HP and Intel have teamed with the University of Auckland to launch an esports arena.
The arena accommodates a growing esports community within the University but is open to anyone who wishes to try their hand at esports. It is fitted out with Intel-powered HP Omen desktops.
According to HP country manager Oliver Hill, esports will have 475 million viewers this year and will grow by 100 million next year, making it larger than the world series of baseball.
“It’s one of the areas that HP and Intel are really keen to support,” Hill said. “We support it globally by sponsoring some really significant teams and venues, and it’s fantastic to bring this to Aotearoa to help foster that here as well.”
“We’ve had a long-standing relationship with the University of Auckland, and they invited us to work with them on this opportunity. It’s an ongoing partnership, and we want to keep supporting them over the long-term.
“Gaming is a double-digit growth area for us and it’s a huge focus locally and globally, so it made a lot of sense for us to partner.”
The economic importance of game development, a $400 million domestic industry, was recognised in Budget 2023, seeing a $160 million allocation for a 20 per cent tax rebate for game developers introduced.
Game development and esports are interconnected industries, both growing rapidly as the industry catches up with the popularity of at-home gaming.
Auckland University’s Sanit Kumar, infrastructure services portfolio manager for cloud, network and data centre services was the technology lead on the initiative. He reflected the growth that esports is seeing in New Zealand.
“Esports as an industry is growing phenomenally in New Zealand,” Kumar said. “There are 1.6 million Kiwi gaming household, 73 per cent of gamers have made friends that extended beyond the game, and about 86 per cent of Kiwi gamers would like to participate [in esports] if it was available to them, so there’s definitely a shortage in gaming arenas.”
As well as promoting esports, the University hopes to foster social connection for gamers by providing a welcoming and diverse physical space for students who typically game at home.
For the University, the arena represents a first step to what esports can bring to the student experience and preparing students for the workforce, with the integration of students from wider disciplines such as creative arts, marketing, broadcasting, and event management possible as the sport grows.
While New Zealand has been strong in the area of game development, support for esports has been slower to catch on in the country, Auckland University associate director of campus life Sean Smith said, but is growing rapidly.
“We’ve had very successful [esport] students but we had no facilities and no support, and that’s what formed this idea,” Smith said.
“We’ve got industry-leading equipment and we’re able to launch an industry-leading tertiary esports programme out of this facility.”