Contrary to many of the claims that have been made so far regarding esports, it not an entirely new phenomenon in Europe. Scandinavian teams, for example, have boasted world class performers in games such as Counter-Strike for a while now, and the world’s largest LAN party was the Dreamhack event help in Jönköping, Sweden. In fact, the earliest esports league was the German ESL, which is still based at its original home in Cologne.
The more recent development, however, has been the growing professionalisation and mass-appeal of esports as a structured event. Europe has slowly been catching up in this regard to the scene in the US, as well as the the scene in several Asian countries, including South Korea, Japan and China.
In Korea and other Northeast Asian countries, esports isn’t an emerging trend – it is already fully accepted as a legitimate, mass-appeal activity in the same vein as any traditional sport. Ask almost anyone in South Korea, from the age of 7 to 70, and the chances are high that they will have at least a passing familiarity with the world of esports. This level of recognition is also beginning to take hold in the US, but the European esports scene remains in relative infancy.
On the high-street, there is no mainstream equivalent of PC Bang, the South Korean chain of internet café style venues where patrons can participate in esports for an hourly fee. In Korea, Japan and China, a PC Bang is as ubiquitous a sight as Starbucks or McDonalds, but in most European countries the idea still seems like a strange novelty. For some, the idea of playing video games for a living, as esports is still commonly seen, is a truly alien concept.
However, this looks set to change. After a highly successful first season, the Overwatch League has added numerous new teams, including a Parisian one – its second European team, following London Spitfire. Meanwhile, the European League of Legends Championship Series, an annual ten team esports season, is about to start, and is beginning to gain traction in the media. Even France, a market often noted for the more conservative behaviour if its consumers, is seeing a spike in esports interest.
In the UK, this comes alongside a growing interest in the potential of esports from investors, and other interested parties. British esports Association founder Chester King, a long-time proponent of the activity, is lobbying to have esports recognised as a sporting activity by Sport England. For our own backer, Tej Kohli, esports remains an area with significant potential for investors willing to show support ahead of the curve – a marked contrast to the rather cautious, conservative reception that esports has received from investors in the past.
Where some may see the current smaller scale of the esports scene in the UK and Europe as a hurdle, at Rewired.gg we prefer to think of them as an opportunity to be at the forefront of a burgeoning industry. Currently, even UK-based teams such as London Spitfire rely heavily on talent from overseas, but the framework is there, and the desire growing, to create a distinct local branch of a much larger network that is already engaging and inspiring countless people around the globe. It is especially important now, as esports begins to truly establish itself, the emerging talent and innovative ideas that are the cutting edge of the esports industry.