Australia’s biggest eSports event took place last weekend where the world’s best Counter-Strike: GO teams flocked to the Intel Extreme Masters in Sydney.
Held at Qudos Bank Arena, forty professional gamers competed in teams in front of around 10,000 budding gamers. Hundreds of thousands more tuned in around the world to watch four of the eight teams invited to Australia battle it out.
The other four teams, including Australia’s own Chiefs and Renegades (the latter are now based in Detroit), were knocked out earlier in the week, but spectators were still keen to see SK Gaming, FaZe Clan, OpTic Gaming and Astralis battle it out over the weekend.
The managing director of ESL Australia Nick Vanzetti – the nation’s branch of the world’s biggest eSports company – said gaming was more accessible than ever Down Under.
“We’ve been building up this concept and this event for roughly two years,” he said.
“We’ve set this up and designed it as a permanent place in the calendar year on year.”
The prize on offer was $AUS260,000 – the country’s biggest prize for an eSport event yet. Before this, the largest prize pool was $55,000, won at a tournament held at Crown Melbourne in 2016.
The knocked out teams battled it out before the weekend to determine the four teams which would participate in the semi-finals on Saturday, and then the grand final on Sunday.
The first match of the weekend saw SK Gaming win against OpTic Gaming with a 2-0 win. SK Gaming dominated on Train 16-1, and then followed it up on Overpass 16-7.
The second match of the day saw Faze Clan win against Astralis with a 2-1 win. FaZe Clan won on the Cobblestone map 16-13, but Astralis won on Nuke 16-11. FaZe fought back on Train 16-9, securing a position in the grand final against SK Gaming.
The grand final saw SK Gaming win 3-1, with Faze only winning on Inferno – SK Gaming won Train, Cache and Overpass. They won a whopping $AUD100,000.
The event was not just for gamers.
“It was really cool to see a number of dads and their kids coming in,” Vanzetti said.
“This is a new form of entertainment and a good way to spend the weekend with family.”
The audience was made up of a lot of fans, with many gamers seeing eSport professionals as celebrities.
Tyler “Tucks” Reilly, the captain of Australia’s Chiefs CS:GO team, said he is still getting used to the fame.
“This is one of the biggest events in the world so just having this come to Australia is huge,” he said.
“Everyone just comes up to us and asks for photos and signatures, it’s crazy.”
A former professional gamer and broadcast analyst, Chad Burchill, said eSports could take off in Australia over the next few years.
“If we see the AFL teams get involved and start buying teams like we’re seeing in the rest of the world, we’re seeing NBA teams picking up their own gaming brands, eSports in Australia could be huge,” he said.
The event was the first time the Intel Extreme Masters has taken place in Australia which is a good sign it may become a prominent destination for eSports events alongside China, Korea and Europe.