Esports is exploding across the globe and in Australia.
Even throughout Covid 19 Isolation the juggernaut that is Gaming and Esports has gained even further momentum.
Some brands have dipped their toes in the water, but many are in unchartered waters despite knowing the traditional sports market well.
To break down the Esports opportunity for brands in Australia, Pete Curulli joined Sponsorship Success Founder, Colin Richardson to discussed
Pete Curulli is a well-known figure not only Australian Gaming and Esports circles, but also the Perth media landscape as part of the Xavier, Juelz and Pete trio on the Hit 92.9 Breakfast Show.
Apart from an extensive media background, Pete is the founder of Game On Australia (Australia’s Gaming and Esports Media outlet) and General Manager of Pentanet.GG (Perth’s Esports franchise competing in the OPL League in the world’s most popular title League Of Legends).
Colin: All right, thanks everyone for joining us. Today we’re going to go through the Australian Esports landscape for brands. So what we’re going to do is actually unpack Esports what it is have a look at Gaming. And this is really focused at helping brands and organisations that are looking to get into the Esports space, a simple understanding to let you evaluate for yourself and just see what this thing’s all about in Esports and the juggernaut that’s coming in, and really just to evaluate for yourself whether it’s the right move for your organisation. So my name’s Colin Richardson from Sponsorship Success, and today we’ve got Pete with us.
Pete: How you doing?
Colin: Now Pete has obviously has a really extensive record in Gaming itself, but it’s a bit of background people that don’t know, Pete is actually part of the breakfast crew, Xavier Juelz and Pete at Hit 92.9.
Pete: That’s correct.
Colin: So as part of that, you have experience through sport as well obviously with some time in on-field announcing with sport and also some production.
Pete: Yes, that’s right well a fair bit. I mean, 15-year commercial FM content creator so you do a fair few thing across that way started out as a road runner giving out chocolate milk.
Colin: Chocolate milk.
Pete: Yeah. Back in the day but yeah, and along that journey, I’ve worked for Triple M Network and the Hit Network now, but while I was on the G for the Triple M Network, was in traditional media production as well. So when the first AFL calls started back here at triple m at Mix 94.5 a few years ago, I was in those booths with the likes of Dennis Cometti and Lachie and Andrew and the rest of them being a part of that process too. And game day MC for the Fremantle Football Club too. So yeah, a little bit of this and a little bit of that in that in traditional, major traditional sports, which has been fun.
Colin: Yeah. Beautiful. Now Gaming. Given your background in Gaming as an enthusiast. When did it start for you?
Pete: I still remember the story. And it like clear as day I was five. And my Dad rarely came home with anything. We didn’t have a lot of money back in those days. But I remember this clear as day as he comes around the corner, and tucked underneath his right arm he had a shiny box under there and said Nintendo Entertainment System. So the first ever grey NES, he brought one of those home and I’m 35 now and it’s been a 30 year love affair with video games ever since and then four years ago, I decided to take the jump from love affair with games into creating content around of it and that’s where game on Australia was born and I’m one of the co-founders of that and the managing director for that as well. We do podcasts, we do twitch shows, we have a stream team news and reviews and media and all that sort of stuff. And then through that I was lucky enough to get a knock on the door from Stephen Cornish, the managing director of Pentanet telecommunications, the company behind PGG. And he said, Look, I’ve got this great idea to light up Esports here in WA backed by a telecommunications provider and the rest is history.
Colin: Beautiful. I’ll touch on that little bit more later. But I guess to kick things off, at its most basic level, what is Gaming? Can you explain Gaming to everyone?
Pete: Yeah, I think a lot of people sort of get the word or the term Gaming, they have a certain perception in mind where they hear that sort of words, and it tends to come with some negative connotations. And I think that the beautiful thing that we’re starting to see across trad media and just in general is that a lot of those are starting to be debunked. Now as the communities around them, particularly here in ANZ get a lot bigger. But for me Gaming at its purest form is entertainment. You know, it’s interactive to entertainment. It’s one of the most exciting ways to actually experience a story or experience something that you can get involved in like sports like FIFA for example, soccer, AFL. Like a lot of these organisations and traditional sports media you find going into Gaming for very good reason. Because it’s accessible to absolutely anybody. For me in particular, you know, when I was going to school in high school and stuff like that, I wasn’t very good at kicking a ball, I wasn’t very athletically gifted. But one of the ways that I really could experience those, like playing soccer and stuff like that, and almost get on a level playing field, was through playing it as a video game. So at its purest form, accessible entertainment is probably the best way to describe it.
Colin: Beautiful. So we’re in the entertainment space, no different to a lot of assets and perhaps traditional sports from a consumer perspective. There is I guess, a perception that entertainment is playing solely as I guess a consumer. What else can people do and how can people consume Gaming?
Pete: Yeah, look, it’s had that perception for a long time, like the idea of the person sitting in front of a computer screen or front of the television in a dark room late at night by themselves, as the barriers to entry for connectivity over the years have dropped and even more so now in the past sort of, I guess, three to five years here in Australia, and people become a lot more connected that very much ceases to be the case. Once upon a time there was an element of truth to that, but even then, I mean, me growing up playing on my Nintendo 64 more often than not, it was me and my mates coming over, you know, after school and playing multiplayer together. So as anti-socialist, as the perception has been, it’s very much a social thing. And even more so today, you know, to be able to jump online and play with your friends and all that sort of stuff is very much the norm. And in fact, probably the most popular games these days are the ones where, you know, of an afternoon you’re on there with your mates, whether it be you know, World of Warcraft and you’re going to town on LOL or something like that or it happens to be playing FIFA, you know, upping your ultimate team and then using that ultimate team to actually take on, some of the others globally, not just locally, but globally as well. I think the most profound part of it is the communities that are built around them now.
Colin: Beautiful. So I guess it’s been connected and it’s staying connected with people now, I guess traditionally people would see a console but deeper in you’ve got your phone, you’ve got consoles, you’ve got PCs, or how does that all sort of work as an ecosystem around Gaming itself?
Pete: Yeah, well. I used to be very much a console player. And I’ve slowly gravitated across the PC. PC brings with it an element of history when it comes to things like LAN or land area networks where everybody used to come together and play a lot of those early sort of multiplayer games. That’s pretty much where I guess Esports to a degree is founded. Consoles are starting to get their name out there and starting to match it in terms of technology with your PC manufacturers too. We’re starting to see next generation consoles come to life. We’ll have the new X Box out at the end of the year, the new PlayStation. And I, for a time there, mobile Gaming was very much I guess the port of call for the swipers. Or you know, the ones where we as Gamers sort of looked at them away that’s not playing video games, and that’s very much not the case anymore. And in fact, one of the things that we’re seeing, in particular with mobile Gaming, in forms of like entertainment is female markets. Mobile Gaming actually happens to be one of the biggest uptakes for women, when it comes to accessing mobile Gaming is quite a broad platform. It’s also one of the biggest uptakes of Esports in the Asia Pacific region as well. People playing on their phones and their iPads.
Colin: Yeah, amazing. We’ll touch on that APAC region later. But I guess in the Esports space, that’s a word thrown around, now we know what Gaming is now. How do we differentiate Gaming from Esports for someone that is outside looking in perhaps from an organisation of a brand? How did I separate those and unpack those?
Pete: Not so much separate but rather they go hand in hand whereas Gaming’s you more sort of casual opportunity experiencing content. Esports is taking it to a competitive level, alright, and it’s very hard, Esports is the professional side of Gaming. Esports to a degree is still Gaming, except now we’re actually putting things around it like tournaments and events and audiences and sponsorship and all of that sort of stuff. So, I mean, think of just about any sort of traditional form of sport played in front of a crowd that at its heart is Esports but for video games.
Colin: Sure. Amazing. So, we’ve unpacked I guess, a little bit of Gaming and Esports. Now, I guess before we start looking at Australia, which is the purpose of this discussion we need to look globally. So, from a global industry, what are we looking at in Gaming.
Pete: Yeah, look the numbers are impressive, a total global industry in the past 12 months we’ve put around about $160 billion worth of industry net globally. The Asia Pacific region itself accounts for around about $70 or $80 billion worth of that market.
Colin: That’s a big chunk.
Pete: It’s a huge chunk. It’s a really, really big chunk. Particularly for, you know, a game that Pentanet.gg invested in which is league of legends in the OPL at a professional level with our Esports team PGG, which I’m wearing the logo for represent.
Pete: Have to represent. Very much, you know, League of Legends and a lot of those forms of games are huge for the Asian market and I guess one of the exciting things is being a Perth representative just head north and where a direct line into that Asian market.
Colin: So, the time zone links, right? so the time zones.
Pete: That’s right.
Colin: Where we are in Perth, I guess it’s something to be conscious of but I guess from an Australian perspective, it’s a small piece of that pie when you talk about the industry here, but obviously Esports as a consumer obviously people outside of Australia can consume that so they can watch the OPL.
Pete: Yeah, hundred percent. So, you know, to put all that into perspective, when you’re talking about a small piece of the pie, the Australian region is a very small piece, we’re talking M’s not B’s anymore. So it’s estimated to be around about 8 million dollars’ worth come around about 2022, 2023 which to be honest, like for me represents a lot of opportunity. It’s a great place to get your foot in the door and start at a very grassroots level and to be a part of it as the market matures over time and that number obviously grows.
Colin: I guess when you’re looking at that, in a broader sense, it’s no different to OPL in football compared to the e-league you look at Australia as a small market 20 million people were not a global audience. So those numbers make sense in a lot of years, it’s scaling down to the Australian market.
Pete: Yeah. And I think the important thing to know is, I guess if you’re looking at, you know, entering the Esports space, sure that’s a scaling down of the representation of the value in the market here in Australia, but it’s also scaling down to match that in terms of the cost or the barriers to entry into that market, they actually happen to be a lot lower to match as well. Which is positive.
Colin: Absolutely. So we look at, we’ve got a bit of an understanding of the global Esports so we’ve had a broken it down into Australia now. I wanted to get a bit of a scope a lot of people probably listening will be in the traditional sports space, we have seen over COVID that a lot of those traditional sports have moved into Esports but they’ve moved in something really similar to their actual sport, which actually means they’re potentially not getting new fans but extending their fan base. So love to get your perspective on that audience. So extending a traditional sport audience and how that differs from perhaps a hardcore Esports audience.
Pete: Yeah, I think one of the exciting things that we saw over COVID and albeit you know, COVID has been an absolute terrible shock to the global economy and locally as well. And we’ve very much a long way to recover but whilst most was sort of floundering trying to keep their entertainment prospect up and about, if anything, Esports was booming, because as you mentioned, a lot of these traditional sports to adapt, actually moved their prospect to online. So F1 example, went completely online and they, you know, became races on these sim rigs and stuff like that it happened with NASCAR as well. It happened with the V8 Supercars here in Australia. It’s happened to a degree with a, you know, things like the NBA created their own 2K competition as well. And I suppose the benefit of that was they had to achieve two things. One, they had to, to a degree, keep the seasons underway and take the brand top of mind in their audience. But the other thing as well it also provided a great opportunity for them to also keep their sponsors in the partners happy and keep eyes across their sponsors, their partners as well. And when you think of something like F1, for example, a lot of the professional players actually play, you know, the really top tier F1 games on the sim rigs to do a lot of practice. The strategy behind you know, what a team puts together for a proper F1 season is very similar to the strategy they have to think through that’s actually built into those games as well. So as an entertainment prospect for the actual viewer, they’re not really getting much of a difference between what they see out on the track in real life and what they’re actually seeing when the guys were competing with their sim rigss. So the beauty about it was that it drew in that traditional sport audience that still wanted to see their favorite competitors play, but it also opened up their brands and those, you know, sponsors and partners and competitors and teams, to a little bit more of a not so traditional audience that we’re used to watching. You know, the people that they’re used to watching on their sim rigs and stuff on the Likes of Twitch, YouTube and so on and so forth.
Colin: Yeah, amazing. So I think on that now we’ve had a look at the Australian Esports, and we’ve talked about who we’re reaching and the dollar values and things like this but who is the Esports consumer? Well, we said on mobile, it’s male or female, even split. When we start to look at Esports, we’re looking at a 70/30 closer split.
Pete: That’s correct.
Colin: So who are they who’s consuming this thing as a bit more detail as a consumer?
Pete: I think this is probably one of the most exciting parts about the Esports industry is that there’s such a myriad of different genres that you can actually access that your typical Esports consumer differs depending on what game you actually go for, you know, and that opens up a huge world of choice in terms of people potentially looking into the sport and going okay, you know, how are we going to get involved in something like this? Clearly, it’s a great way for you know, people to actually access new audiences. There are, you know, there’s been discussions, for example, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which isn’t going ahead this year, was actually going to start looking at gold medal events and stuff. And I think we’re going to have a much more serious discussions through the IOC at a gold medal event for the 2024 Olympics. But it’s something that the IOC is looking at quite seriously because they think to themselves, okay, we need to open up our traditional branding space to non-traditional audiences and continue to grow it and that’s one thing that I’ve certainly highlighted before we could do it that way.
Colin: And we say non-traditional audiences these are fast becoming mainstream. This is what people are into and what they’re doing.
Pete: Well, they were reading mainstream it’s funny, like I’m somebody who’s in traditional mainstream media. I’m a radio announcer breakfast host for Hit 92.9 here in Perth and when I hear people go, that’s mainstream media. I often sort of say, well, yes, it is, but it’s mainstream media because that’s what we’ve been calling it for decades and decades and decades. In terms of having a mainstream audience Esports is massive. What we’re talking about hundreds of millions of people with easy access is the barriers to connectivity tend to fall over time. Those are a lot of eyes. Like if there’s anybody that’s going to be able to lay claim to having a mainstream audience, I would actually put my foot in the camp of Esports.
Colin: Yeah, well, that’s amazing. And, you know, that’s what we’ve called it, those traditional sports, traditional media.
Pete: That’s it.
Colin: If you look at where the numbers are, that’s shifting?
Pete: That’s right.
Colin: So, look at that, I think the Gen Z is obviously coming through as an audience and I think, probably good to perhaps dispell some myths around that audience there and we touched on this before, that it’s in your bedroom late at night, play computer games by yourself.
Colin: That’s not accurate, it’s social. Gaming is social, it’s with your mates. There’s interaction. There are all these sorts of things. But when we look at Gen Z as a consumer, actually spend more Money that perhaps that older counterparts and they keeps growing up, they’re actually in the phase of their life where they’re high consumers, they’re spending more on travel, they’re spending more on entertainment and going to events. So the research is that that to tell us that this isn’t a demographic that should be, I guess, ignored or pushed aside, we really need to take them seriously. They’re going to be a massive part of the workforce in the next couple of years. So within that Gen Z audience, is there anything that you think from a Gaming perspective and that perhaps brands aren’t getting? That they should pay more attention to in this space?
Pete: I think it’s as simple as basically the Gen Z so that your future. For me, I genuinely have thrown myself into this industry, because I think there’s work to be done there. And we should be genuinely actually looking them and going. Yeah, these guys are the people who will grow up and consume these brands at some point down the track. So there’s absolutely no reason as to why we shouldn’t be trying to access these audiences for the likes of, you know, much more traditional products to start, because at some point, this young Gen Z guy is going to have to grow up. And he’s going to have to do things like possibly purchase a house, or a car or have life insurance, or health insurance and all that sort of stuff like that’s just because they play video games and like consume Esports doesn’t mean they’re not going to have in real life experiences that the rest of us have. And there’s a lot of them there that are going to be having those experiences and years to come.
Colin: Absolutely. When we look at Sponsorship, those passion drivers of people that actually support an organisation that supports their club that plays on to Esport.
Pete: Very much there.
Colin: So some of the research I’ve seen is certainly around the fact that whilst they may be a tech savvy audience that actually can activate ad blockers, all these sorts of things. If a brand supports their team or their club in Esports. They want to help them out because they recognize that supporting them it’s not a distraction. It helps out something I love.
Pete: Well, you think about it and this is the way that I’ve always sort of put it down to it. The brands that are follow and I’m incredibly loyal to our brands that have supported some of my favorite, whether it be game organisations or land area network organisations over their time, or even Esports teams over that time. And the reason being is because I look at them, and I’ve gone, okay, these guys are going to go all in on something I absolutely love, then I’m going to, you know, do a little bit more research into these particular brands as well. So, you know, one of the ones that is very, very engaged in the space, for example, is Red Bull. Red Bull is an energy drink, at it’s very heart. It’s incredibly engaged in the space; it supports a number of teams. It even has its own theme like Red Bull Gaming, which is its own news and media organisation, content creators, and all that sort of stuff in our space. Another one is KFC, for example, you know KFC have done KFC Gaming. They’ve got their own social media audiences around that. They’ve just recently released some really well-done high spec content around creating their own console. But the thing that I would like to see is I’d like to see much more, I suppose, you know, traditional brands into the space as well, I’d love to see things like, you know, I don’t know, whether it be your health insurance companies and stuff like that invest some of the time into this space too, because I actually think it’s important for where the youth today is going. I know that’s a much more deeper level to discuss this sort of stuff. But like I said before, at some point in time, they’re going to need to access that kind of thing as well. So, it’s a pretty cool opportunity to be able to talk to them right now.
Colin: And we look at that age group actually a high propensity, perhaps be overweight in the research. So insurance companies
Colin: Do the work here and our not paying out later.
Pete: That’s the reality, though, you know, I mean, I suppose, you know, to a degree we live in a rather overweight society as well. I guess that sort of plays into the hands of, you know, what the general perspective is from people outside of Esports and Gaming as to how they view the space. And the other thing that I like to mention about that is that it’s very much not the case like it, you know, like all Esports teams that compete in the OPL for example, if you jump on any one of the Twitter’s, you’ll see them have a day at the gym, you know spending their time at the gym or running or making sure they keep themselves fit, doing things like making sure they stay healthy with it, eating and all of that, because.
Colin: It’s high performance,
Pete: It’s high performance. It is absolutely high performance, well said, that’s the perfect terminology for its high performance. It looks different, but it’s high performance.
Colin: So, I think that, we’re probably going a bit off track now but looking at that as a fan, they’re actually seeing something that’s achievable. You know, there’s a lot of people like couldn’t be named. I couldn’t be an NBA player. I’m too short. That’s just never going to happen.
Pete: Don’t sell yourself short.
Colin: That’s the deal that at some point when you look at Esports there’s perhaps no body shape yes you need to be fit, mentally focused all these things. But it’s very attainable.
Pete: Yeah, yeah, attainable. I think is the correct word to use. Yeah.
Colin: So, before we wrap up, we just want to look at some of the opportunities in this space. And we spoke about Esports and Gaming. But within Esports, I guess we got to break it down in some areas that we can enter as a brand. A couple I’ll touch on will go into a bit more details on Esports. We have streaming so with teams’, leagues, which will probably get you to comment a bit, we’ve got influencers in this space. And then we’ve also got media and content. We haven’t heard much about Game On Australia. That’s obviously where you guys fit really heavily. So let’s get your perspective. Firstly, probably in those streaming platforms, who’s, I guess, in that space? And who are the leaders there?
Pete: Yeah, so streaming is one of the world’s number one forms of entertainment, you know, you’ve got your likes of Twitch and YouTube. Facebook is very much into it as well. In fact, they recently just acquired Mix Up which was Microsoft’s to integrate Microsoft’s platform that they essentially owned, to actually have streamers. And essentially this is what they do they sit here and they talk to audiences, but they do a lot of things along the way while doing that as well. So you know, you’ve got your streamers. Your streamers you know why the rock stars of the business, I guess, you know, you’ve got your real high-end ones, like your Ninjas, your Summit, 1G and all that sort of stuff. And I think if you’re any of your Esports personalities, part of their well-rounded brand identity is that the majority of the stream is as well.
Pete: So and one of the ways that sort of the brands that work with a lot of these streamers and a lot of these Esports talents is by either having whether it be you know, pre middle post at roll during their streams, whether it be being able to actually talk to or have their brand spoken about in those streams, things like those streamers actually using their products during those streams as well. So you’ve got really great demonstrated opportunities there too. So yeah, for me, streaming is probably what right up there as far as entertainment is concerned these days.
Colin: Yeah, amazing. So within that you’ve said, so Esports looking at athletes. When we look at influences, we are looking at I guess the ‘Rock Stars’. Give us a bit of a breakdown on the media and the content perspective?
Pete: Yeah, the media and the content perspective. It’s such a broad thing that actually have to cover as far as media and content. So if we’re talking about Game On Aus, for example, which we founded four years ago, Game On Aus was very much started as a couple of guys who just wanted to do a little bit of chat about a podcast, you know, and we got together once a week and we do 20 minutes to half an hour about the latest Games. Right now, that started like that, and now it’s branched out so having a range of, we’ve got our own stream team and they stream on our Twitch channel seven days/nights per week. Plus, we’re launching shows on there. So we got a Dungeons and Dragons show at the end of the week. That’s also where we do live broadcasts for our events as well, we’ve got a Valiant event that’s happening next month. So basically, yeah, I guess you know, we’re a content house to a degree, and that’s what you kind of have to be to cut a bit of a swathe and break through the noise these days. You can’t just be news media, because everybody’s doing news media, you have to actually do something a little bit more. The beauty is, I guess, these days, if you want to stand the space, there’s such a myriad of ways to actually be a media house. And there is no shortage of people who want to be a part of a media house as well. So yes, supply is huge, and demand is incredibly high.
Colin: Now if we go back to the OPL and Pentanet.GG, the opportunity within there obviously it’s very much like a traditional sporting structure, how brands can get involved. You’ve got your league, you’ve got your teams, and then your individual athletes, there’s different levels, you can get involved pretty much like you would with any AFL team or ALeague team for example. Are there any I guess differences in those that break anything that really jumped out at you?
Pete: Differences between traditional?
Colin: Yeah, like an AFL, you know a run catch, kick a ball versus…
Pete: Yeah, it look and that’s look you’re going to and I think this happens, no matter what industry you’re sort of looking at supporting, but you’re obviously going to pick wisely like you’re not you know, if you’re a ball brand, for example, like, Sherrin or something like that, you’re not going to come and knock on the door of an Esports team. You want somebody who can mark that ball, who can kick that ball who can actually demonstrate that product.
Pete: And that makes absolutely perfect sense. We tend to see in Esports space, a lot of endemics. So you know your peripherals, sponsors, headphones, keyboards, mice, stuff like that. One thing that I actually did notice today for the first time is that Logitech G which are an endemic in this space. I’ve actually done a cross promotion with; it starts with H and it’s a high-end office furniture company.
Pete: And they’ve done like a cross promotion with them, which is really exciting to see. So there’s that we’re seeing a lot of the US Esports brands and European Esports brands actually do cross promotions with like your major car companies like Mercedes, your major apparel companies like Gucci and Louie Vuitton. So there is a lot of opportunity for cross brand in the space I guess, you know, at the end of the day, at the very heart of it, there is absolutely no reason why an Esports star or an Esports team can’t be representing the same things that a traditional sports star or a traditional sports team can. As long as it’s the right product.
Colin: Sure. I guess you can get anything from a traditional sport a bit more perhaps.
Pete: Yeah, yeah, a bit more, you’ve probably got a little bit more time and a little bit more accessibility of the sleeve as well. Like I know from actually having worked with a lot of these teams, you know, to try and secure interviews and stuff like that in traditional media, there’s a lot of wrapping in cotton wool, which is understandable, because if they say the wrong thing, and it tends to make it a lot of waves in traditional media, whereas we don’t actually have that in Esports. So if you need somebody to actually really go about discovering the product, using the product being informative, educational, doing some great content around the product, you actually have a lot more freedom in the Esports and non-traditional media space.
Colin: I think you are spot on. I think when you look at Esports being such an emerging sport itself, the opportunities have a lot of them have done so much untapped potential to innovate in that space.
Pete: And the best part is you’ve got an opportunity of the moment, Australian market to grow with it. So whereas, probably more traditional mediums, you are competing for space, at the moment, you have the opportunity to actually be there as it starts.
Colin: Beautiful. Well, I think we’ve covered a lot and I guess within a short time frame, we’ve covered a lot on essentially what the landscape looks like for Esports in Australia, so Pete, thanks for your time, mate.
Pete: My pleasure.
Colin: Always a pleasure chatting to you about Gaming, you’re so passionate about you’re an Oracle knowledge for it. So, it’s always an educational experience for me, and hopefully it’s been for everyone else.
Pete: Yeah me too. I love it. I’m like it’s a genuine passion for me. And the reason why it’s a genuine passion for me is because when a lot of other things were like no, we can’t have you Esports and Gaming was very much like come over here boy. You know what I mean so Yeah.
Colin: Excellent. Thanks for joining us mate. Thanks everyone for joining us as well to have a listen in and we’ll sign off now. Thanks, guys.