When it comes to sport, we Brits are suffering – our biggest national sports team is currently the laughing stock of the world, stars are embroiled in drugs scandals, and bosses spend more time trying to boost their incomes seeking lucrative after-dinner speeches than they do helping our players and athletes achieve their dreams.
Now, as with so many things, the virtual world is showing that there may be a better way – step forward the British eSports association.
Formed just a few short months ago in June, this not-for-profit, national governing body has been looking into how it can develop the world of eSports, reaching larger audiences on both a local and global level, and working in tandem with the UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
This week the association announced that it has completed a consultation period in which it has looked at how it can work to “help and represent players, develop a grassroots eSports scene and provide an infrastructure for future talent”, and has identified 5 key areas of focus.
They are to fund and support grassroots eSports, establish best practice, deliver courses and qualifications, increase awareness of eSports and finally, to provide expertise and advice.
The body has also looked at visas for pro-gamers, contract parity for pros, and tackling online abuses such as trolling, and worked closely with gaming company Activision Blizzard, as well as Microsoft.
The British eSports Association is also in the process of launching its own website and setting up a charity to act as its owning body, as well as an advisory group with a rotating membership system, with different board members managing different sub-groups. The group expects to also work alongside academics form universities and institutions.
The Advisory Board members are expected to be announced in December.
Chester King is currently acting CEO of the association, and says: “”We are on a mission to promote the positive qualities of eSports and reinforce it as a credible activity. eSports delivers important life and cyber skills, which all children should have the opportunity to develop.”
“Ultimately I would like to see the same number of eSports clubs in schools as there are traditional sports clubs.”
Lee Dunn, Academic Director for Technologies and Head of Digital Futures at The University of Glasgow, also commented: “the British eSports Association is a central component in our ambition to develop and enhance eSports and to act as a catalyst for discussion, collaboration and strategy, supporting current and future players within the United Kingdom.”
“I firmly believe that the British eSports Association can become a beacon for amateur, semi-professional and professional gaming, throughout the world.”
The UK certainly has a thriving gaming market’ recognised globally for its role in creating games like Grand Theft Auto V, thought to be one of the most successful entertainment product s of all time, which grossed more than $1bn worldwide within 3 days of being released, and Monument Valley, the mobile game that has been downloaded 26 million times, as well as King Digital, the makers of Candy Crush, which made multi-millionaires out of its founders and investors when it floated at a valuation of several billion in 2014. It’s since been acquired by Activision Blizzard.
The global games market is expected to grow from $91.8bn worldwide to $118.6bn by 2019 (according to Newzoo), and the UK is the 6th biggest market video gaming market in the world.
Although eSports might be relatively new, its popularity, particularly amongst millennials, is phenomenal. Apparently, few things can match the thrill of watching 2 gamers face off against one another in front of baying (and paying) audiences of thousands, some of whom may have had a flutter on the result, too.
Start-ups like Fanduel, based in Glasgow, with their Fantasy Football gaming leagues (and $416m of venture funding raised), are beginning to become part of the national consciousness, and eSports looks set to be as big, if not bigger.
On average, 11-64 year old’s in the UK spend 8.8 hours every week playing games, and there are 18.8m people playing games in the UK – 40% of our entire population.
According to eSports News, professional gaming competitions were watched by nearly 200 million people last year, and $200m has been awarded in prize money. The market, which stands at $748m currently, could increase to as much as $1.9 billion by 2019.
That is eye-watering growth, and there are new “stadia” being built all around the country to try to accommodate more tournaments.
Gaming has come a long way since we played Mario Kart with our mates in the spare room.
Perhaps a new governing body is just what the sport needs. Let’s just hope they are better at making managerial appointments than our beloved Football Association.