Esports on the Rise: Australia’s Next Opportunity

The Overwatch League is looking to pick up an Australian team for Season 2; the latest of what has become an interesting period for the esports landscape in Australia. As reported by The Australian Financial Review, Blizzard’s Overwatch League is looking to expand into other countries, with Australia being targeted to join a confined group that only consists of the US, Britain, South Korea and China right now – all pioneers in the esports industry.

With Australia looking like the next candidate in line for the esports boom, it has become a fitting time to think about the impending implications that this industry might have on Australia’s commercial and regulatory space. Luckily for us, there are lessons to be learnt from the aforementioned countries.

In Korea, a curfew was introduced to ban children under the age of 16 from playing video games after midnight (until 6am) – called the Cinderella Law. The effectiveness of the law is still up for debate, however, it was noted that in 2016, the Korean government decided to revise the law by delegating the choice of gaming to the gamer’s parents. Moreover, in various countries that hold esport tournaments, restrictions on the age of when a gamer can go professional have been imposed. Professional players are often unable to “go pro” until the ages of 17 or 18 (depending on the game/country). Whether the player will have the necessary maturity or mentality in a team environment is often the dilemma that the law is trying to protect against in the first place.

If there is anything to learn from prior experience, it is to focus on positive outcomes, rather than merely patching immediate issues.

Where video games are part of a country’s culture – Korea for example, the rise of esports has been inherent. Countries like the US and other European nations have used esports as a push, allowing quick momentum and traction into the public eye. As with any commercial growth in a rising industry, regulatory bodies often struggle to keep up. With Australia, this will be no different. Unique factors that Australia should consider are: Our current sporting culture; how esports will fit as a new player at the table; the shape of the current esports demographic; and our current regulatory landscape within traditional sports.

If there is anything to learn from prior experience, it is to focus on positive outcomes, rather than merely patching immediate issues. More than ever, regular monitoring of the sports landscape alongside the push for progressive regulation is paramount. Australia has the unique opportunity of using learnings from other countries along with practical application during a surge in the esports industry to position ourselves as leaders in this new world.

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