One of the world’s biggest esports circuit has a launched its new season down-under in Sydney, Australia. Intel Extreme Masters or IEM is its 12th season and while it mostly takes place around Europe, this is the first time a big esports event has ever arrived in Australia and the fans were in full force to show the world our region means business.
Australia, a country that has been always behind in terms of keeping with the international trends had an opportunity to prove their passion for esports over the weekend. Fans of esports have always dreamt of attending an IEM event including myself but have always been held in places too far from home. ESL, the company behind the IEM series finally gave our region a shot.
Prior to the show doors opening, the fans flooded the surrounding area of Qudos Bank Arena wearing their favourite esports merchandise. Despite only a selection of international teams attending – many fans wore colours of those who weren’t on stage to show their pride for the scene. This was true passion from the Australian crowd and it reflected in a sold out crowd inside a loud and buzzing arena.
Being a massive follower of traditional sports, to witness the crowd inside Qudos Bank Arena when Danish team – Astralis took on their rivals Faze Clan was quite an amazing experience. The following was almost a mirror image of what to expect from an AFL game with fans being heavily involved and the star players such as Niko behind the screen hyping up the crowd at the same time. Esports may not be comparable to the physical levels of normal sport but it’s the people and dedication behind it that makes it so great to follow.
While fans and followers plus companies involved with IEM benefited the most from experience and business – to have the event down here drove massive awareness to those directly not involved. Over the course of the weekend, there was literally non-stop conversation of what esports was. Every Uber driver I had was questioning what was going on and most were very surprised and curious on the massive developments what competitive gaming is.
“Wait, are you saying video games attracted that amount of people to an arena?
“That’s amazing, I didn’t know this was a thing”
Awareness for the growth of esports is important especially with events like this coming down under. Even staff at Qudos Bank Arena were scratching their heads and asking me questions on what was going on in their workplace. All of them were impressed saying they never knew this was so big and were to curious to find out more.
Conversations like this always happen and will hopefully continue. There will always be those that question the legitimacy of esports and that ‘it’s not a real sport’ but to be there or even just caught a glimpse of the atmosphere in and around Qudos Bank Arena will show that esports means serious business.
For the very first IEM event to arrive in Australia, ESL did an impressive job putting on a show especially with the teams involved. This was new territory to all of them and to draw a crowd to fill an arena like that showed Australia is ready for another one.
Photos provided by ESL.