What do you think of when you hear the word esports? While many still think of esports as nerds in their basement gaming, this is a multi billion dollar sports industry with huge popularity around the world. With the majority of the world in some form of lockdown, we took the time to catch up with BIG Esports Director, Chris Smith to discuss the evolution of esports and why there is still a need for live events even in a digital world.
Chris, how did you get into esports?
I’ve been in the sports industry for just over a decade now and have sat on all six sides of the fence. From top player, to commentator, event delivery, player management and now consultant to the growth of the esports industry I’ve really seen all facets of the sport - all whilst maintaining a career as a semi professional player!
What prompted that decision to work on the industry rather than in the industry?
I thought I wanted to be the best player in the world. I thought I wanted to be the most famous commentator. But I realised through my experiences that what I actually wanted was to work on the industry, on the growth of the sport and my previous experiences could help shape that.
You work as the Director of BIG Esports. Can you tell us a little about what you do and the types of clients you work with?
Sure. BIG Esports is an esports and gaming PR Consultancy. We work in partnership with Playside Studios, which is Australia’s largest independent app development company to deliver a very hands on experience. From event delivery to PR campaigns to influencer management, BIG Esports helps companies to build and activate their esports strategy.
For those of us unfamiliar with the esports industry, can you explain the difference between gaming and esports?
Esports is the competitive play of the game, while gaming is the wider market.
With much of the world currently facing some form of lockdown, esports seems to be the way of the future. Although digital in their nature, live esport events are experiencing major popularity with events selling out in seconds. Can you share any insight as to why a digital event also has a need to be experienced live?
When most people think of gamers they think of nerds in their basement but the reality is that they’re millenials and like other millennials they want to enjoy money can buy experiences. The same applies for gamers.
Globally there's a lot of large esports events where 5,000 - 30,000 people will pack into a stadium and watch a tournament because they want that money can buy experience. It’s something special where you get that same rush as if you’re attending your favourite sporting event with the crowds adding to the sensory experience. The Dota 2 International, which has a prize pool of $34.3M USD sold out in 28 seconds which just highlights how much demand there is out there for live events.
Esports live events have evolved from a live studio audience and have grown to include major tournaments as well as home and away games where teams have their own stadiums just like what you would experience with the AFL.
There’s even an esports city in Shanghai that is a $700M plus project where they’re aiming to build a state of the art facility including home grounds for teams, incubators for different companies so cities are putting investment behind esports because the demand is there.
Is there an International Federation for esports?
No and there probably never will be. Unlike traditional sports, esports features so many opposing commercial interests with each of the games independently owned so the ability to have one governing figure that represents all parties involved is next to impossible.
With less of a physical presence, is there still a need for volunteers in esports? And if so, how can you get involved?
Yeah, there are definitely a heap of opportunities when it comes to esports. Someone who has really paved the way internationally for this is PAX Online, who run events globally including PAX Melbourne which is one of the biggest expo events in Australia held at the Melbourne Convention Centre. PAX have actually introduced the term ‘enforcer’, who are people that wear bright coloured yellow shirts and there’s hundreds of them and they’re the ones that are responsible for guiding people throughout the whole show.
As far as esports goes there’s definitely volunteers that operate in so many different realms especially at live events with roles very similar to what you would find with any other traditional event.