The British are coming and they're bringing an esports competition with them. Starting this week, Gfinity's Challenger series lets you show your skills and - if you kick enough ass - you can get drafted into their Elite series where pro teams will compete for $450,000 in prizes.
Earlier this year we reported that there would be a city-based esports league coming to Australia. Now it's here and you can enter.
Starting with the Challenger Series this week, anyone can test their mettle in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Rocket League and Street Fighter 5. The top 20 players in each game will become eligible for a draft, where they could possibly play alongside established pros for six city-based teams in Gfinity's Elite Series early next year.
I spoke with Gfinity Australia's incoming CEO Dominic Redmond and COO Sam Harris earlier this week about the competition.
"Challengers Series and Elite Series are designed to provide opportunities for players to compete at the highest level, alongside other tournaments and leagues which have helped establish esports in Australia and New Zealand," they said.
Building an esports league is a daunting prospect the relies on viewer engagement and player participation. To tackle the viewer issue, Gfinity are putting a lot of emphasis on the city-based team system, "tapping into Australia's tribal rivalries" for wider audience appeal.
Everyone loves to barrack for their home team - unless you're Mark Serrels with his inexplicable support of the Adelaide "Crowies" - and regional rivalries have been at the heart of Australian sports for decades. "Mate against mate, state against state" is the catchcry of Rugby League's State of Origin series and it's exactly that sort of mentality Redmond and Harris want to tap into to help bolster interest in Australian esports.
As a Brisbane-born Canberran, I'd just like to be involved.
And be involved you can. Starting today, there are single-elimination tournaments in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Rocket League and Street Fighter 5 for aspiring esports pros to take part in.
By signing up at Gfinity Esports you can take part in the Challenger series and work your way up to the Elite Series.
The Challenger Series is split into two cups; the Contender Cup and the Competitor Cup. Tournaments in the Contender Cup open today, with prize money and Gpoints on the line for anyone that enters. Gpoints are a part of Gfinity's ranking system. The more points you have, the higher your rank and the better your odds of making it to the draft.
In early January, the Competitor Cup tournaments will open. Competitor Cup is for more serious competitors who are looking to really sink their teeth into the competition. With higher prizes and higher point payoffs, you can expect fiercer competition.
Entry into these tournaments is free, so there's no risk in having a crack. For team-based games like CS:GO and Rocket League, players will enter as part of their own teams and will split the prizes. However they're not committed to those teams for the duration of the series, dropping in and out until you find the right people to play with is a completely valid option.
Pushing forward on the path to becoming a pro, the top 20 players in each game will be eligible for the Elite Draft. Pro teams are required to draft a certain amount of amateur players for the Elite Series and it's entirely possible that a dedicated amateur team could be drafted together for the Elite Series, as Epsilon Esports' Rocket League team did in the UK league.
"We are developing a sustainable, engaging model for esports in this market. The Australian player pool is smaller to that of UK/Europe, this will grow and our grassroots support system is designed to support that growth."
The UK league featured over 13,000 participants with 90 amateurs becoming eligible for the draft. Of those players, 30 were drafted to pro teams.
Every game of the Elite Series will be played live in front of an audience at Gfinity's dedicated arena in Sydney and there are yet-to-be-announced plans to broadcast the games as well.
With the teams playing out of Sydney and the players drafted from all over the country, the city-based teams premise seems a little flimsy. However, Team Liquid received "U-S-A!" chants during The International despite having no American players. Just go with it.
Gfinity are working to establish a solid grassroots system for Australian esports. If you've got the slightest inclination to kick ass in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Rocket League and Street Fighter 5, why not give the Challenger series a go and see just how far your skills can take you?