Round-Up: ESI Forum Manchester

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The Esports Insider Forum visited Manchester for the first time last Friday (22nd March) as key industry players discussed the continued rise of gaming and the opportunities it represents to brands. Fast Web Media was delighted to support the event promotion and bring key esports experts to the North West.

The City Football Academy Media Centre was the venue and a packed house of passionate esporters took in two talks and a panel, which focused on the incredible popularity of Fortnite.

First up was David Fenlon of Proxima Group, who discussed the potential for broadcasters to get involved in esports. Streams of League of Legends and Overwatch League regularly command huge audiences thanks to their thriving fanbases, and this presents an exciting and more cost-effective opportunity for broadcasters because of the difference in price between esports and traditional sports rights.

Next up was Tom Donegan of Special Effect, a charity that helps disabled people enjoy gaming. This is the side of gaming that's often ignored and it was hugely inspiring to hear how Tom and the team create new technologies to allow gamers continue their passion.

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Finally, there was a panel about the incredible rise of Fortnite and other Battle Royale games. This featured Mark Weller of Vexed Gaming, Maeve Finnegan of Estars, NSE's Joe Tilbury and James Dean of ESl UK. Our very own Poppy Ingham was the moderator.

The panel kicked off with a focus on new game on the block Apex Legends, as the experts gave their opinion on whether it can become a recognised force in the battle royale genre.

Dean noted that many games see a big influx of players after their release (as happened with Apex), but that you must always temper expectations and plan for a drop-off once the hype has died down.

The next question moved on to another battle royale game, PUBG, and the suitability of the genre for esports. Weller said that part of the problem is that these games aren’t set up for esports competition because so much of the gameplay is based around luck and not skill. However, in spite of their functionality, fans of PUBG demanded that competitions be put in place.

This underlines the power of the fan community in gaming, and how that can sometimes be a bad thing. PUBG developers were forced to roll out a product offering they knew wouldn’t work, but ultimately had no choice but to release as the demand was so great.

The debate then landed on the growth of esports. With the industry looking to rival traditional sports, Tilbury stated that esports has looked to those traditional sports for guidance because they’re so established.

Therefore the opinions of experts from the sporting industry have been taken as gospel, when listening to those closer the industry may have been wiser.

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In a similar vein, the panel then looked at the differences between gaming and esports. As James Dean noted: "Esports is always gaming, but gaming isn’t always esports."

The panel noted that from the perspective of battle royale games, this presents a challenge to tournament organisers. On the one hand, the tournament should be of a high standard, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of what makes this genre of game unique.

Finnigan said that for now, tournament organisers should be more focused on the entertainment aspect given the prevalence of other games more suited to esports.

The panel over, it was out into the foyer for food, FIFA and a spot of networking as the first ESI Forum in Manchester came to an end.

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