Ready, player one: Esports is here for fans of all ages

Video games have become big business - it's a US$180bn industry that surpasses the film and music industries combined.

Oskar Howell//STUFF

Video games have become big business – it’s a US$180bn industry that surpasses the film and music industries combined.

Looking forward to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games? This year’s spectacle is making history by including Esports for the first time ever, and the New Zealand Esports Federation (NZESF) is looking to send a team. This is just another indication of how mainstream video gaming has become, enjoyed by nearly three in four Kiwis and some two billion regular players around the world.

The stunning ascent of gaming as an industry bigger than the movies and music combined is thanks to a potent mix of affordable technology, better connectivity, and the consistent delivery of a wide range of titles that cater for everyone’s taste.

Thanks to the efforts of Chorus which has rolled out the Ultrafast Broadband network to 87 per cent of New Zealand homes, we’re fortunate to combine our PCs, Xboxes, PlayStations and other consoles with some of the fastest connectivity available anywhere on the planet. Combined with low latency connections, that means local players compete with counterparts in Asia, the United States or elsewhere, without suffering from lag.

With so many players around the world, it’s little wonder that competitive instincts have kicked in. For those not yet in the know, Esports is short for Electronic Sports – and not only do people now play video games at major sporting conventions, they also compete for money. For example, the League of Legends World Championships winner bagged US$2.4 million in 2018 and took home the 32-kilogram Summoner’s Cup, a trophy made by the same company which manufactured football’s prestigious FA Cup.

It's not just for the lads anymore, as up to 40 per cent of gamers are women.

Dani McDonald//STUFF

It’s not just for the lads anymore, as up to 40 per cent of gamers are women.

First seeing the light of day as far back as 1997 with the staging of the ‘Red Annihilation’ tournament in the United States around shoot-’em-up sensation Quake, Esports today is televised, live-streamed on YouTube and Twitch, discussed to death on Discord, played by millions and watched by even more as a spectator sport. Even back in the 90s, Esports enjoyed significant popularity, with Red Annihilation attracting more than 2000 competitors.

It’s been full steam ahead ever since the concept took hold around the world. As you’d expect in the ‘bigger is better’ USA, tournaments are replete with announcers, fair-ground atmospheres and serious prize purses (check out top Kiwi player Sean “Gratisfation” Kaiwai competing in an American tournament here). Along with that, Esports is huge, particularly in Southeast Asia and China, as well as Europe.

Video gaming is big business; a US$180bn industry that far exceeds movies and music combined. And with advancements in gaming and tech – and high-speed internet now affordable to many – the explosion looks set to continue.

Of course, New Zealand is also home to a thriving gaming (and game development) community, with as many as three-quarters of the total population playing. It’s not just the kids, either, as the average age of a Kiwi gamer is 34 and 40 per cent are women. Not surprisingly, the NZESF is currently building a team to attend the Commonwealth Games with the elite athletes expected to compete under the title of the ‘E Blacks’.

Gamers and spectators at eSports tournaments in NZ arranged by Let's Play Live and the NZEFS in 2018

FILE//STUFF

Gamers and spectators at eSports tournaments in NZ arranged by Let’s Play Live and the NZEFS in 2018

At least part of the accelerated rise of gaming around the world and right here at home is thanks to advances in connectivity. While New Zealand has long suffered the ‘tyranny of distance’ for physical products, the Chorus fiber network delivers three factors prized by gamers everywhere: speed, low latency, and massive bandwidth. In fact, thanks to Chorus we get some of the planet’s fastest connectivity with ‘hyperfibre’ speeds of up to 8000 Mbps.

That means local players anywhere from Gratisfaction to granny (yes, older people play too) regularly build their skills by competing online with players across the globe.

And if you’re a gamer who has wondered just how much data a session uses, Chorus has the answer. Check out its data calculator here.

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