The Sunshine Coast is poised to become Australia’s global esports hub thanks to its high-speed international fibre link.
The COVID-19 crisis played havoc with professional sport in 2020 but it proved a boon for another form of sporting contest: esports.
The Sunshine Coast is in a prime position to play a key part in that opportunity due to the city's international broadband cable network.
The city's cable landing station, in the Maroochydore City Centre, no doubt contributed to Walker Corporation’s recent agreement with the Sunshine Coast Council to commit $2.5 billion to the broader Maroochydore development project.
During the past decade the competitive esports industry has grown and become better organised, with professional contests offering big prize money for competitors globally.
Global esports revenue was expected to reach US$1.1 billion in 2020, a big opportunity for esports leagues, participants and game developers.
Broadband service provider OneQode is one of the Sunshine Coast cable-landing station’s newest tenants.
According to its CEO Matt Shearing, one of the key factors governing the growth of esports is players being able to compete on an even footing in regards to data.
“The quality of a competitive gamer’s broadband connection is critical. Not only do they need a high-speed connection, they also need low latency,” Shearing said.
Latency is the response time of a network. A gamer on a high-latency network is at a disadvantage to one with lower latency.
While latency is not usually a problem when people are competing within the same city or area, Shearing says it is a major issue when competing internationally, where a lag of just 100 milliseconds (ms) can be a significant handicap.
The Sunshine Coast solution
OneQode has found an innovative way to create a level playing field for international gaming.
The compnay is using the high-speed Sunshine Coast International Broadband Submarine Cable to connect its servers on the Sunshine Coast to its other servers on the Pacific island of Guam, about midway between Australia, Asia and North America.
“We have infrastructure in the Sunshine Coast cable landing station which allows us to hit up to 1.5 billion gamers in Asia Pacific with under 100ms of latency from Guam,” Shearing said.
“There is nowhere else in the world from which you can do that.
“It means Asian, North American and Australian players can essentially play at the same location.”
OneQode is testing the concept with a global esports tournament featuring teams from the Sunshine Coast, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Singapore and Tokyo. A tournament date is yet to be announced.
The concept has attracted the attention of 20-year-old global esports company ESL’s Asia Pacific Japan senior vice president and managing director Nick Vanzetti.
“Low latency offered by services such as the Sunshine Coast cable is exactly what the esports industry needs for our tournaments and global broadcasts,” Vanzetti said.
Shearing believes this project will also generate benefits for local games developers as they will be able to reach a larger population of players.
“There are a lot of great Aussie game developers out there. We just need to give them opportunities,” Shearing said.
“It would make a lot of sense for a games developer to base themselves on the Sunshine Coast, especially given the region is experiencing strong growth and the lifestyle and environment is so spectacular.”
Shearing said games developers can often provide the nucleus for a new industry cluster and create opportunities for other service providers such as illustrators, graphic designers and musicians.
The Australian games development industry is already experiencing solid growth—the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association released data in January this year that showed the industry had grown its revenue by 29 per cent since 2019.
According to the association, the games industry has the potential to become a digital-manufacturing powerhouse and be a major contributor to Australia’s economic revival.
The demand for gaming and esports is only likely to grow, with the association citing figures that suggest the industry was worth US$250 billion in 2020—nearly 10 times the global music industry.
For Shearing, those figures provide a strong endorsement for OneQode’s strategy of developing low-latency international network connections using the Sunshine Coast International Broadband Network.
“Network demands are going to go up and up as time goes on,” Shearing said.
“People are going to need better and better connectivity, and that is what we are building for.”
Commercial and residential property projects are under way in the Maroochydore City Centre precinct, the site of the Sunshine Coast Submarine Broadband Network which operates from the landing station, including the Sunshine Coast Council new city hall project.
At a time when many property managers are trying to bring tenants back to office blocks, the first commercial building in Maroochydore is 100 per cent leased.
Now that the Sunshine Coast has created the fastest fibre-data link to Asia from Australia’s east coast, this kind of demand is coming from a variety of sectors, including rapidly growing and non-traditional industries such as esports.
The Sunshine Coast Council is actively encouraging business investment in the region.
Its Trade and Investment team provides a free concierge-style service for medium- to large-businesses looking for location or development opportunities.
Business support includes site selection assistance, assistance with navigating council planning requirements, introductions to local business networks and financial incentives for large-scale investments (individually assessed against criteria).
Last year, Sunshine Coast Council launched its “Give your business a boost of Vitamin SC— Sunshine Coast!” A campaign ebook outlines the region's business benefits.
Main image: Sunshine Coast Submarine Cable landing station, Maroochydore
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