It'll only run for a week, but the Microsoft Store in Sydney is trying something a little different in their flagship stores. Rather than just selling hardware and a whole lot of games, they're offering something more useful: knowledge.
From today until April 22 at the Microsoft Store in Sydney, Microsoft has partnered with ESL to provide a short-run mentoring program for people looking to further their career in esports. Titled the "Esports Academy", the program will feature a range of commentators, former players, analysts and organisers who can offer their experience to kids looking either to further their career.
Each session runs from about three hours, from 1000 AEST to 1300 AEST. As ESL host and commentator Danny Kim explained, the purpose of the academy is to help kids "avoid the grind". "We wanted to give the gamers the kind of opportunities we never had when we were trying to go pro," Microsoft's Max Ferfoglia, and co-owner of the Dark Sided team, explained.
Part of the academy program will also feature a game of League of Legends or Overwatch, and attendees will also have the opportunity to try shoutcasting a game alongside Kim so they can get more experience with that side of the industry. There's no facilities in the store for people to practice production, though.
The store space is flanked by screens and a range of Microsoft products, including mixed reality headsets
Kim took attendees through a rough outline of what the three-hour presentation would involve, with a large focus on understanding networking, the various roles available in esports, an open pitching session and Q&A. The final part of the session would ask attendees to plan a hypothetical tournament, to any scale or size they prefer.
Along with Kim and Ferfoglia, our session featured Iain 'Snyper' Tuurner, ESl's Laura 'Saerianne' Scott, Avant Gaming COO Rohan Bruce and Avant Gaming's League of Legends captain Jayke Paulsen.
Even though the session is only running for a week, it will help at least a subset of Aussie gamers get an injection of incredibly helpful knowledge. Nick Vanzetti, managing director of ESL, noted that while they already worked with a lot of film and TV students, the main qualification for many trying to enter esports as a career was whether they were passionate about technology and broadcasting.
"In the last 2 years, we've probably had ourselves with a number of discussions with universities and learning centres who are approaching us on how they can be more involved and operate in esports," he added.
"Everybody is already looking at different ways that the esports industry as a wider whole will create new vocational opportunities, and I think it might only be within the next 2-5 years before there's some really big courses available. It might be sports management before it's broadcast training, but it's sooner than we think."
Microsoft's esports program isn't providing formalised education, of course, but it is a valuable networking opportunity. It's also an indication of a change in conversation: instead of just talking about how the best players can make a living from video games, brands and businesses are spending more time talking about education, ancillary jobs, and esports infrastructure as a whole.
The Microsoft Esports Academy will run daily until April 22. Anyone interested can RSVP for a slot on the Microsoft website; registration is free.