Football Teams Venture into eSports
It was revealed last year that West Ham signed an Irish eSports player to represent them in the video game FIFA, a well-known virtual version of the real-life Federation Internationale de Football Association, which oversees official football matches on an international level. With increasing signings of eSports players by football teams across the globe, the aim is to take football efforts into the virtual world of competitive video gaming, with a wish to cater more to the fans, with whom research has revealed that "the digital game [FIFA] is incredibly popular".
Although West Ham was the first UK football club to sign a professional eSports player into their ranks, other parts of Europe had already been venturing into the realm of eSports. In early 2016, the German club Wolfsburg recruited British FIFA player David Bytheway, who had previously represented England in eSports. Meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG ) football club have increased their eSports involvement, which has recently seen their acquirement of the Rocket League eSports team in September 2017 to compete in FIFA and League of Legends tournaments, bringing together a Rocket League team as their third eSports team to date.Existing Irish eSports Teams and Organisations
With 4 out of the 10 most popular Youtube broadcasters in Ireland uploading gaming content - such as JackSepticEye, for instance - and £240 million spent on video gaming in Ireland in 2015, it is only a wonder that there are not more Irish pros competing either solo or in eSports teams. That is not to say, however, that there are not any. Progress regarding eSports in Ireland is increasing in speed and magnitude, and new developments may be enough to start an avalanche in the future. March 2014 saw G-LAN take place for the first time, as the first entirely eSports tournament event to take place in Ireland held not just annually but three times per year, in Spring, Summer and Winter. The response was reportedly highly encouraging for the future of eSports in Ireland. The array of video games able to be competed in included MOBA League of Legends , Pokemon and first-person shooter Call of Duty.
The very first Irish eSports team to form was Emerald eSports, created by Damien Gill (who games under the name ‘miju IRL’ ) in 2012, five years ago. Emerald eSports were formed in relation to an Irish Xbox group named ‘IRL Gaming’, which resulted in Emerald eSports initially being known as ‘Team IRL’. The team competes predominantly in Counter-Strike, Battlefield, Call of Duty, Halo and League of Legends.
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The Celtic eSports League, on the other hand, is an organisation with the intention of drawing together eSports and real-life football, much like the developments with West Ham, Wolfsburg and Paris Saint-Germain as covered previously, yet on a larger scale. Their aim is to bring together Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland in this endeavour, which would certainly work to raise awareness of eSports. Members of the Celtic eSports League include Graham Leydon, who plays FIFA for team Dundalk F.C. and Jordan Geary from Linfield F.C.
Importance of Sponsors to the Future of Irish eSports
In order for eSports to truly take off in Ireland, sponsors are essential. In order to arrange for competitions to be held and to allow eSports pros to make gaming into their careers, sponsors like Machinima and JMODs are needed. For instance, the Celtic eSports League is sponsored by Sportego, while West Ham as a club is sponsored by Betway - who also provide betting on eSports - and Emerald eSports has numerous sponsors including Gamers Apparel, Gamevox and IRL Gaming. It is clear, then, that for Ireland’s eSports scene to flourish, more investment is going to be needed, which in turn will work not only to facilitate events and training to take place, but also to raise awareness of eSports as an industry, thereby expanding the eSports world in Ireland by getting gradually more people involved.
The current investment in and signing of eSports players is a promising sign for the future of Irish eSports and the hopes for its future developments. Therefore, it is hoped that this trend continues to grow.