Craig Fletcher is a UK esports veteran, having clocked up 20 years in the industry. He is now working for GAME as ‘Multiplay founder & SVP esports and competitive gaming strategy at GAME’ – phew.
Multiplay’s impact on GAME has been obvious, with the company expanding rapidly into competitive gaming through its new instore Belong arenas.
What kind of growth do you see in UK esports viewership over the next 12 months?
We expect the rate of growth to be similar to previous years, but there are a few things that could cause a rapid shift in this, such as if a UK-based franchise is established for Overwatch or other major esport league – something to encourage more UK fans to get behind a team that they can view as ‘their own’. If the new Call of Duty is really successful, this could also spur on viewership and we would expect to see many teams forming around it.
Is the competitive scene in the UK growing fast enough?
I would always say that no matter how fast it is growing, it is never fast enough. We have lots of catching up to do. It is great to see a number of organisations across the value chain – teams, publishers, production companies, tournament and event companies – setting up in London. We have long-established creative industries in the UK and a great financial centre from which to draw funding, so I am very confident that the UK can catch up quickly and take our fair share of the esports pie.
Are there sufficient events for fans to attend in the UK?
There are already a number of events in the UK for fans to attend, spread nicely across the calendar. We have fixed venues as well as large-scale temporary events, with more investment in infrastructure being made by multiple players in the industry, such as the opening of more Belong arenas and upscaling Insomnia. It would be good to see more major global tournaments having finals – or at the very least stops – in the UK, to show both what our infrastructure is already capable of and to drive interest and viewership from the UK audience.
Is there a lack of UK talent and how does that impact your business?
I don’t believe there is a lack of homegrown talent. Certainly, the UK has generated some of the most well-known esports talent out there, especially on the casting and broadcast side. There just hasn’t been the jobs and investment for them to excel at the global pro level in the UK, so they have left the country to go where the work is, in territories such as Germany, America and the Far East.
On the player side, I think there is a great deal of latent talent in the UK that needs discovering. We know from our own research that there are literally millions of people out there interested in esports, but aren’t doing anything about it, and the number one reason is they do not know how. This is something we are working hard to fix.
How does the UK’s console bias change the opportunities available to your organisation?
If anything, it makes us better placed in this market given our unique structure as an esports and event organisation within a retailer. When GAME and Multiplay came together, you had a highly console-centric organisation in GAME aligning with a highly PC-focused organisation and audience in Multiplay. This means we can leverage the best of both worlds and play to both our strengths. Cross-pollination is proving very interesting indeed, especially with the high percentage of customers new to games coming to the arenas and of course events like Insomnia.