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Navigating The Esports Landscape In The UK: Challenges And Prospects

UKIE report finds the competitive games sector at a stalemate as many teams struggle to turn a profit 

Image source: UKIE

UK non-profit trade association for the video games industry UKIE has released a new report in partnership with The Story Mob. The report is titled ‘Esports In the UK: Challenges and Opportunities‘ and includes a mini directory of British esports businesses across fields like PR and investment.

This report offers a comprehensive overview of the esports journey in the UK. It includes exclusive data from YouGov regarding the gaming, purchasing and following behaviours of UK enthusiasts and examines the industry’s prospects and obstacles. The report’s writer, Dominic Sacco, who is also the founder of Esports News UK, has included insights into upcoming industry trends such as the development of esports facilities throughout the UK.

The report starts by going over the current esports scene in the UK where it highlights that, “While the potential is huge, esports in the UK (and around the world) remains at some sort of impasse. Many teams are struggling to turn a profit. By its nature, esports is fragmented – just as football and golf are completely different sports, so too are League of Legends and Counter-Strike.” 

Image source: UKIE

Male youths dominate the esports scene

As per The Story Mob, YouGov leveraged insights from its cloud platform Profiles, which is continually updated every week and encompasses various consumer metrics such as demographics, psychographics, attitudes and behaviours. The data is sourced from approximately 2.7 million individuals in the UK and was exported in July 2022.

The primary findings from YouGov’s demographic survey show that a significant portion of fans are youths, with over 50% falling between 18 and 34 years old. Also, the majority of esports fans are male, surpassing the gender split in the broader gaming community, with around 83% identifying as men.

Karen Low, EMEA managing director at The Story Mob said, “That less women play games competitively than men is a well-known fact and one that’s not going to go away anytime soon. That said, I do think there are some great inroads being made by key industry players when it comes to rebalancing gender inequality – Valorant Game Changers, for example, was created to give women a safe space to play games and Guild’s recent ‘No Room for Abuse’ campaign in partnership with Sky was all about raising awareness of the problem – and perhaps also acknowledging that there’s still a ton we need to solve in that regard.” 

Image source: UKIE

Most watched and followed esports titles 

YouGov’s data highlights a few prominent titles in the esports landscape. The Call of Duty League stands out as the most-watched tournament, with approximately 15.5% of UK esports fans tuning in. It is closely trailed by the Apex Legends Global Series (ALGS), which has hosted numerous tournaments in the UK. FIFA, now known as EA Sports FC, benefits significantly from the UK’s deep-rooted passion for football as the most-watched sport among esports fans, accounting for around 46% of viewership.

The report also highlights the strengths of the university esports scene in the UK. Becky Wright, senior partnerships manager at the UK student esports organization NSE, shared her insights in the report, “We’ve seen more and more students want to get involved with esports, casually or more competitively, and now the UK has the largest collegiate esports community in Europe.”

Esports and Education

The report finds that the UK is in a dominant space in blending esports and education. Several esports degrees have been launched in the country from the likes of Staffordshire University, Chichester, and the Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies. Also, the University of New York has launched an esports research group.

A new platform called EQ was launched in 2022 to assist young individuals in finding jobs in esports and the games industry. British Esports also plans to open a campus for education and performance in Riverside Sunderland. Schools like Queen Mary’s College and the University of Warwick have invested a lot of money in their esports and games facilities. 

London-based esports group Fnatic has introduced a program with colleges in the UK to help young people pursue careers in the gaming industry. Likewise, EXCEL Esports is now among the first esports groups to team up with the Duke of Edinburgh as an approved activity provider. 

Some in the esports field have appreciated the numerous opportunities for students, but others are concerned about the limited number of esports positions available for the growing number of students in the future. Nevertheless, the first batch of graduates from these initial UK-based esports programs have completed their degrees and are starting to secure their first jobs in the industry.

Image source: UKIE

Esports and emerging technologies

The report offers information about the possible future of the UK esports scene for investors and partners, especially during a period of significant industry changes such as the rise of Web3, generative AI and the metaverse

“I don’t think you can talk about esports and gaming without including esports and Metaverse,” said Low.  “Let’s face it, we’re an industry of early adopters – for better or for worse.” NFTs have attracted the attention of some team owners, but they continue to be a crucial source of sponsorship income for other British esports groups such as Fnatic.

UKIE’s report goes on to present both qualitative and quantitative data together. The directory of esports companies features important names such as the University of Warwick and Low’s own The Story Mob, as well as teams and event organisers like EXCEL Esports and Digital Schoolhouse. This list aims to introduce aspiring professionals to the various opportunities within the UK esports scene.

Despite this advancement, Low believes that nothing can replace personal experience. “My first piece of advice [to a budding esports professional] is to go and watch an esports match. Live the experience as a fan lives it,” She said. 

The report finds that in the UK esports scene, there are additional possibilities for industry expansion such as tapping into the large population of mobile gamers and building physical venues to draw an enthusiastic international audience to the UK.

Written By

Isa Muhammad is a writer and video game journalist covering many aspects of entertainment media including the film industry. He's steadily writing his way to the sharp end of journalism and enjoys staying informed. If he's not reading, playing video games or catching up on his favourite TV series, then he's probably writing about them.

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