Australian Esports — A recap of 2020 and predictions for 2021

January 21, 2021
The world might look back at 2020 with disdain, but the gaming industry won’t. Staying at home and playing videogames is no longer frowned upon thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, we at XP Esports believe that 2021 will be the year of gamers. Last year was practice, this year is competitive.

In spite of our optimism, it is important to acknowledge what a tumultuous year 2020 was for Australian esports. While the rest of the world got the best of esports, OCE suffered some setbacks due to its geographical remoteness.

We have compiled a list of important highlights from 2020 for your convenience. Here’s what you might have missed:

  1. Oceanic Pro League (OPL) shuts its doors

    This news saddened all Australian esports enthusiasts—League of Legends players or not. Riot’s OPL was Australia’s first professional esports league. It announced its dissolution in October 2020 citing the market’s inability to support the league. The let-down was temporary however, since ESL Australia unveiled a new eight-team league for 2021 soon after in December 2020—an announcement OPL retweeted.

  2. Two Australian players make it to the Overwatch League (OWL)

    OWL team Los Angeles Valiant announced the addition of talented off-tank player Adam “Adam” Soong to the team in November 2020. This was right after Adam won the Australian Contenders with Ground Zero Gaming. Earlier in 2020, OWL team Boston Uprising also added another Aussie off-tank—Leyton “Punk” Gilchrist to the team. We love the representation!

  3. XP Esports creates Women’s League

    Acknowledging the underrepresentation of female gamers in Australian esports, XP Esports collaborated with Ubisoft to create the Women’s League in January 2020. The league saw three successful seasons in 2020 with a prize pool of AUD $3000 for Rainbow Six Siege. We at XP Esports remain committed to promoting fairness towards the fairer sex.

  4. Proposed cyber abuse laws to help curb toxicity

    Approximately 17% of gamers experience in-game bullying in Australia. With an increased screen time due to the pandemic, December 2020 was an opportune time for releasing stricter cyber abuse laws. The planned laws will apply to in-game chat features and could slap offenders with $111,000 fines. Toxicity often stems from anonymity and these new laws will help gamers become more responsible due to a fear of repercussions.
  5. Melbourne Esports Open postponed to 2021

    The cancellation of various highly awaited esports events did not come as a surprise in 2020. Due to limitations on public gatherings, Australia’s most popular annual event—the Melbourne Esports Open met a similar fate. It is now supposed to take place in August 2021 if COVID-19 remains contained.

With those important highlights out of the way, we would like to take this opportunity to make some predictions for Australian esports in 2021. We don’t claim to be fortune tellers but our experience in the industry certainly helps us formulate some informed opinions.

Here are our top 3 predictions for 2021:

  1. Esports journalism to improve in Australia

    Barring a few websites that focus on esports news, Australia lacks journalists who are passionate and well-informed about esports. We often see gamers complaining about the negative coverage of videogames in mainstream news services. Journalists need to move beyond “What is esports?” and ask deeper and richer questions.Since the videogame industry has substantially taken over the entertainment sector following the pandemic, we expect esports and videogame journalism to improve in 2021. Less generalists and more specialists please!
  2. More high schools to participate in esports

    XP Esports has grown to become one of the biggest names in Australian high school esports leagues. We truly believe that videogames have behavioural and social benefits for students when played in a balanced manner. Many of our participating schools have invested in their gaming infrastructure and availed its benefits.We expect to see an increase in the number of participating schools in 2021. With this, we also expect to see more teaching jobs that require videogame expertise.
  3. Less gender disparity in esports

    Esports has been considered to be a man’s world since its inception. Things are changing however, with the gaining popularity of women’s leagues and other forms of representation of female talent in the industry. Scientists have revealed that men are not better at gaming than women. Instead, various factors gatekeep women from esports including toxicity and a ‘boys club’ mentality.Fortunately, with women-only esports leagues and companies that are willing to act as trailblazers, we expect to see more women in esports in 2021.

That’s all folks! Thank you for reading our recap and predictions. We hope to be one of the main agents for positive change in Australian esports. Oceania currently faces various disadvantages including its geographical remoteness, sluggish internet speed, and a negative outlook towards gaming. But we hope to tackle each of these problems and more, one day at a time.

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