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The value of esports in the UK

The UK esports sector has grown an average 8.5% annually between 2016 and 2019 according to a new report evaluating the potential growth of the competitive gaming business.


Titled “The Value of Esports in the UK”, the report assesses the economic impact of UK esports and provides an overview of the sector and its impact on regional economies. It also examines the breadth of businesses active in the sector and includes a set of recommendations from Ukie for the future growth of esports.


The report, undertaken by Olsberg•SPI with Nordicity, was commissioned by UK video game trade body Ukie.


Economic impact headlines

·       The UK esports sector has grown at an annual average rate of 8.5% between 2016 and 2019.

·       The sector supported over 1,200 jobs in 2019. The UK esports sector represents just under 8% of the global market.

·       The UK esports sector supported £111.5 million in Gross Value Added (GVA) in 2019.

·       A major global esports event could generate 238 full-time equivalents (FTEs) of employment and £12million in GVA for the UK economy.


Ukie has made the following recommendations for the sector’s future growth:


1.      Regular engagement

Partnership between Government and industry is core to growing any sector. Ukie recommends that some form of regular engagement is established between the industry and DCMS to advise on growth.


2.      Promoting the UK’s esports industry

The GREAT campaign promotes the best of British. Ukie believes that if the Government is serious about making esports an area of national strength then it should establish an ‘EsportsIsGREAT’ strand of the GREAT campaign.


3.      Building on British expertise

Esports draws on expertise from many DCMS sectors, from traditional sports to broadcast media. Ukie recommends that the Government work with the industry to support the export of esports products, such as content for linear broadcast, that builds on the best of British talent and looks at ways to incentivise more esports production and activity in the UK.


4.       Funding technological innovation

The Government has taken a strong first step by funding the Weavr Consortium, an esports demonstrator, as part of the Industrial Strategy’s Audience of the Future challenge. Ukie believes that esports can serve as a test bed for technology with applications across other sectors, and recommends the Government back this with a small and focused Esports Technology Challenge Fund.


5.      Securing international events

The UK already plays host to large esports events such as ESL One Birmingham and the FACEIT Major, but Ukie believes more could be done. Ukie recommends that the Government work with industry to offer attractive packages to tournament organisers to bring their events, as well as the fans and associated economic benefits, to the UK.


6.      Becoming a customer

The esports audience is young and highly engaged. As the Government looks to get crucial messages to this group, it should work with esports businesses to buy advertising space and run campaigns.


7.       Providing visa clarity

The immigration system is not always clear as to how esports players and talent should apply for entry and visas. Ukie does not advocate for any wholesale changes to our immigration system, but rather the development and issuance of clear guidance in partnership with industry.


8.      Maintaining regulatory stability

The UK must maintain a stable regulatory environment for businesses. As the UK forges its new place in the world, outside of the EU, we must ensure we are attractive to businesses and investors. Ongoing and clear engagement from the Government with the video games and esports industry will be crucial here.


Dr Jo Twist OBE, CEO Ukie said: “Esports is global sector at the intersection of technology, creativity, broadcast and entertainment – all areas of real national strength for the UK. This report shows us that the UK has a strong and growing esports industry, but that there is more to do to capture the full potential of this exciting, high-growth sector.”


Leon Forde, Managing Director of Olsberg•SPI, said: “The report underlines the scale and breadth of this highly innovative sector in the UK, with really strong future potential.”


Dustin Chodorowicz, Partner, Nordicity, said: “This first-ever look into the economic impact of the esports sector in the UK shows that it generates employment and GVA not only at esports companies, but also at streaming platforms and games publishers, and within the tourism and hospitality sector.”

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