Interview with Kevin O’Connell: Australia’s Organised Play Partner
29.10.2017 | 12:17
We are here with Kevin O’Connell, whose company handles Organised Play in Australia on Konami’s behalf. It’s his first time at a European Event like this and we sat down together to talk to him about his impressions of the tournament.
Kevin, how was your trip to London?
I arrived on Wednesday morning together with five players from Australia who where qualified for the LLDS final on Friday. I spent a lot of last day to get a passport replace for one of our team who lost his. We basically called everyone to get everything straight to get him out of the UK until we found the passport somewhere else. It is a good ending to a long day.
How was the LLDS for the Australian Team?
We had a team of 5 players – one player from each of the five major states in Australia. Overall, it’s a 20 hours flight. It is very exhausting for our players to get here, but for most of the team it is a fantastic opportunity to expand their horizons.
What are your impressions from YCS London?
This is on a far greater magnitude than in Australia. Our biggest event was in January this year where we had approximately 1,000 Duelists attending. That is pretty good. Sydney was the 175th YCS and our 4th in total. It was the first time we had it streamed and the Token booth was new as well. Our fifth YCS will be in Melbourne in January 2018.
Here in London there are so many ideas we would like to facilitate in Australia. We are going to be planting a seed for future events like the Giant Duel and the Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links screens. We will bring new flavor to the future YCS in Australia and enhance the whole programme. I’ve gained a lot of insight and I’m really happy to have been here.
How has Yu-Gi-Oh! evolved in Australia?
Since Yu-Gi-Oh! started in Australia the only events outside of the local stores were Nationals. The idea to start Oceanics was born in 2012. Australia hosts it twice and New Zealand every third year. From that on participation numbers at Nationals were creeping up. Before YCS came to town we had 250 players. With the first YCS everything changed! The event offers a high Level of creditability and professional Dueling. Konami is now more aware of us and the players have the attraction of a higher budget event. The prize support is great and each participant will receive a Game Mat. Overall, it was a fantastically timed insertion into our yearly program.
When I started we had around 50 TOs spread across a landmass that is bigger than Europe. We have increased our numbers to a 120 until recently. Each TO can give us growth spots. I guess that we have between 4,000 to 5,000 Duelists all over the country.
Travelling within Australia is a big financial hurdle. It is a major disincentive. Two trips a year is a huge financial burden for the average player. We are working on having more attractive Konami-sponsored events all around the country to recognise those areas as well.
Did you notice any differences between Europe and Australia?
The overall vibe at YCS London seems to be a very happy one. I’m always surprised to hear from the European Team that our players are very well behaved at events. I feel the same way here in London. One issue I noticed is the language barrier. We only have one language and are all of one country. If you are in your own country, you are less likely to misbehave.
I noticed distinct cultural difference in judges: they are much leaner and more efficient in what they are doing, with a lot of experience. The Australian judges tend to be more relaxed. If mistakes are made, we are working on fixing it. You could say we “flex to fit”. Our stable of judges is still a work in progress due to physical limitations.
I’m here being an observer to see how it all works out. I feel very lucky that Luke hosted me so well. Personally, the biggest pleasure is to get to know people personally, who I’ve been talking to an the phone. It is a much more helpful dynamic when you know somebody in person. Overall, it’s been a privilege to be here and I’ve been treated so well by my Konami colleagues. Thank you so much!