The popularity of esports is no more evident than when the gamers gather for a convention or tournament. Not only do the players come from around the world, they draw crowds of fans that fill entire stadiums and show the power of the community. Sydney played host recently to the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM), an international competitive video gaming tournament.
The entire IEM festival took place from April 30 to May 5, with the main event of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive playing out from May 3-5.
All in all, it was a success. It was estimated that approximately 8,000 visitors came to the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney Olympic Park on each of the days. In addition, there were another 15 million viewers watching the action online.
What is IEM?
The Intel Extreme Masters is a series of esports tournaments that travels the world. It started with its first official season in 2007.
Originating in Europe, the movement for esports quickly spread into North America. It subsequently offered smaller qualifying events around the world that culminated in a Grand Finals event. The first season offered only Counter-Strike. More games have since been included, such as:
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos
Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne
World of Warcraft
StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void
StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm
League of Legends
Defense of the Ancients
Heroes of the Storm
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Fortnite: Battle Royale
2019 Sydney Results
It was IEM’s third visit to Sydney.
All told, there were 16 teams competing in Sydney. Moreover, all playedCounter-Strike: Global Offensive for a first prize of $A358,000 prize pool. Teams then came from the United States, UK, Brazil, Holland, and Sweden, with three teams hailing from Australia.
A key match in the lineup put Overwatch on the screens. It was a part of the Overwatch Contenders Season 1 finals. The Order team from Melbourne subsequently beat the Drop Bears from Sydney to secure a place in the eventual Overwatch Pacific Showdown in China in late May.
Just before the finals, a match called “The Caches” took place to pit Australia against the UK. Team Australia ultimately finished on top.
The finals then consisted of Team Liquid from the US beating Fnatic from Sweden by winning three games in the best-of-five series. Team Liquid won $A143,000 for the feat.
Overall, around 8,000 people attended each day. That figure was up from the 7,500 people per day in 2018, and the 7,000 people per day the prior year. Online viewership also increased from 8 million in 2017, to 13.5 million in 2018, and now to approximately 15 million in 2019.
According to Intel Esports Business Development Strategist Brittany Williams, the 2019 IEM Sydney event was therefore the biggest global esports tournament ever held in Australia. “It’s exciting to see how passionate the Aussie crowds are about esports and how they are helping solidify Australia’s presence in esports,” she said. “With all the buzz, we’ve also seen growing support from the tech and gaming industry for this event, with more and more of our channel partners getting involved.”
The event was not without its complaints, as with any gaming scenario. However, there were some issues that IEM could address before the next year’s series.
The main problem, per the Esports Observer, was the strict rules about entering Australia. The FaZe Clan team competed without its star player because his Australian visa application was not processed in time. That’s despite having travelled there the previous year for the same event.
Some countries have made it easier for esports players to travel for tournaments. Others, by contrast, have not taken such measures. Some say it is because the Australian government hasn’t acknowledged esports as a major sport. Consequently, players are not recognised for travel and immigration clearance as athletes in more traditional sports.
ESL, which organised the IEM, is concerned. ESL Asia Pacific Managing Director Nick Vanzetti then said “Australia needs to take a closer look at esports and how the current visa processes might limit the ability of legitimate star players gaining lawful access to high-profile tournaments. Visa processing delays pose substantial risk to the teams, players, and tournament organizers of being able to perform or operate as they should, and ultimately harm the business of esports and the country’s ability to attract world class events. Perhaps, most notably, the fans are missing out!”