Change beckons for video gamers as esports arena opens.
A state-of-the-art esports arena, which has recently opened at the University of Auckland, may be the catalyst for a new era in video gaming and esports in New Zealand.
The facility, a partnership between the university (UoA), and sponsors HP New Zealand and Intel, has enough space and technology to enable teams to take part in ‘in-person’ tournaments, something that is a far cry from the popular image of gamers as solitary competitors playing alone and online.
Regan Kelly, President of UoA’s esports club and a member of New Zealand’s E-Blacks, says after years of only doing online tournaments the club finally has the space to bring teams together.
“The first event we hosted had eight teams,” he says. “Since then, they have got bigger, and we hope to develop more tertiary tournaments. But nothing felt the same as the first proper in-person tournament.”
The club has also opened the venue to Macleans College who ran one of their League of Legends and Valorant finals - events so successful the club is looking to open to other secondary schools in the future.
The arena has 22 HP Omen desktops powered by Intel Core processors and monitors with cutting edge graphics, design and performance allowing students to play both competitively and casually. Kelly says this will help players on the edge of becoming professionals while pushing those on the casual side to see esports in a more professional light.
He says the number of esports club members at UoA has skyrocketed to 311 since the arena opened, the highest it has ever been. This growth is reflected in the gaming industry throughout the country.
According to the New Zealand Game Developers Association the collective revenue for the country’s 74 gaming companies rose to $407m in 2022, up from $267m in 2021, while there was a 10 per cent increase in the number of employees. The association expects the number of gamers to reach 2.7m by 2027.
The recent government announcement in the budget allowing a 20 per cent rebate for game development companies that meet a minimum $250,000 expenditure threshold per year is also a sign the industry is booming.
Individual studios will be able to receive up to $3 million per year in rebate funding and Oliver Hill, Country Manager for HP New Zealand, says it is fantastic to see this support.
“Gaming is a huge opportunity for New Zealand to compete on the world stage,” he says. “Globally the esports audience is reported to be 474 million and is going to grow by 100 million viewers this year alone, so it’s a really important area to compete in.
“In the US, higher education institutions have been building esports programmes since 2014 with 185 now competing at a national level.”
He says gaming is also an important part of the tech industry. “This industry is vital to New Zealand over the long term; if we have a successful tech sector, we will have a successful economy.”
Hill says HP sponsors some of the largest esports competitions globally and is proud, alongside Intel, to sponsor the UoA arena. “It’s the largest gaming arena at a tertiary institution in New Zealand and it’s going to enable our gamers to compete both locally and on the world stage.
“It gives people a platform to game together, feel like a team, which is always going to make you more successful than if you’re sitting by yourself.
“HP and Intel can help connect some of these teams to teams we sponsor overseas and, hopefully, they can learn from each other, grow and be successful.”
Meanwhile Kelly says the tech that has been given by HP New Zealand and Intel is state-of-the-art. “The PCs are very high quality, the keyboards and mice are great, the monitors especially which are 240hHZ (frames per second). So, it’s been everything we could ask for.
“The purpose of the arena is to encourage students who wouldn’t normally engage on campus to come a bit more frequently as well as try and create academic opportunities in broadcasting and video game development.
“In esports, the playing doesn’t make up most of the industry,” Kelly says. “It’s mostly background talent people who film, stream, all sorts of things.”
For more information on the HP Omen gaming range go to: www.hp.com