Interview – Ben Jackson: Alienware and the Gfinity Elite Series
With the rise and rise of esports in Australia, it was only a matter of time before a National Pro esports competition was introduced. That comp is the Gfinity Elite Series and it is bringing a host of teams from all around the country to compete in CS: GO, Street Fighter and Rocket League in large, packed arenas with hundreds of thousands watching online.
To set something like that up you need some fairly serious systems on hand, enter Dell-owned Alienware. Alienware PC’s have been known for years as being high quality and high end, making them perfect for this sort of tournament. I was lucky enough to be able to put some questions to Ben Jackson, Dell ANZ General Manager for Consumer and Small business, about Alienware’s involvement in this landmark event for Aussie esports
Matt Hewson: From the sound of things Alienware is backing esports in Australia in a big way. Was this a conscious direction the Alienware brand wanted to push or more of an opportunity that came your way?
Ben Jackson: Alienware and Dell Gaming has long recognised the importance of esports for the Australian gaming community. As the gaming scene in Australia has continued to thrive, particularly with the growth of esports, we’ve been looking for the right partner to help bring it to the forefront.
Partnering with Gfinity Esports Australia to bring its Elite Series format to Australia was a no-brainer because it provides an opportunity for the Australian gaming community to compete on a professional level and watch the best esports players in the country, in the flesh.
We make incredibly high-performance gaming gear, and it stands to reason that if you have a sporting event the size of Gfinity Esports Australia in this country, it gives players the chance to see what our hardware can do.
More importantly, though, we really believe in esports as an opportunity not just for our brand but for Australian consumers at large. Australia has some great esports gamers, and we wanted to help provide them with an opportunity to demonstrate their skills on a world stage because we believe they should have the same opportunities as any other gamer in any other country.
For the techies out there, what systems are being used in the comp?
The teams in the Elite Series will be using some of Alienware’s best hardware to push their game to the next level. Teams will be using the latest 8th Generation Intel Core i7 processors and powerful NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics in our Aurora R7 desktops. They will also be using our 25” Alienware monitor, which features AMD FreeSync technology to minimise graphic distortions such as tearing. This will provide Australia’s best players with smooth and responsive 240Hz refresh rates they demand from their hardware.
Are there any plans to bring Gfinity Esports Australia branded Alienware products to market, Special edition hardware for example? Sports fans love their merch and esports seems to be no different in that regard.
We’re always looking at options but we don’t have anything specific to this competition at the moment. We’re here to support Gfinity Esports Australia and help bring it to Australian gamers and offer that opportunity for gamers to potentially be drafted into a pro team.
Esports is still growing in Australia, but that growth is impressive. From your perspective, what do you think esports needs to do to break through and make it into the mainstream.
I don’t think it’s a matter of esports needing to break through to the mainstream; I think it’s already doing that. We’re seeing in other countries, such as the UK and US, where these events are at a much larger scale, but it’s certainly growing quickly in Australia.
For example, last year, the Adelaide Crows AFL club made Australian sporting history by becoming the first mainstream sports organisation to buy a professional esports team. We also saw one of Australia’s Overwatch World Cup matches broadcast live on Australian free-to-air television which was a first for the industry. More broadcasts like this will be key for esports to become more mainstream.
Gaming as an occupation is happening and just like any other sport there needs to be a forum where people can watch it, enjoy it, and if they choose to, try to become professional in it. That’s what we believe Gfinity Esports Australia can offer Australian gamers
The Gfinity Elite Series will be another step in the right direction. Creating a physical location at HOYTS Entertainment Quarter in Sydney’s Moore Park, the Gfinity Elite Series will create a platform to showcase skills, compete, network, learn and promote this exciting world to an even bigger audience.
We expect 2018 to be a big year for esports as it builds on its success from 2017, and Alienware is proud to be at the forefront of these advances by presenting the Gfinity Elite Series.
How do you think the first Gfinity Esports Australia comp will go within Australia? Do you think the first season will be a huge success or do you think it is something that will need to be refined over a few seasons?
We think it will be a great success and for a number of reasons. Gfinity Esports Australia has had success using this format overseas, so they know what it takes to run an event of this kind. The first season of the UK Gfinity Elite Series was watched by 2.7 million fans. When you think about that, that’s a high percentage of their population; they’ve clearly demonstrated that they have created a format that fans love.
I am confident Australian esports fans are going to love the event. The range of games caters to a variety of fans, and their pros will be able to play at their very best thanks to Alienware’s powerful hardware.
When we first heard about Gfinity Esports Australia, we were interested in the idea of the Australian gaming community being able to firstly compete in the Challenger Series tournaments presented by Dell Gaming with the chance of becoming part of one of the franchise team for the Gfinity Elite Series. Also secondly, being able to visit a physical venue each week to share in the games they love and celebrate the success of Australia’s best players during the Elite Series. We look forward to helping to cultivate that environment.
Just like Alienware, we know that Gfinity Esports Australia wants the best for the Australian gaming community, so we’ll work hard with them to continually refine the event so it provides the best level of competitive play for players and fans.
I realise that you probably can’t give me anything concrete, but is Alienware diving into Australian esports for the long haul? Are you planning to be involved in this growing scene for years to come?
We’re in it for the long haul when it comes to gaming and Australian gamers. Since the beginning, community has been an important focus point for us and we’ve carried that through to today. We fully support events that allow gamers of all levels to come together and share in what they love, which is exactly what esports helps facilitate, so it makes sense for us to be a part of the esports scene and continue to grow and evolve with it.
I would like to thank Ben for taking the time to answer my questions and finish on this. Australian esports is growing so rapidly that it is almost breathtaking. It is great to see that companies such as Alienware are getting behind it in a big way and not just seeing Australia as a little country not worth worrying about it. Stay tuned on Player 2 for more Australian esports focused stuff soon!