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The second annual Melbourne Esports Open took place on the weekend of Aug. 31 – Sept. 1. The event’s age and performance reflects the local esports market, a relatively young landscape with a growing maturity across local competitive gaming communities.
With the recent announcement that Gfinity Esports Australia will close at the end of the year, Melbourne Esports Open (MEO) delivered a reminder that the failure of one organization speaks to a complex environment where some business models may falter while others flourish.
The event is held at Melbourne Olympic Park, a large complex of stadiums and facilities, and the same venue where the Australian Open tennis tournament is hosted. This year, Melbourne Esports Open (MEO) used three arenas to house the range of events taking place. The event is run by ESL Australia, in conjunction with live events group TEG Live.
The biggest arena housed the League of Legends Oceanic Pro League final on Saturday and the regional Overwatch Contenders Final on Sunday. The next stadium was split into two main zones. One hosting a Rainbow Six Siege Six Masters tournament featuring the best teams from Australia over both days; the other featured a Fortnite stage running an open tournament for all event attendees to sign up and participate in, plus a charity match featuring local streamers and personalities mixed with members of the public.
Both Riot Games and Activision Blizzard added international flavor to the event by bringing in visiting teams from top-tier global competitions. Golden Guardians from the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) and Washington Justice from the Overwatch League both attended the event in person to take part in exhibition matches on their league’s respective finals days, as well as take part in fan signings.
JB Hi-Fi’s Major Retail Partnership
The whole event featured JB Hi-Fi as the presenting partner, one of Australia’s biggest home entertainment and gaming retailers. The third stadium was labeled the ‘JB Hi-Fi Zone’ and its arena floor featured dozens of demo and retail booths for attendees to explore. This space was also host to a further stage which saw the finals of the META High School Esports leagues for League of Legends, NBA 2K19, and Rocket League.
The retail partnership smartly leveraged a JB Hi-Fi managers conference to give gaming accessory companies and game developers more reason to put on a real show. Directly before the public weekend event, JB Hi-Fi held its conference in this space to learn about what’s new through the rest of the year – an event that would have been held regardless as a common way for companies to pitch their wares and help store managers understand the most exciting products coming to stores these holidays.
This meant the many booths – including demo zones for new game titles from Ubisoft, Gearbox Software, PlayStation, Nintendo, and Xbox, plus hardware partners like Alienware, Razer, RIG, Steel Series, and more – had direct retailer incentive beyond just this weekend’s activities. During MEO itself, JB Hi-Fi ran sales for the space and hardware partners offered prices at a significant sale of 30 percent off.
In other sponsorships, McDonald’s Australia is a major partner of both League of Legends OPL and Overwatch Contenders. A notable integration with the Overwatch Contenders final offered fans the chance to win a major prize of an Omen by HP laptop, or a signed Washington Justice jersey, or an Overwatch Collectors Edition box. Fans could enter by ordering McDonald’s anytime during the weekend through the MyMacca’s app (the Australian version of the McDonald’s ordering app), and then searching for ‘Overwatch’ in the menu to add the competition entry code to any order.
Beyond The Main Stages
While there were four main stage areas for tournaments and finals to take place, many more areas were allocated to further competitions. Australian fighting games community event organizer Couch Warriors ran tournaments all weekend in a conference space inside one of the stadiums, and Starcraft matches were also taking place alongside the same area.
There were also cosplay training sessions, Minecraft freeplay areas, Halo competitions, and many more zones for fans of many different genres and facets of the gaming and esports space to find ways to not just watch, but participate.
In 2018 the event attracted around 12,000 attendees. In 2019, with Australia’s Fathers Day on Sunday considered a possible factor in reducing the numbers who may otherwise have participated, event organizers announced a final attendance of 17,000.
On the ground, the event seemed well attended, but not overly full given the spread across three arenas. The main arena was never oversubscribed but always looked busy and fans were highly engaged across all areas of the event. Staff on retail booths said that they seemed to be pleasantly surprised they were selling a lot more hardware than first expected.
In its second year, the Melbourne Esports Open seemed to solidify its position alongside Intel Extreme Masters Sydney as one of the big events on the Australia esports calendar. And with a focus on putting local tournament finals on big stages, it also works to elevate the Australian competitive space and help increase fan engagement with local teams and local competitions. That it also includes a presenting partnership that seemed to deliver good value to sponsors and partners further enhances its ability to build a strong future for the event.
League of Legends maker Riot Games is committed to continuing hosting the OPL final at MEO until 2022. With such a commitment alongside strong support from the City of Melbourne itself, MEO looks to have a bright future in the Australian esports market.
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