Imagine, as an individual, being so good at a game that millions around the world watch you.
Imagine, as a sponsor, having the same kind of reach you’d get from putting your logo on Lewis Hamilton’s racing suit.
Welcome to esports, where an Isle of Man team is now part of the European elite.
The esports industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world. The larger video game industry is worth about $90 billion, with esports currently accounting for $3 billion – a figure that is increasing by almost 25% annually.
Under two years ago, X7 Esports was founded by ex-QEII High School pupil Josh Kingett, who used to compete in professional esports tournaments around the world at the same time as studying for his GCSEs.
And the meteoric rise of the X7 is generating welcome interest in the Isle of Man.
Josh said: ‘Whilst there are millions of video game enthusiasts around the world, esports represents the professional side of that, with players representing organisations and their sponsors. Often players must start competing at a regional level, before elevating their careers on to an international stage.’
Just like traditional sports, esports can be broken down into separate games such as League of Legends, Call of Duty, FIFA and Fortnite.
At the highest tier, for teams such as Fnatic, FaZe and Team Liquid, it’s not uncommon to see players’ representing brands such as Nike, Red Bull, Mercedes or Microsoft.
Whilst X7 is not yet in that stratosphere, they’re not far off. Earlier this year, X7 won the Northern League of Legends Championship (NLC); the highest professional regional league for Northern Europe. This resulted in qualification into the Amazon European Masters tournament, which pulls together the top 16 teams from across the continent.
In their first match, X7 defeated the reigning European Masters champions, Karmine Corp, in front of more than 200,000 viewers. Having progressed onto the Quarterfinals, the team is now ranked in the top eight of European sides, outside of the mega global franchises.
‘There are some esports events which are watched by more people than the Super Bowl,’ said Josh.
One of the X7 players, Korean professional Kang “Haru” Min-Seung, won the League of Legends World Championship in front of a packed Birds’ Nest (Olympic Stadium) in Beijing, which was also watched by an additional 62 million viewers around the world. This is indicative of both the teams’ calibre and the global reach of this industry.
When representing a high-profile esports organisation, players have access to a support structure that usually includes sport psychologists, nutritionists, coaches and managers. Similarly to traditional sports like football and rugby, most professional esports players are represented by an agency or individual.
‘You are a professional athlete,’ said Josh. ‘Maybe like a mental athlete rather than a physical athlete.’
The most successful performers tend to peak in their teens and for those at the very top of their game, it can become a lucrative career.
This August will see the first Commonwealth esports tournaments running alongside the more traditional Commonwealth Games as part of a concerted move into the mainstream.
Josh, who opted to pursue a career in the military at 16, later returned to the island to work within sectors such as eGaming, blockchain, data analysis and cybersecurity. Still passionate about the esports industry but unwilling to step back in as a player, he set up X7 in late-2020. Now X7 employs about 35 people around the world.
During the teams’ debut season, X7 received a one-off sponsorship from Digital Isle of Man, one of the Department for Enterprise’s agencies, which quickly gained global attention from the likes of Forbes. X7 became the first esports organisation in the world to partner with a Government entity. This supported the team when competing in the UK Esports League (UKEL) during summer 2021.
Later that year, X7 acquired two different British esports organisations, Bulldog Esports and Absolved.
The gov are currently developing an esports strategy, to capitalise on the exponential growth of the industry. This includes attracting other teams and esports businesses to the island – the success of a local organisation such as X7 is instrumental in achieving those objectives.
At the end of 2021, Josh joined Digital Isle of Man as one of two Esports Executives that are responsible in pushing this strategy forward.
Already, X7 has put the island on the map in the esports world, driving plenty of interest our way, to the delight of gov.
‘The best way for us to gain recognition is by making an impact within the industry,’ said Josh. ‘In addition to attending esports conferences, X7 serves as a great case study when speaking with prospective businesses looking to potentially relocate to the island’.
For X7, the ultimate aim is to feast at the top table and global domination.
To see them in action, tune in to https://www.twitch.tv/EUMasters today (Thursday) at 4pm, as they compete in the quarterfinal of the Amazon European Masters.
Find out more about X7 at X7 Esports | British Esports Organisation