The Crows’ esports team, Legacy, this week took fortuituous part in a major international competition – IEM Sydney – sneaking into play after visa problems knocked out a couple of international teams.
Esports are becoming worldwide phenomena. With rising rates of online gaming, a plethora of streaming services and growing attention from traditional sporting organisations, the industry is set to be worth US$1.4 billion in 2020.
The increased interest is beginning to show in Australia too. Last year fans flocked to Sydney Olympic Park’s Qudos Bank arena to watch eight top international teams compete for $260,000 alongside eight million online viewers of the IEM competition.
This year, the stakes are even higher, with a scheduled three days of live competition and 16 teams vying for the lion’s share of $330,000.
Traditional sporting organisations are starting to take notice too. The Adelaide Football Club’s acquisition of Legacy esports in May last year was part of a shift in competitive gaming towards the mainstream.
Recently the club acquired a full-time Counter-Strike Global Offensive roster who have been improving steadily. Counter-Strike is a first-person shooter where one team attempts to plant a bomb at one of two locations and the other team has to stop them using their reactions, team work and utility such as smoke and flash grenades. Legacy also competes in League of Legends (the world’s most popular esport), ability-based shooter Overwatch, Rocket League and strategy game Starcraft 2.
Despite failing to qualify directly for IEM, missing out by only one position, Legacy lucked out when two European teams failed to obtain their visas, opening a spot for the relatively inexperienced side.
The team showed promising signs, gaining an early advantage against the top Australian team Renegades, but the fairytale was not to be. Their opposition showed their pedigree, turning the match around before Legacy faced off against Order who sent them home on the first day of competition.
However, Legacy’s business manager Michael Carmody showed no disappointment, tweeting that this event would leave the team “hungry for more top level CS”.
“We came in on a miracle, with only our hopes. I am proud of the efforts you have done, no matter the result. Sit back and enjoy IEM, you did yourselves and us proud,” Carmody tweeted.
The Renegades stunned viewers when they defeated arguably the best team in the world – Faze. The match was a nail-biting best of three that ended up going to triple overtime, confirming the Australian squad would play in the finals on the IEM stage.
It also looked bleak for the Grayhounds, a local Australian team, who drew last year’s winners SK gaming in an elimination match. Despite floundering in some rounds that should have made the result more definitive, Grayhounds pulled through against all odds eliminating the Brazilian giants.
In a post-match interview, key performer for Grayhounds Ollie ‘Dickstacy’ was ecstatic.
“It’s pretty crazy, it’s pretty unbelievable because they are legends of the game, and we as a team haven’t been playing together for that long,” he said.
“I know they have a replacement in Stewie2K, but just the calibre of players they are, to beat them is a pretty good win.”
However, the underdogs are still in trouble, as they will have to repeat the magic of the Renegades against Faze before potentially facing American superstars Cloud 9 to remain in the competition.
With one Australian team through to the finals and others matching it against the best in the world, IEM Sydney is showing that competitive gaming is becoming a mainstay in Australian sports.
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