Although it lacks the spectator-friendly focus of the Melbourne Esports Open, PAX Australia remains one of Australia’s best events for those looking to get in on the local esports action.
At this year’s PAX Australia, Samsung sponsored the ESL stage - which played host to pros, amateurs and games of many different genres.
We spoke with Tim Wendel, Head of Esports at the Adelaide Football Club, at this year’s PAX Australia about the role that endemic tech brands like Samsung play in elevating and bringing local esports to the masses and what the impact of cloud streaming services like Google Stadia could look like in the long term on the wider esports community.
Beyond just sponsoring events and supplying equipment, what would you like to see brands like Samsung do within the local esports space?
“Partnering with teams, players and publishers to create bespoke activations that are authentic to the gaming community. Brands like Samsung have the opportunity to create meaningful experiences for players that become lasting memories.”
“Fans who came on stage at PAX to play in front of their friends and family will talk about the experience for years to come – this is a special thing.”
If someone's first exposure to gaming is through cloud-based platforms like Google Stadia and the latency involved in that becomes the new "normal" - what implications could that have on esports?
“Ultimately esports is driven by audience and if Stadia/Apple Arcade games are what the people want to watch then there will be an avenue for them to do that. It probably won’t be ‘esports’ the way we know it now though. The types of games that are currently available on the platform lend themselves much better to things like Let’s Plays and individual live streaming/speedrunning.”
“In-built latency can become the new normal but players, tournament organisers and to a lesser extent publishers will always look for ways to reduce the latency. I have difficulty imagining a world where people are willing to play with lag because they grew up with it (assuming lagless play is an actual alternative in the future). Having technology impact your play when you are trying to compete is extremely frustrating.”
“To me it would be like growing up never having learned to tie your laces and racing anyway. The first time you see somebody who isn’t tripping everything third step you will want that experience desperately.”
There was a lot of skepticism around Fortnite's ability to translate over into an esports environment a few years back. How successful do you think Epic has been?
From the outside Epic has always had a focus on content creators and not on esports specifically. This still seems to be the case as the rulesets for big events are not aligned with what the pro community wants.”
“However they have made significant strides with events such as the Fortnite Championship Series and Fortnite Worlds. I wouldn’t call them an esport in the same way that LoL, CSGO or OW are esports but they have established the beginnings of a tournament circuit.”
How do you think both spokespeople for local esports like yourself and Samsung can navigate the gap between the way that brands like Samsung advertised their products and the way that pros actually use products.
For example, most professional CS players have every graphical setting set to low but the marketing for many esports products doesn't always reflect that reality. What do you think a better version of this looks like?’
“Players are looking for the best performance out of their equipment.”
“A CS player runs his settings super low because he wants to make sure his monitor operates at max capacity, the games might not always look pretty but they are still running at 240hz and 144fps+. I think there is a difference between the aspirational player and the wider gaming audience.”
“The person who wants to play The Witcher on max settings will want a high quality monitor. An aspirational player will also want a high quality monitor but may not care as much about what the graphics looks like. Samsung have monitors that cater to both.”
Authenticity is a big part of gaming and esports. How do you think sponsors can better navigate this?
“I don’t think they are navigating it particularly poorly currently.”
“Involving esports and gaming natives in the decision making will help deliver a message that is meaningful to consumers. It’s important to know your demographic and I think having people who are active gamers involved in your marketing strategy can only be a good thing.”
Disclosure - Samsung covered the cost of our flights and accommodation for PAX Australia 2019.