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Taking esports to the masses: key insights from Africa’s largest sporting event
Tens of thousands of sports fans walked through the doors of the Sandton Convention centre over three days from 18 to 20 May for the Arnold Classic Africa, immersing themselves in a world of sporting activations. This was the third time the event has taken place in South Africa but the first time that esports showcased itself to the South African public amongst more traditional sports.
A result of a great collaboration between Esports Industry South Africa, BMi Sport Info and the guys who brought the show to life, Nibble Esports and The Ark Gaming, the esports demonstration was an immersion into the multi-faceted world of esports and was a constant hive of activity.
Fans and newcomers enjoyed a high-tech experience that included:
- Watching SA esports athletes compete
- Interacting with the whole crew from multi-gaming organisation (MGO) Nibble Esports
- Competitive tournaments for numerous games including top trending global titles such as Fortnite and Dota 2
- An immersive virtual reality (VR) experience
- An educational lecture showcasing the esports industry environment
- Awesome prize giveaways from sponsors
“The NiBBLE space became an incredible hybrid mix of console, mobile and PC gaming,” says NiBBLE Esports founder Keegan “Brava” Stewart. “We saw newcomers being taught new games and in turn, teaching others how to play, we started seeing regulars coming back and forming squads – it was just great to be driving awareness of esports and interacting with the community.”
There was an influx of schoolchildren on the first day, as well as numerous parents leaving their kids at the station, so some initial improvisation was required. “The activation was never intended as a free play so we had to change things up and we started doing a 10-minute educational tour of the environment to help educate and inform those that were interested,” says The Ark Gaming founder, Deen Moodley.
“On the Friday night we were the last activation to finish as the guys were playing Fortnite – it was really great. We even identified some key players and it was just good exposure for esports.”
The event organisers shared the enthusiasm. “The esports activation was brilliantly presented and supported,” says Arnold Classic Africa Head of Sales and Sponsorship, Charl Schmahl. “The VR was packed and there was always a full crowd. It was very well done and we are looking forward to what can be done in 2019.”
“The biggest challenge in SA is changing the mindset that esports is TV games,” says Moodley.
- The event was well organised with plenty of footfall – it offers a good platform for driving awareness of esports
- The gaming space must be well organised and controlled
- There were space constrictions and the ability to ergonomically construct something better suited to esports is required
- Fighting games are not big in SA – we need to grow confidence to compete at international level
- Games like Hearthstone are very inclusive and have the power to reach a larger SA audience
- Collaboration with key industry entities is required to continue the growth of this esports awareness platform.
What about next year?
The 2018 activation was incredibly put together in six weeks – not a lot of time to plan logistics, get sponsors on-board and hype excitement – but NiBBLE and Ark Gaming pulled it off and now eagerly look forward to 2019 – with a whole year to plan.
“This year’s activation was just a demo, a small taste of what esports can offer,” says Esports Industry SA co-founder, Roland Reed. “Judging by the interest we saw from the general public, mobile games are very inclusive and an effective way to reach and educate non-gamers.
“We are already excited for the 2019 event and hope to make it an even bigger collaboration and one that many other esporting or casual gaming fanatics will support and help grow esports and this fantastic multi-sport platform.”