The inaugural Australian PAX showed that eSports remains a dominant part of our gaming landscape.
By Alex Walker on July 28, 2013 at 12:58 pm
PAX Australia was an interesting experiment for the local media, if only because it was an event that catered almost entirely to the gamers.
The Expo Hall, filled with booths, indie games and private showings — the HD version of the Oculus Rift among them — was the closest PAX Australia came to being a “normal” convention. There was stuff you could buy, games to play and queues everywhere.
But there was one major difference that hasn’t been seen at any other convention hall in Australia before — and that was eSports. And not just the fact that League of Legends and World of Tanks happened to be there — but they owned the hall, and to a large degree, PAX itself.
More people were walking around the venue wearing tags saying “AD CARRY” or “SUPPORT” or any of the other LoL lanyards than the Halfbrick ones handed out when you entered the venue. Some wore both, and some disconnected their pass from the Halfbrick lanyard just so they could show off their uncluttered support for Riot.
But it wasn’t just the swag where eSports made its mark. The presence of competitive gaming across the event was enormous. Naturally the LoL booth had the largest following; in the two eSports panels on across the weekend, LoL fans also made up the largest portion of the hundreds that turned out. Enforcers were having to stand by the LoL booth just to ensure people could get past, such was the size of the crowd that turned out to watch the community and tournament matches.
World of Tanks had a great presence as well, rolling a tank onto the expo hall floor and rather cheekily filling out the presence with booth babes. I heard from one of the exhibitors that on Sunday night after everyone had packed their booths down, Victor Kislyi, CEO of Wargaming, was happily sitting down enjoying a session of WoT.
It’s awesome to see someone who loves their game, although you could say that was the case for everyone who attended. But what surprised me the most was the amount who turned out for the second eSports panel, not because I was on it, but because it overlapped with the second Q&A with the Penny Arcade founders.
On reflection, I wish the panel could have been more honest — not that anybody lied or was misleading in what they said, but only because the topics and the nature of the discussion was so, well, exceedingly diplomatic. Next year hopefully things will have matured to the point when we can be a little more earnest in our approach, and perhaps I’m a little biased here since I’m in a position with the least to lose, something that can’t be said about my fellow panelists who have to work with other players, teams and sponsors.
One of those issues was just how much the growth of LoL in Australia has been crimped. Riot’s move to Australia will change all that, but the scene should have been so much bigger so much faster.
Part of the reason is just the inclusive nature of eSports, something I touched on at the panel. People like to follow and support their passion, and since this isn’t a full time job outside of the marketing and community managers, that means anything outside of your passion gets left by the wayside.
But the return for investing in LoL compared to anything else is absolutely phenomenal. It just needs someone to do it properly. Maybe, after seeing the turnout at PAX, LoL will get the treatment its gargantuan following truly deserves.