Six key insights from Intel’s IEM Sydney Roundtable

We checked in with a panel of industry and eSports experts ahead of this year’s IEM Sydney. Here are some of the insights they had to share:

Ending the question of whether eSports are real sports

“Nomenclature is entirely irrelevant to what this is. The International Olympic Committee has said we consider this a sport. I personally consider this a sport. I had a twenty year history in Judo as a competitor, referee and coach and [have] participated in eSports as a player, as a person affiliated with a team competing or as a fan [and] I felt exactly the same feelings as I did when I competed in Judo or cheered for my favorite soccer team. For me, this is absolutely a sport. The elements are the same. You have to learn, you have to sacrifice a lot to be the best, you have to study your opponents, you have to take care of nutrition, you  have to practice the right way. You can’t just sit on the coach and play for eight hours.”

“All the elements that you see in sports, other than getting punched in the face, are there but whether or not somebody intuitively feels this is a sports...nobody in the eSports industry is offended if someone says this isn’t a sport. This is not even a relevant conversation, the nature of it doesn’t change.”

- Michal Blicharz, VP of Pro Gaming, ESL

Why more big brands are embracing esports

“I think the audience is so attractive to all brands. You are talking about traditionally a more millennial audience - maybe sort of 18-23 age group. These guys are traditionally harder to reach through traditional media. They famously use ad-blockers as well.”

“I think especially with those big brands, traditional sports partnerships are flattening out or declining, so ‘where are we going next?’ [and] from that point of view, Twitch is a great way to reach those millennials.”

- Scott Wenkart, Managing Director of SHOWDOWN, Twitch.tv ANZ, esports partnerships and programs

Ownership of the game

“In eSports, somebody owns the game. You can gather up the Counter-Strike players or all the Overwatch players in the world into an association and then somebody at a publisher level says ‘You know what, this is no longer going to be an eSport, so we’re not going to allow you to do this this and that.’ They have all the power legally to pull the plug, which makes it infinitely more challenging to organize it in such a way.”

- Michal Blicharz, VP of Pro Gaming, ESL

Why eSports continues to grow in Australia

“I think the reality of it is that is mainstream, and Australians adapt to mainstream sports very quickly. No, we don’t have 60,000 in Victoria watching football game that’s twenty individuals playing across a field. What I do think we have is 100,000 people watching an event that’s occurring.”

“And they’re not just watching the content - they’re playing the content, and I think that’s a very different thing. ”

- Darren Simmons, Oceanic Managing Director, Acer

[Related: In Pictures: IEM Sydney 2018]

Developer-funded vs Grassroots eSports

“The data is out there and if you look at what Riot is doing, and Riot have been extremely successful at what they are doing, they funded everything end-to-end and it scales very slowly because every time they want to set up a league somewhere they have to staff up an entire league and buy all the equipment and everything. So they’re investing hundreds of millions of dollars into their esports program, whereas if we look at esports numbers on Twitch for League of Legends versus Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Valve when it comes to hard cash invests about $2 million a year into CS:GO and, with a game that’s a fraction of the overall size of League of Legends, is extracting probably 70% of the value if you measure it by Twitch esports minutes.

“On a $2 million investment with an open ecosystem they’re extracting way above their weight compared to a Riot or a Blizzard so for that reason I’m not worried at all. There are publishers who want to own it end-to-end and there are always going to be those who choose to have the ecosystem to open and crowd-source that community from companies like ESL.”

- Michal Blicharz, VP of Pro Gaming, ESL

Don’t count VR out just yet

“We shouldn’t forget that the first VR headset that commercially shipped was only two years ago and we’ve made some huge strides since then but its still at the beginning of the adoption. I have no doubt that VR is going to find some interesting places where it has real value and lasting value and gaming is certainly going to be one of them. It’s probably the main place you can interact with VR today and we’ll see if eSports picks it up.”

- Lee Machen, General Manager of Gaming and VR/AR Sales, Intel

[Related: Checking the score on eSports, VR and IEM Sydney with Intel's Lee Machen]

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Fergus Halliday

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