The events firm behind the UK’s first eSports arena – Gfinity – has told PCR it has plans to open an even larger capacity venue.
"Ideally we’d like to build a larger capacity dedicated arena in the UK, but during a period of such fast growth (Gfinity is experiencing approximately 30,000 sign ups each month), it’s hard to agree on arena capacity and scale," said Gfinity CEO Neville Upton (pictured).
"For now the UK’s first dedicated eSports arena will help to establish the UK as a hub for eSports and a place for the community to meet and play outside of specific tournaments."
The first competitive gaming arena – opening this month at the Vue Cinema Fulham Broadway multiplex – will host pro competitions during the weekend and then other events during the week such as corporate entertainment events, ‘play like a pro’ and charity events, plus the screening of other competitions.
When asked how open Gfinity is running events in conjunction with other companies and game developers, and if we could see a League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) take place at a UK arena, Upton replied: "Yes, absolutely – we’re keen to work closely with developers and producers to ensure that the whole gaming industry benefits.
"I’m also keen to get Gfinity engaged and involved in youth initiatives in the local area."
Upton also said that despite eSports being male-dominated, female viewership is on the rise.
"This is a very attractive space for brands wanting to engage with a key demographic of 16 to 30 year old males, which is our core demographic – although female participation is also on the rise (currently about 30 per cent of fans are female, up from 15 per cent in 2013). The industry is only set to rise in value, especially under brands’ spotlight," he explained.
Gfinity says eSports is only going to increase in popularity further, and is keen to work with partners and PC brands in sponsorship terms, as well as competitions, messaging on live streams and on social media.
"It is a on a large growth trajectory that will continue," Upton added. "There are already over five million fanatics in the UK and this number will increase. The 70 million people who viewed eSports regularly last year were watching 19 times a month.
"What this demographic isn’t doing is watching TV, they’re watching or playing games instead. In future, the top players will become household names and there will be established pro and amateur competitions across every game."
Last month Team Dignitas manager Michael O’Dell told PCR he thinks an independent governing body would help eSports generate more funding and grow further.
Upton commented: "I think this would help, but currently we have our own rules and codes of conduct that work well and which are updated with new game iterations. With the huge growth in the popularity of eSports and staggering spectator figures funding will undoubtedly increase. The US and Korea are even making moves towards Olympic classification."
Gfinity’s world series starts in March and runs through to the end of September. It expects to achieve viewership of over 50 million for the season.