IN comparison to the rest of the world…
…the Australian esports scene is still in its infancy. Small competitions are spread throughout the year in various states, but very rarely do we see anything on the scale that has become common place in countries like South Korea and the United States.
That was until the Melbourne Esports Open.
An enormous two day event spread across three arenas, the Melbourne Esports Open has something for everyone, from the casual gamer to the diehard esports fanatic.
Throughout the weekend there were open invitation competitions for games like Fortnite, Tekken, Halo and Super Smash Bros, where purchasing a ticket to the event was all you needed to enter. But while these generated plenty of interest, the true spectacle was to be found in the professional matches.
Saturday saw the beginning of the ANZ Rainbow Six Masters, where Mindfreak faced off against newcomers ACME who were making their pro debut.
To the surprise of the crowd, ACME took the more experienced Mindfreak head on, pushing the best of three competition all the way to a hard fought third and final match. But despite their best efforts, they were unable to come out on top, which saw Mindfreak progress to the next round where they would face rivals Orgless the following day.
Next on the big stage was the League of Legends Oceanic Pro League final, which saw The Chiefs go head to head with Mammoth in front of an enormous crowd inside Rod Laver Arena. After a back and forth battle which had fans literally jumping out of their seats, Mammoth were finally able to edge out the victory and cement themselves as the newest Oceanic champions.
The action on day two started as soon as the arena gates opened, with Mindfreak back on stage against Orgless in the Rainbow Six Masters. As soon as the match had begun, Mindfreak came out swinging, taking the first round with little trouble.
After a quick break and discussions with their coach, Orgless came back looking for revenge. They won the next round and finally edged out Mindfreak in the third with some high IQ plays, moving them into the final against esports legends, FNATIC.
Despite having fought their way through adversity and all their best efforts, Orgless were eventually no match for the precision play and strategy of FNATIC, who went on to claim their spot as the ANZ Rainbow Six Masters of 2019.
Rounding out the weekend and arguably the biggest competition of the entire event was the Overwatch Contenders Series final, where Mindfreak was set to take on Melbourne heavyweights, Order.
With an Overwatch roster that was only assembled one week prior to the Contenders season starting, Mindfreak had defied the odds simply by reaching the final. With almost all their athletes having never played on an esports stage, to then find themselves competing against a veteran organisation at such a big event was an incredible thing in itself to watch.
As soon as the game began, both teams came out with everything they had. The crowd roared as both Mindfreak and Order pushed each other play after play, with countless clutch moments that had fans holding their breath.
But even with the majority of the crowd behind them, Mindfreak eventually succumbed to the pressure of Order, who went on to be crowned champions of the Overwatch Contenders Series in a climactic finish to the weekend of digital combat.
Although it was great to spend two days watching the best teams display their talents on the biggest stages, the most important thing to be taken away from the Melbourne Esports Open is the fact that professional gaming and esports as a whole is on the way up in Australia.
It’s an amazing thing to see, fans wearing the jerseys of their favourite teams, lining up to get their autographs and screaming their lungs out for them in the stands as they compete. Scenes that not long ago, much of Melbourne had never even heard of.
After the weekend that was, I know it’s only a matter of time until Australia establishes itself on the global scene as a force to be reckoned with in the world of professional esports.