16 May 2024

Event round-up - Exploring the future of Esports

On 16 May 2024, techUK hosted its first webinar exploring the future of Esports.

This took place on the 'Gaming & Immersive Technologies' day of techUK's 2024 Unleashing Innovation campaign week. You can view the campaign week content here.


The session convened experts in the field of Esports to discuss the following topics:

  • Tech: What are the key emerging technologies in Esports and how are they set to transform the Esports experience? (in particular, immersive technologies) What technical infrastructure will this depend upon?
  • Wider implications: How may these technologies impact sectors beyond tech (entertainment, sports…) and where does Web3 (NFTs, cryptocurrencies, blockchain…) come into this?
  • The UK: Is the UK well positioned to establish and maintain global leadership in Esports?
  • Action: What more can UK industry and Government do to maximise the opportunities of Esports? How can businesses in other sectors take advantage and contribute to the UK's Esports scene?

The panel featured:

  • Dennis Horn - Senior Esports Manager at Tencent Games
  • Prakash Kerai (PK) - Partner at Shoosmiths
  • Imogen Glen - Manager at PwC
  • India Alanis Browne - Pro Esports Athlete
  • Sam Cooke - Co-Founder and Managing Director at Esports Insider
  • Rory Daniels (Chair) - Programme Manager for Emerging Technologies at techUK

You can watch the full recording of the webinar here and read our summary of the key insights below:

Please note that the below is a summary of the event, and readers are encouraged to watch the webinar to understand the full details of the discussion.


The tech: What are the key emerging technologies in Esports and how are they set to transform the Esports experience? (in particular, immersive technologies) What technical infrastructure will this depend upon?

At present, AI is the key transformational technology across both sports and Esports. This is presenting opportunity across scouting Esports players and identifying talent, coaching and assessing performance, and interacting with the Esports community through building content and presenting interesting analysis and insight into games.

Recent advances in compute are enabling the growth of cloud gaming and streaming. This is improving accessibility and putting Esports in the hands of more players and viewers.

VR Esports is yet to take off in a big way, most notably due to the user experience and lack of accessibility, however progress is being made in VR gaming more widely. Whilst the future of Esports could certainly be immersive, this will depend on the type of game being played and streamed as not all will be suitable.

Active Esports is also taking off, with companies exploring how to bring VR Esports into leisure centres. This could help to counter some negative perceptions associated with gaming and Esports.

Gamers are increasingly spending time in metaverse-like environments, particularly through some of the largest gaming platforms.

All these technologies and applications will depend upon fast and reliable connectivity, particularly with mobile gaming. Low latency is required across both hardware and connection.


Wider implications: How may these technologies impact sectors beyond tech (entertainment, sports…) and where does Web3 (NFTs, cryptocurrencies, blockchain…) come into this?

Esports is typically less developed than many other sectors. As such, sectors such as sports often bleed into Esports (and not the other way round). Esports often takes learnings from other industries and puts these to another purpose.

Despite a significant increase in viewership and investor interest around 2017, the Esports sector is still a niche within video games. This means that it has a long way to go when it comes to things such as professionalisation. That being said, interest and investment in Esports is definitely growing and we are a long way from full market penetration.

The Esports sector does not need to copy and paste what other sectors have done as it is often different by its very nature. For example, city-based teams models have not really worked so far, which is fine. Esports can learn a lot from sports teams when it comes to player development and welfare, however the opposite applies to Esports team social media accounts.

Social media is a significant aspect of Esports, particularly when it comes to personal player branding.

There is a significant potential market at the intersection of Esports and education. For example, racing simulators could be used to teach students about the dangers of drink driving. For many students, Esports could constitute a balance between a STEM (science, Technology, Engineering & Maths), sport and marketing subject.


The UK: Is the UK well positioned to establish and maintain global leadership in Esports?

Whilst the UK is well positioned, it is not in poll position. Other markets are investing and doing more, in particular Denmark and South Korea. These tend to have more mature player and club development pathways. Many countries in the Middle East are investing a significant amount of money and time on becoming global leaders in Esports.

The UK has a substantial talent base across both technical and creative disciplines in addition to a large student population playing and competing in Esports. We must now convert our lead in gaming into a lead in Esports.

Tencent has been working with British Esports on education and enabling professionals to enter the industry. This should demonstrate to companies and Government that the interest is there.

Web3 technologies and Esports will likely have a symbiotic relationship. Digital assets will likely form a significant part of virtual worlds, for example through character skins, collectibles, or play-to-earn medals which are tradeable as NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). These could be large parts of the Esports ecosystem in the future.

The UK has an enormous and engaged player base, as evidenced by several large events due to be hosted by the UK in 2024 and beyond. The UK could also lead on the accreditation of coaches as an agreed-upon global standard does not yet exist in Esports. This could be accessed from school onwards, underpinned by a strong focus on safeguarding, and enabled by technologies. Such a scheme would begin to develop a pipeline of UK talent, as happens in many Asian countries and sports such as football. British Esports is providing much needed scholarships and playing a key role in the development of this much needed UK pipeline.


Action: What more can UK industry and Government do to maximise the opportunities of Esports?

Government must take a long-term approach to strategy and investment, much like some countries in the Middle East.

Gaming companies should highlight the opportunities being created by the sector and be open to new cross-sector partnerships. This includes advertising, which is increasingly on the radar of companies across gaming and Esports.

The UK needs to develop more pathways so there are more genuine routes to get into Esports as a player and viewer. This includes education and opportunities to transition out of Esports and leverage these skills in other sectors.

Esports does not have any specific regulation in the UK (despite much regulation being applicable to the sector). We should explore whether there is a need for some specific regulation, albeit whilst recognising that no specific regulation is not a bad thing in itself.


Q&A

Q) How will the Esports industry continue to grow its audience and what strategies will it employ to reach new demographics?

A) This comes down to how players can access opportunities and leverage pathways. This requires parents having the ability to identify when their child is skilled at a particular Esport and backing them to pursue this as a career. We also need less of a divide between gaming fans (of which there are millions) and professional players (of which there are very few). This should probably start in schools and colleges but we also need more brick and mortar venues to facilitate this.

Q) How large is the opportunity for Esports in the UK?

A) Few people realise just how massive this opportunity is, particularly across education, skills and career development, and related sectors that are yet to explore the intersection between Esports and their market.


Related resources 

Shoosmiths' technology sector Partner, Prakash Kerai (PK), featured as a speaker in this webinar.

He has since produced a summary of his key reflections.

You can read this by clicking here.


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