Esports is alive and kicking around the world, with Premier League clubs creating their own teams, NBA stars buying out others, and players with salaries and fanbases the size of superstars. Australia's scene is just as lively, with tournaments on a constant basis. Here's everything in the local scene that you'll want to keep an eye out for in 2017.
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League of Legends
Out of all the games in Australia, League of Legends has the biggest following and some of the biggest tournaments. Riot Games has already been responsible for gathering some of the biggest local crowds in years past with events like the International Wild-Card Allstars event, and the Oceanic Pro League continues to be an example for top-tier competition in the country.
Oceanic Pro League (until April 10): Affectionately known as the OPL, the pinnacle of League competition in Australia pits eight professional teams, most of whom live in team houses around New South Wales. Players receive an appearance fee for each match, and the winner of the current season will earn an all-expenses paid trip to compete in the Mid-Season Invitational, starting on April 28. (A second season of OPL, or "Split", will kick off later this year but the dates have not been announced.)
2017 Mid-Season Invitational (April 28-May 21): MSI 2017 will feature the 13 best teams from around the world. Australia's representatives will be randomly seeded into one of two double round-robin groups, against the best teams from Southeast Asia, Japan, Russia and the CIS states, Brazil, Turkey, and the best teams from the north and south Latin American regions.
2017 World Championships (September 23-November 4): More than a month long, the 2017 League of Legends world finals will be based in China after having visited the United States, South Korea, England and continental Europe in years past. The finals has become one of the biggest events in the gaming calendar, although Australia's best has had difficulty making it to the final stage in years past. A structural change has ensured that at least one Australian team will play in the initial group stages this year, too.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Australia has always had a vibrant Counter-Strike community going back to the beta days, but it's only been in the last couple of years that we've consistently featured on the world stage.
From major offline leagues like the televised ELEAGUE and Dreamhack's circuit of events, to qualifiers at home for tournaments around the country and across Southeast Asia, there's always something going on in the local Counter-Strike scene.
Cybergamer Premier League LAN Finals (April 8-9): The longest running hub for professional and amateur esports in Australia, Cybergamer's offline finals have always been a great opportunity to take the temperature of the local scene. A mix of Australia's best with some of the best up and coming teams, the CGPL finals will award $10,001 to the winning team of Australia's premier league (CGp). But it's not just the top tier: the three leagues underneath CGp will also award prizes to the top four teams, distributing a bit more wealth across the Australian scene.
Intel Extreme Masters Sydney (May 6-7): The largest event in the first half of the Australian year and possibly for the rest of 2017, IEM Sydney will see six of the world's best teams compete for a $260,000 prize pool.
Six teams have already been invited from around the world, with two more to be determined through qualifiers in Australia/New Zealand and China. Held in the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney's Homebush, tickets for the event have already sold faster than almost every single IEM event to date.
PGL Major Krakow (July 16-23): The next million dollar tournament on the Counter-Strike calendar is always worth watching, whether Australia qualifies or not. Local teams will get a chance to compete through the various qualifiers leading up to the week-long tournament, although more on that will be announced closer to the date.
Zen Esports Network League (March 7-April 18): The ZEN League is fairly short compared to most leagues, but it makes up for it with an interesting mix of teams. Sporting four Australian teams and four others from Malaysia, Indonesia, Mongolia and South Korea, the ZEN League has proven to be a tight, entertaining affair from the off.
The league is split into two groups, one for the Australian teams and another for the Asian teams. Both groups are tightly poised at the time of writing, with all teams still capable of making the final four. The final four teams will face off in an offline finals, with ESL Australia and ZEN Esports holding a second season later in the year.
ESL AU&NZ Championships LAN Finals (May 19-21): Not long after IEM Sydney finishes, ESL returns with the offline championships for their Oceanic event. The group stages have been ongoing since the end of February, with eight teams battling it out for $10,000. Athletico and Legacy Esports have solidified themselves nicely at the top, but the battle for the offline finals is still very much on for the other six teams. You can catch up the results so far over at Liquidpedia.
Australia's Fighting Game Community
Australia's fighting game community (FGC) is a vibrant, healthy scene, with plenty of tournaments every month for Super Smash Bros, Street Fighter V (SFV), Ultra Street Fighter IV and many, many more.
Battle Arena Melbourne 9 (May 12-14): The next major event on the Australian FGC calendar, Battle Arena Melbourne 9 is also part of the Capcom Pro Tour (CPT) circuit. The winner of BAM9 will get almost as many points towards the CPT leaderboards as they would for finishing in the top 4 at the annual Evolution championships, and given that CPT has more than $US600,000 on the line it'll attract a lot of international competition.
BAM9 will have eight main tournaments, including SFV, Super Smash Brothers Melee, Smash Wii U, Tekken 7, King of Fighters XIV, Mortal Kombat X, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round and Guilty Gear XrD. There's also side tournaments for a range of older classics and smaller fighters, including USFIV, Blazblue: Central Fiction, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 and more. You can find out more on the official site.
OzHadou Nationals 15 (September 15-17): After Melbourne earlier in the year, Sydney's annual FGC event returns in September. Held in Sydney's Hilton Hotel, OHN 15 should attract hundreds of players with the release of new fighting games including Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, Injustice 2 and a raft of updates to existing titles.
OHN 15 is part of the Asian bracket of the Capcom Pro Tour as well, giving winners crucial ranking points. You can read more about how that works on the CPT website, and more details on OHN 15 will be released once we get into the second half of the year. You can stay up to date via the OzHadou website.
Evolution Championship Series (July 14-16): One of the most infectious events to watch on the global esports calendar, EVO 2017 is taking place in the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. There's nine main games, including SFV, Tekken 7 and many, many more. Plenty of Australians will be making the trip overseas, whether they qualify or not, and EVO is always entertaining to watch nonetheless. Stay up to date here.
Gold Coast Smash (May 28): An event just for Super Smash Bros 4, the winner will earn themselves an expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas to compete in the Smash Bros Wii U tournament. The top 8 players will receive prizes as well, and for those that enjoy Smash this competition will be a great illustration of what Australia has to offer ahead of EVO. More details can be found on Facebook.
Overwatch is set for its biggest year competitively, with Blizzard organising a franchise-based league in North America. That's to go along with the annual celebrations at Blizzcon, as well as a range of major tournaments around the globe.
Overwatch Pacific Championship 2017 (April 8-July 31): An offline league in Taiwan, the inaugural OPC season will see Australia's Blank Esports face off against seven other teams from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan for around $357,000. The league will be a big litmus test for the Australians and the greater Asian region ahead of world class tournaments later in the year, with each match being streamed from Friday through to Sunday.
ESL AU&NZ Championship (May 27-28): ESL's AU&NZ championships aren't just hosting Counter-Strike. The weekend after their CSGO event finishes, some of Australia's best Overwatch teams will step up for $10,000 in prizes.
Cybergamer Overwatch OCE Circuit (April 3-June 4): Fleshing out the third-party Overwatch tournament scene some more is Cybergamer, throwing up $11,000 across two divisions. The top eight teams will be slotted into the top tier division after a series of online qualifiers, with the lower division open to all teams who want to enter. You can find out more details on Cybergamer.
Overwatch League: Not all the details are announced yet, but here's the general gist. Players will be grouped into a single talent pool, via performances in competition and the Overwatch leaderboards, with teams then bidding against each other to build the strongest rosters. Those teams will then square off in weekly matches, leading up to an offline global finals.
Blizzard's main pitch is that "all players, not just the household names" will be eligible to be picked up. As is always the case with these things, however, it's likely that the players who have featured at last year's Overwatch World Cup, and the major tournaments since then, will be showcased once the Overwatch League kicks off proper.
Call of Duty
Not only has Australia had a long history with Call of Duty, it's also been a highly successful one. Australian teams have placed highly at international championships in the past, and only last year the scene followed in the steps of CSGO by holding a huge invitational event in Melbourne's Crown Casino.
Australia's success in Call of Duty was enough to grant it status as a separate region when the Call of Duty World League (CWL) was formed, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars injected directly into Australian esports. The scene has just seen off CWL events in Sydney and Dallas, with more than 110 teams from around the world converging for a shot at $US200,000 in the latter. But there's plenty more money where that came from.
CWL Global Pro League Stage One (April 14-May 28): Held over a series of weeks, the world's best 16 teams will battle it out through group play and then a double elimination bracket to determine the first champion of the CWL Global Pro League. Australia has one entrant in the top 16: Mindfreak, who earned their place after a solid showing at the Major League Gaming (MLG) Dallas event mentioned above. Up to $US700,000 is on offer at the Global Pro League playoffs. Fingers crossed Australia takes home a good chunk of that.
Call of Duty Sydney Open II (May 12-May 14): Up to 64 teams will square off in the ESL's Sydney Studios for a shot at $30,000 in prizes. The winning team will also earn 10,000 Pro points for the CWL; teams with the most Pro Points can be invited to exhibitions, open events and the CWL Global Pro League finals later this year. The winner of the Sydney II Open will also get a spot at the CWL Global Pro League relegation tournament, which will be held at MLG Anaheim.
MLG CWL Anaheim (June 16-18): Like the Dallas event earlier this year, around 176 teams will fight it out through open bracket, pool play and double elimination brackets for another slice of $US200,000. Separately to that, Anaheim will also host the relegation tournament with four challenger teams squaring off against the four bottom ranked teams from the CWL Global Pro League.
You can find out more about all the tournaments above through the official Call of Duty esports website.
Australia's Dota 2 scene isn't quite as large as Southeast Asia's, but that doesn't mean the tournaments are no less entertaining. And if there's only one tournament you can watch each year, it's hard to ignore the tens of millions on offer at The International, Valve's annual celebration of professional Dota.
The Kiev Major (April 27-30): Open and regional qualifiers for the last major before TI7 have already concluded, but those interested in the Main Event still have plenty of time to catch up on all the players and teams involved. With $US3 million in prizes, and $US1 million just for the winners, the action will be an interesting precursor ahead of TI7.
Australia doesn't have any teams in the Kiev Major, but we do have one representative: Damien "kpii" Chok, an Australian national who serves as a starting offlaner and carry for Newbee.
Dota 2 Asia Championships 2017 (March 28-April 4): With $US500,000 minimum in prizes of its own (but likely much, much more thanks to crowdfunding), DAC 2017 serves to be a good primer ahead of the Kiev Major and an indicator of where things stand before The International. Teams from Europe, the Americas, Southeast Asia, the CIS countries, and Europe will fight it out. The group stage has already begun: you can follow all the results and links to streams here.
The International 2017 (June 22-August): While the final dates for the main event are yet to be announced, we do know that the world's most lucrative esports event will be held in the first half of August. The International has been the biggest gaming event whenever its held: last year's prize pool soared beyond $US20 million, with more than $US18 million the year before that.
Whether you're into Dota 2 or not, The International is always a spectacle worth watching. More details about the event will be released later in the year, with some info likely to come out after the conclusion of the Kiev Major.
The Other Games
FIFA Interactive World Cup (February 1-April 30): The final season of the FIWC for 2017 sees people from all around the world compete in a series of online seasons, with the current one coming to a close at the end of April. Those who want to compete will need to head to the FUT Champions site and register.
Paladins Masters (April 6-9): Local qualifiers for the Paladins Masters tournament have already concluded, with the appropriately-named Team Kanga stomping Avant Garde to represent Australia in Atlanta. Group matches will start from April 7, featuring the eight best Paladins teams the world has to offer. You can find out more via the official Paladins esports website.
SMITE Masters 2017 (April 27-30): Held at the Hi-Rez Studios, 10 teams will converge from around the world for a $US120,000 prize pool. Australia's representative will be chosen from the winners of SMITE's Oceanic Pro League. Along with a trip to Atlanta and a spot in the world finals, the winners of the OPL will also walk away with $5000 for their trouble. You can find out more on Cybergamer.
OzFortress Season 18 (February 12-April 16): One of the longest running leagues in Australian gaming history, Ozfortress returned this year with their 18th season of competitive Team Fortress 2 play. 37 teams have signed up for season 18, and the grand finals for the Open and Intermediate divisions starting from on April 9. Australia's best will square off a week later on April 16. You can view the current standings, as well as some of the funnier team names you'll see in esports, here.
The Hearthstone Championship Tour: A year-long circuit run across a winter, summer and autumn smaller championships, the Hearthstone World Championship will throw $US1 million at the 16 best Hearthstone players in the world. The first event in the Bahamas has just concluded, with more details about upcoming major events to be announced through the Hearthstone esports page.
Hearthstone Global Games (April 11 onwards): A team based tournament with players representing each country, the Global Games provided fans with an opportunity to nominate their favourite players. You can find the full rules, teams, players and (when live) streams to watch on the official site.
Gears of War Pro Circuit (October 2016-June 2017): The Gears of War 4 professional circuit, run through MLG and Gfinity, also has spots open for Australian teams. Teams qualify for events by winning matches in the MLG GameBattles online ladders, live LAN events or daily/weekly online tournaments. Dates for upcoming online events for the APAC region (which includes Australia) can be found here, and a breakdown of how the pro circuit works can be found on the official Gears of War website.
Australia & New Zealand Splatoon Cup (April 1-onwards): The first of Nintendo's ventures with the Switch and Splatoon 2 into esports, the Splatoon Cup will hold heats from the beginning of April. The two best teams will be flown to Melbourne for a live grand finals, with the winners earning a trip to this year's E3. You can find out more over on the official website.
Intel Extreme Masters is coming to the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. Go hands on with demos of the latest in VR and PC gaming tech -- plus catch world-class Counter-Strike: Global Offensive action with a record prize pool of AUD$260,000!