Kevin Kim); other than that there may be an enormous amount of talent in our local scene that could rise to the top any day now.
Call of Duty
TEAM/SINGLE FIRST PERSON SHOOTER
Activision’s Call of Duty is one of the longest-running esports titles in the industry, along with CS: GO. This comes from the similarities in genre between the two, with players preferencing one shooter over the other.
In esports, Call of Duty is currently played on Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare on PlayStation 4, but other series titles have been used in the past. Tournaments consist of either singles, doubles or teams competing for a cut of the prize pool. Game types included are Hardpoint, Search and Destroy and Uplink. Matches can be focused on objectives or a point system depending on the game type.
Australia has a long history of success with Call of Duty, with teams placing highly at international championships in the past. In 2016 the Call of Duty scene held a huge invitational event here in Melbourne’s Crown Casino. Following this, more events have been held in Sydney, with teams from all over the world converging for a shot at the Call of Duty World League.
Australia was knocked out of the running for the CWL in Atlanta this year, with Chiefs eSports Club losing in the open bracket and being eliminated from the running. Tainted Minds, Mindfreak, Exile5 and Team Immunity are all outstanding Australian teams to keep a look out for as the Call of Duty World League begins again next year.
Valve has a knack for picking the best games before they get popular. The original Dota was a player-made mod for Warcraft III before being picked up by Valve which then hired the developers to create Dota 2. Like CS: GO, Dota 2 sits comfortably on the top player numbers on Steam (conveniently owned by Valve as well) and averages 524,253.7 players per day. With these numbers, it makes sense to have an esports league.
Dota 2 shares a lot of similarities with League of Legends, with both having the basics of MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) down pat. With a roster of champions, objective driven maps and a fantasy theme, it can be easy to confuse the two.
In August of this year Team Liquid took the World Champions at The International, the annual tournament run by Valve where the top teams compete. Qualifiers are held in each region, with the winning team going on to play in the finals. This is the highest level of competition in Dota 2, with teams gunning for the chance all year round.
Valve sponsors the Dota Pro Circuit, a series of seasonal tournaments that coincides with the CS: GO championships. Both major and minor tournaments allow teams and individual players to earn qualifying points for the top four of a tournament. These listings are public online and the eight best-ranked teams are then invited to The International. Major tournaments award more points to winning teams than minors, with events being held closer to The International awarding more points.
Currently, Warriors Gaming Youth is the leading team in Australia, having beaten out Execration in the SEA vs AUS Invitational 2017. Internationally, teams like Team Liquid, Newbee and LGD hold the top three global positionings. Watching these teams play is an intense experience with the highest level of Dota 2 gameplay around.
Broadcasts of Dota 2 matches are often streamed live over the Internet and occasionally on television.
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Standing out against those we have touched on already comes Hearthstone from Blizzard Entertainment, a free-to-play online collectible card game. Hearthstone is a turn-based card game where players build decks, along with a hero of their choice, to compete against other players and their decks. Using limited mana crystals to cast spells and summon minions, players aim to deplete their opponent's health to zero.
A year-long tournament is run throughout winter, summer and autumn with the Hearthstone World Championship awarding a prize of US$1 million for the winning player. Sixteen of the best players compete each year at BlizzCon having qualified at tournaments and based on their in-game ranking. Alternatively, a team-based tournament is also run annually with players representing their countries at the Hearthstone Global Games. Fans are able to nominate their favourite players so the event is mostly run for the fans themselves.
In 2016 Australian player EdwardElric came second at the 2016 HCT Asia-Pacific Spring Championship; this is the best placing of any Australian player so far. Hopefully this year Australia will have better luck.