Q&A – Vol. 9:

Ben Green:
ESL Australia

by Starsky

Tell me a little about your background
I’m a life-long gamer who just happened to own a DJ business about 10 years ago. I had seen other people who were commentating amateur esports matches and thought that since I already owned a ton of audio gear, I may as well give it a try myself.

I created my own shout casting organisation called TeamDownTV, and that created opportunities for me to cast games for companies like ESL. Fortunately, this helped me to get a full-time job with ESL in Sydney where I work both on and off camera.

Describe what you do for ESL Australia in business development
To be honest it is a little bit of everything, and ranges from managing our current partners like Intel, to helping to come up with formats, leagues and new events.

How long have you been with the company for?
I’ve been casting esports since 2012, but joined ESL near the beginning of 2016.

How did the idea for the MEO come about?
We wanted to create an event that celebrated as many aspects of esports as possible, and that would bring the majority of the communities together into one event. IEM was huge, and catered to our core audience of CS:GO fans, but we also wanted to involve audiences outside of the current esports ecosystem.

Were you involved in it since the inaugural event in 2018?
I was fortunate enough to be a part of the team who helped come up with the general idea early last year, and then the effort that was pulling it all together in quite a short time frame post-IEM 2018.

How did the MEO 2019 go relative to the MEO 2018?
Most things are easier the second time around, and MEO is no exception. We could take a lot of the ideas we had used in 2018, improve them, and then reimplement, hopefully, better than before. We also had a ton more room to fill this year, which was definitely a challenge, but in the end it came together really well and we are very happy with the result.

What were some of the biggest roadblocks for the MEO?
One of the toughest challenges of an event like MEO is managing all of the different games and their respective stages. Just one large-scale esports stage is a lot of work, but MEO takes that to a whole other level. It takes a lot of people behind the scenes to create the stages and broadcasts you see at events like the Melbourne Esports Open

How challenging was it getting larger companies to become official sponsors of the event? Have any expressed interest in being a part of future events?
Finding sponsors is always a process, particularly with something new like esports, but each year more partners come on and it helps us to grow the show. We’ve been fortunate to have the support of a great partner like JB HiFi who are not only able to help the show as a sponsor, but are able to help create great content for attendees with the Game on Zone.

What is the process like for getting international teams onboard?
When it comes to international teams there are a lot of stakeholders. Team management, league and rights holders, government, sponsors, etc. It’s really a matter of navigating everyone’s requirements, and then trying to get the most for the fans. There are a lot of conversations that end up leading nowhere, but we were very fortunate to get teams for both Overwatch and League of Legends out for 2019.

Which games have proved to be the most popular so far? Why do you think that is?
Looking at an event like the Melbourne Esports Open this year, games like Rainbow 6: Siege, League of Legends, and Overwatch have had fantastic crowds and proved very popular amongst esports fans. Whilst there’s no specific formula for what determines a games’ popularity, publisher support is always a key factor!

Will Call of Duty have a larger presence at future events? Why/why not?
We are always looking at ways to include Call of Duty and the huge Australian CoD community into our events. Personally, as a big CoD fan, I’m hoping there will be more opportunities down the track.

Where do you see the MEO in 5 years from now?
I’d love to see MEO be a staple of the gaming calendar here in Australia, so in 5 years from now, we see some pretty impressive audience figures, with mums and dads getting the opportunity yearly to experience the joys of esports with their kids.

Does ESL Australia have any new plans in light of the success of this year’s event?
We are always looking to the future, though there’s nothing I can talk about at the moment.

What excites you about Australian esports?
The growth we have seen in recent years has been the most exciting. Seeing events pop up that I wish I could have gone to when I was younger. It’s a great time to be an Aussie esports fan.

Where do you see the biggest potential for growth in esports?
I think we are going to see a lot of crossover between ‘gaming’ and ‘esports’. A lot more events and opportunities for people to play games out of home, either in specific gaming venues, or at events like the Melbourne Esports Open. Gaming is becoming more and more social. People don’t just want to play at home anymore, they want to catch-up with friends and play games together in person, whether that be casually, or in an esports environment.

Are you a gamer?
Of course, I think it would be had to devote the time required to this industry if you weren’t a gamer. I’ve been playing games (poorly) since I got Sonic on Sega Mega Drive in the very early ’90s. Right now I’m spending my time on WoW Classic, Borderlands 3 and Overwatch, though I am eagerly awaiting the next Call of Duty.