One of the least expected and unprecedented developments in the sporting realm over the past decade has been the rise of eSports, or competitive, professional gaming. At the turn of the 2010s, eSports was a fringe phenomenon, one that was ignored by investors and broadcasters and generally thought of as a hobby more than anything else. Today, the picture could not be more different. Many of the top eSports gamers command seven or even eight-figure salaries, garnering sponsorships from the likes of Microsoft, Red Bull, ASOS, and Ralph Lauren. Meanwhile, official broadcasting rights for the top eSports fixtures are now viciously fought over, as companies vie for audiences that have swollen to the tens of millions. And now, it seems like the eSports takeoff has finally landed in Australia, with the rise of the sport in the country perhaps solidified by a flashy new partnership. Let's take a closer look at the current state of Australian eSports, and why it is headed to the stratosphere. The ESL x Circles.Life Partnership: A Game-Changer A recent deal between ESL Australia, the main eSports organization in the country, and the multi-billion-dollar mobile broadcasting company Circles.Life has just taken Aussie eSports to a whole other level. The deal will massively expand the reach of domestic eSports broadcasts, while also providing ESL Australia with enough cash to help secure top gaming talent and put on bigger and flashier sports events than ever before. All of this comes on the back of continued growth for ESL Australia, helped along by high-profile local gamers such as ana, kpii, and TGLTN, streamers that attract audiences of millions around the world. A High-Growth Industry The inked deal between Circles.Life and ESL Australia is just the culmination of years of steady growth for Aussie eSports. The industry has seen year-on-year growth of around 7.5% over the past five years which, although smaller than in other countries, is still some of the fastest growth in the entire Australian entertainment sector. Although growth has lagged behind the likes of the US and UK, we are seeing more promising signs every day. This is especially the case when it comes to events. A high-water mark came in 2017 when the Intel Extreme Masters CS:GO championship was hosted in Sydney, attracting 7000 physical audience members and more than 8 million digital viewers, a record at the time. In 2019, the Melbourne eSports open showed how much things have progressed since then, with more than 12,000 physical attendees viewing the final alongside millions more online viewers. eSports Goes Legit We're also seeing more and more signs that eSports in Australia is finally being viewed as a legitimate sport. For some, this is best evidenced by the fact that Australians can now go to the bookies and place a bet on an eSports team, just like they would for footie or rugby. In response to this thriving market, a huge number of new Australian betting sites have emerged that cater almost exclusively to eSports bets. One such example is Pickle Bet, which offers odds and live bets on all of the top eSports fixtures in Australia and beyond. When people start interacting with eSports in this way, it becomes difficult to distinguish it from any other major professionalized sport. It seems that Australian eSports has finally hit its stride, and is on track to become truly massive. Will you be watching?