Intel, ESL and the future of esports in the UK

Last week, more than 300 leading figures in sports, technology and electronic sports attended the largest European sports business conference: ESL London. During the two-day conference, the best and brightest in the electronic sports industry participated in the discussions and debates on the most pressing issues facing their fields.

The main focus: what does the future hold for the thriving electronic sports industry? An economy that, according to the Newskoo 2018 World Sports Market Report, is expected to be worth nearly $ 1 billion next year. That's a year-on-year increase of an incredible 38%.

We met with Scott Gillingham, leader of games and sports in the United Kingdom of Intel, Rob Black of ESL and James Dean, executive director of ESL in the United Kingdom, to talk about the future of sports in the coming years and why the United Kingdom has been left behind. The rest of the world.

A brief history of electronic sports

Sports (or electronic sports) are professional and organized videogame competitions. In other words, people play games with each other competitively, often for large sums of money and prestige.

While sports are supposed to be only a recent phenomenon, in fact the first sports competition was held in 1972, when Stamford University students competed in a space warfare tournament. But, while the silent rumble of future fashion was present, the 80s focused more on overcoming high scores and enjoying video games as entertainment instead of something you could do a career in. The 90s became the first decade that electronic sports (which was not a well-known term then) began to really take off, with companies like Nintendo and Sega holding professional game tournaments. It was also when we began to see that money was becoming a factor in professional games: people no longer only played for prestige but for prizes of $ 15,000.

It was from the noughties that we began to see what we now know to be modern sports. As platforms such as Twitch and YouTube took off, people began to show interest not only in playing video games, but also in watching them. In addition, the prizes became great. The Dota 2 tournament earlier this year had a prize pool of more than $ 25 million, making it the largest in the history of electronic sports, and the total prize for the esports tournaments in 2017 was $ 112 million.

And this is just the beginning, as Newzoo predicts that global sports revenues will reach $ 906 million in 2018, while North America will represent $ 345 million of the total and China for $ 164 million.

In addition, the Newszoo report suggests that this figure will increase to $ 1.4 billion by 2021. But how does the sports industry expect to achieve this growth and where does the UK fit in?

Reuniting Intel

Two of the UK's main driving forces behind sports are Intel and ESL, which partnered 12 years ago to create Intel Extreme Masters, which is the longest professional gaming world tour of the world.

The Intel Extreme Masters originally started with an attendance of 500 people in 2006, but in 2017 that attendance had increased to 173,000 people, a staggering 53% increase from the previous year. In addition, this year's IEM had an audience of 1.8 million in the United Kingdom.

"One of the key things is to support sports and help grow sports and I think our association does it very well," said Scott Gillingham, UK gaming and betting leader. TechRadar said. "It's our way of giving back to the community: organizing big electronic sports tournaments."

"Being able to sponsor these great events and create those events with ESL is something that the community loves, appreciates and delays."

However, Gillingham acknowledges that the UK sports industry has a way of catching up with its Chinese and American cousins ​​despite being the fifth largest gaming market in the world.

"You see some of the four main ones: the United States, Asia, etc. They have a big game business, but they have big sports leagues," explains Gillingham. "I think a lot of that has been investing in those leagues and, maybe in the UK, we've had that stigma about e-sports and that's why it's been a bit behind, but now it's growing."

"This year has been a great growth in electronic sports. We had ESL one: again we partnered with Intel, we took the tournament with ESL to the UK. I think people are a bit doubtful if it's going to be a big tournament and the whole tournament sold out in 24 hours. It was the fastest sales tournament for ESL worldwide and more than 24,000 people attended that event. So yes, it is a little behind compared to other countries, but it is growing and we are seeing it develop. "

It is very well to appeal to attract those who are already players and who understand the industry, however, to As the esports grow, the gap between those who "get it" and those who do not, certainly grows more and more, that's where influential, or personalities of the game, play an important role. 19659002] "We have Sacriel, JackFrags and TechChamp [among others]," explains Gillingham. "That's another route to convey a message and also to show people that games are fun."

Sudden growth

So, How can you bridge the gap and encourage young people to pursue a career in sports? "There is a lot of perception of this," explains ESL COO Rob Black. "I think that, in reality, this year is probably a point of inflection for us. "

ESL has this I'm trying to do just that, working with Intel on a campaign called Memories that shows videos of how the biggest names in sports are where they are. They are now.

"Sujoy is there and was like the first professional player in the UK, that was in 2000," Black tells TechRadar. "People do not really know that we have a heritage in esports and I think it's important for us to recognize the fact that we have history there, and that we have much more talent and a lot more people in esports globally than is obvious."

The Memories campaign is part of the goal of ESL and Intel to get more young people involved in electronic sports and to understand that the industry involves more roles than being a player. In addition to this, ESL UK organized a Future Generations competition at EGX 2018, in which the company was looking for the best young talents in esports commenting.

"The only way they can do it [progress] is if they give them a platform," explains ESL's managing director in the UK, James Dean. "You can not go from playing in a bedroom to playing on stage, you have to make progress so that is where the importance of the base is."

"We have been working with universities in the UK to help students understand that working in sports is much more than being a player," Black continues. "We have 40 people in ESL UK at this time and we have accountants to those who like games, a legal assistant who likes games, so there are many who are not just your usual runners. " It could be a player or a manager ".

The grassroots level is at the heart of sustaining a skyrocketing industry, like sports, especially because the industry is so new that it is difficult to estimate where exactly it will go in the future. So, how do you evaluate what steps to take?

"The community dictates that," Black tells us. "In that sense, we will always follow what people want."

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