ESI Digital Summer presents: Regional Esports Market Report – Europe

In anticipation of ESI Digital Summer (#ESIDIGITAL), presented by Kinguin LOUNGE, Esports Insider spoke with many of our esteemed panellists, partners, and presenters attending the conference to share their perspectives of the unique regional esports scenes represented during the digital conference.

ESI Digital Summer is the second digital event in line this year for ESI and will be the biggest esports business event of the year. Join us August 17-21th for five consecutive days of content wherein each day will focus on a different and important regional market for the esports industry.

ESI Digital Summer presents: Regional Esports Market Report - Europe

To make reading up on the global perspectives from industry veterans and developing brands easy – we’ve broken up the conversations into regional entries, following the itinerary of ESI Digital Summer.

Each entry also features a shortlist of regional opportunities and challenges – gleaned from our conversations – and employment data powered by Hitmarker. These are not meant to be exhaustive, rather to provide context for each region from the perspectives of some of the industry’ finest.

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Regional Esports Market Report – Europe

The Opportunities

  • Prime geographic location between global players
  • Stabile access to diverse potential talent and markets and 
  • Rich cast of local developers and publishers

The Challenges

  • The price tag matches the region’s reputation
  • Diverse landscape, often misunderstood and lumped together
  • More difficult access to capital

Employment Data – Powered by Hitmarker

  • 28.15 percent of total global market share of newly posted jobs in July

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Introductions

Esports Insider held conversations with Kirsty Endfield, Founder and Director of Swipe Right PR, and Tomaso Portunato, Co-founder of Platform, both based out of London, UK; Richard Huggan, Managing Director of Hitmarker out of Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK; Jonas Gundersen, COO of Ninjas in Pyjamas, from Værløse, Denmark; and Viktor Wanli, Founder and CEO of Kinguin, from Warsaw, Poland – Endfield will be moderating and the others will be speaking during ESI Digital Summer next week, each representing very unique angles of the European esports market.

Swipe Right PR manages communication for gaming and esports brands around the world out of its London, UK office, servicing communication outreach for companies across international markets. It has worked with companies like Coffee Stain Publishing, Riot Games, Red Bull Gaming, Team Vitality, and Esports Insider.

“Hitmarker” has been the often given answer to the “How do I get a job in esports?” question for over two years. The premier English-language global job board destination recently added gaming opportunities to its legacy esports focus. Hitmarker is the power behind the Employment Data segments of each report in this series. In January of this year, Hitmarker achieved 250% of their crowdfunding target in just six days.

Platform is a physical gaming/esports/hospitality concept introduced to London in 2016 – offering Londoners a likeness of the PC bangs of South Korea or internet cafes of China that Portunato experienced abroad during his market research. Impacted by pandemic lockdown restrictions, like so many brick-and-mortar businesses, Platform used the opportunity to launch a rebrand – with a new website, food, and cocktail menu.

Ninjas in Pyjamas from Stockholm, Sweden, is one of the oldest and storied esports teams in the world. Founded in 2000, the team has built notoriety for 20 years with its top-level CS:GO squad, not without its ups-and-downs. The organisation also fields teams Dota 2, VALORANT, FIFA, and Rainbow Six Siege; it has also launched its own gaming peripherals company, Xtrfy, and is an active shareholder in clothing company DRKN.

Kinguin, headquartered in Poland, is best known for its digital products marketplace, Kinguin.net, but for the last 18 months it has been gaining speed with their Esports Performance Center, and just two months ago it launched its esports retail concept, Esports Lounge. Next week, the company will unveil its new membership program, Kinguin LOUNGE, as presenting partner of ESI Digital Summer.

Representing very different businesses and regions – from Endfield with a PR background, Huggan from an online job board, and Portunato with innovative hospitality experiences in the UK; to Gundersen representing a top-tier esports organisation in Sweden, and Wanli representing multi-faceted gaming and esports off-and-online experiences – they all offered nuanced and insightful perspectives (often conflicting) on the European esports landscape and our conversations will hopefully inform those who would like to learn more about the different opportunities and challenges in the region.

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Overview

Europe as a region has an arguable claim to the top-tier of the global esports scene. Home to many large prize pool tournaments, organised leagues, and intermittent time zones between North America and Asia – the region also enjoys vast coverage in English-language media. The Nordics are famously competitive in the global esports scene, with Germany, Spain, and France also boasting thriving esports scenes.

Endfield, Huggan, and Portunato all agreed that the UK esports competitive scene and media landscape is lacking in comparison to the region at large. While having come a long way in the past year or so, Endfield shared, other countries have been nurturing and normalising gaming and esports communities for much longer. Wanli was more optimistic about the UK esports and gaming scene, stating that the scene has the foundation with plenty of gaming spaces, but the translation to esports will take time.

There is a new industry expanding worldwide following “competitive-socialising,” Portunato explained, basically, venues mixing hospitality with competitive elements. Revitalising and monetising legacy establishments such as darts, ping pong, or pool halls – along with more contemporary takes such as barcades, or axe-throwing, or gaming cafes.

They are the new social clubs of the 1970s – and Portunato’s goal is to cement Platform and gaming concepts into this model. In countries like France and Germany where gaming cafes have long been popular, this concept doesn’t need to be explained, but in other places, the number of gaming spaces reflects just how normalised gaming has yet to become.

The Nordics have long been covered in global media for their way-of-living, culture, infrastructure, and social welfare – esports isn’t an exception. The sub-region of Europe has churned out many top players across various titles and boasts impressive local organisations competing on the world level. With stable coverage on televised media, the gaming and esports culture of the subregion is looked up to many as an example in the West.

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The Opportunities

Prime geographic location between global players

A literal middle ground between the four other regions represented in these reports – Europe is the central point between Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Latin America, and North America. The region has benefitted from hosting many international tournaments in many of the established esports/gaming/tech hubs around the region as well as serving as an ideal mid-way point before or after tournaments.

Wanli shared that Esports Performance Center is located intentionally nearby the Warsaw Chopin International Airport and has hosted many international teams from North America and Asia to stay and train at the venue in preparation to European tournaments. This allows players to stay and train in a more similar timezone to the host of the tournament. Wanli has been researching locations for the Esports Performance Center regional expansion by looking at international European airports.

Stable access to diverse potential talent and markets

Because of the European Union’s unified economic stake in itself, the open border policy, allowing any member of an EU nation to live and work in another EU nation without hassle creates near endless possibilities to create ethnically and culturally diverse teams and markets. Gundersen stated that the differences in execution and efficiencies and operational mindsets can certainly help build interesting teams.

Huggan sees it another way, while he applauds the support his company has received from the government and social welfare services across the region, he also sees the headaches that prevent many companies from hiring from other countries even within the European Union: visa applications, language and cultural difficulties, and relocation costs are all contributing factors.

Gundersen went on to explain that an immense advantage of operating a business in Europe comes from learning to intimately understand its various markets and subregions and cultures, lessons that can then be extrapolated to a global scale in moving to new markets. He concluded that while this can affect the speed of scaling a business, it offers lessons that can be earned before scaling, leading to just as varied benefits in the long-term.

Rich cast of local developers and publishers

Europe has benefited from organic growth of esports and gaming hubs, beginning with the UK, as many North American publishers created European headquarters on the island nation, Endfield explained. This has since spread over the years to other European hubs like Barcelona, Spain; Berlin, Germany; and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. But the region boasts excellent homegrown developers as well, with over 100 game studios within London alone.

The proximity to hotspots in the industry helps bring the culture out into the surrounding areas. Tech and video games industries are interconnected, and while not every tech city is a gaming hub, certainly every gaming hub is based out of a tech city. Especially with Brexit looming at the end of the year, many developers could well disperse into the mainland, meaning that there could be a reshuffle of the region’s gaming in esports scene as tech destinations battle for developer attention.

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The Challenges

The price tag matches the region’s reputation

Both Endfield and Portunato agreed that cost in the UK is a significant limiting factor to the development of the esports scene. Hosting large events can be done in just as vibrant cities which are more attractive to tournament organisers but leave the UK esports fan base neglected. Gundersen agreed with the price tag difficulty but said that he doesn’t believe that it applies to the whole region. Berlin, for example, has been famously fair priced in terms of cost-of-living in a tech city, whereas London is one of the most notoriously expensive cities in Europe.

Although the majority of the region is stabilised by the Euro, the same note goes further or shorter varying significantly between countries. This can both dissuade fans from travelling for regional and world events and prevent cities from winning the bid to host due to the costs. Huggan shared that often events in North America can be costly with international flights, hotels, travel, food and drinks.

Diverse landscape, often misunderstood and lumped together

“The thing about being in Europe, that is incredibly challenging versus being in the US, “ Gunderson explained, “is that it’s a million different small countries.” The scale, population distribution, and definition of markets can make it hard to grasp.

Gendersen continues, “I’m from Scandinavia, right, there’s a saying that the size of Scandinavia and the Netherlands which is a very traditional market to take [while operating] out of [the Nordics], it’s a very similar demographic of people. That area is similar [in scale] to LA and suburbs. And with that, I’m going to have to take on four different cultures that might be similar, but they’re not.”

Perceptions from outside of Europe might think of the region as a luxurious, affluent market that can be approached as one via expansion. But the 27 countries making up the European Union represents just over half of the 44 countries in the region, each with their own spending habits and economies.

More difficult access to capital

Gundersen, Huggan, and Wanli all agreed that access to capital, especially when compared to North America imposes severe limitations to which businesses and organisations can scale in Europe. While there is stability in the economy and through government programs, a very present limitation is in place by smaller and fewer investments available to growing companies making rapid growth looked at longingly in other regions.

Not only that, but the more western and northern European countries are much more privileged when it comes to opportunity, available capital, and economy. Based on the employment data figures below, there is a clear correlation between the proximity toward northwestern Europe and density of job opportunities.

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Employment Data – Powered by Hitmarker

During Esports Insider’s conversation with Huggan, he shared regional data from the premier English-language esports and gaming job site. You’ll find these insights in each respective entry of the series.

Hitmarker Employment Data Europe

Europe comes in at a significant second on Hitmarkers job leaderboards, with 953 newly posted jobs in the last month, making up just over 28.15 percent of the total listings with the most individual countries as per region offering gaming and esports employment.

The UK’s 343 jobs leads Germany’s 119, but the same story plays out for both regions. London hosts almost half of those jobs and 75 percent of esports-specific opportunities in the UK. Berlin reflects a similar story for Germany, housing 50 percent of all listings and all esports opportunities for the country.

English is typically the lingua franca for the region and while many nations operate in their naive-tongues, in order to reach the largest audience it follows that many jobs and overall content would be posted in English, which is seemingly the unofficial language of esports business as well.

The top five companies hiring in the region, according to Hitmarker’s data from March 1st to July 31st, are: Ubisoft, King, Keywords Studios, Electronic Arts, and Wargaming.

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Final Thoughts

Huggan shared that thanks to the storied history of European’s sports culture, he believes that live esports events in the region hold a benefit of the fervour of the crowd. “The thing that really shines through for me is … the interaction with the crowd and the energy that the crowd brings to events, certainly in the FPS scene which is the scene I’m most familiar with.” In his experience, events he had attended in North America simply do not compare to the same energy with the chants and electricity felt in European stadiums.

Wanli feels Berlin will pull ahead in the coming years as a premiere esports hub with the building of the city’s newest mega-airport, designed to attract international flights and layovers. Added in with the city’s cool-factor, its established cultural capital, affordable living costs, and ample space to develop huge projects there’s a good chance if developers invest in the city, Wanli just might be right.

Gundersen strongly feels that learning how to operate a business well in Europe, given the differences between markets, consumers, and limited capital will make for an easier transition to branch out to other markets at the cost of scale. North America has the double-edged sword of only being surrounded by more North America, and China operates within its own market. Given Europe’s global trade history, this could perhaps give the region an edge in the ability for European esports companies to spread to other regions when the time comes.

Portunato described an old brewing facility he visited just outside of Berlin where the interested parties are trying to convert the space, possibly into a sort of esports village. Just outside of Amsterdam, a similar project is underway, converting a wing of an old school into a sort of esports campus: including an esports arena, co-working space for creative tech, gaming space, and cafe.

Collaborations between gamer lifestyle interests and needs have been rather neglected, outside of the popular DHL campaigns, but Endfield shared an interesting European bred collaboration that might signify a growing trend. French optician group AFFLELOU partnering with countrymen Team Vitality was highlighted when talking about interesting partnerships outside of the common food and beverage collaborations. The partnership could indicate that following suit with the collaborations with Louis Vuitton and Gucci entering the industry, similar and more practical activations may follow.

With differing opinions on the scene and different perspectives, it is safe to say that the region is working to cultivate its esports. At times in tandem, sometimes asynchronous, and with healthy competition amongst the region. Consumers are said to benefit from businesses competing and at least it shows that the European region will be sure to fill the arenas with fans and chants to watch the battles.

Be sure to catch Endfield, Huggan, Gundersen, and Wanli speak during ESI Digital Summer during the Europe programming on Wednesday, August 19th and Portunato speak during the North American programming on Friday, August 21st.

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