E-sports may still be small in Luxembourg but worldwide it is thriving
With prize pools stretching into the millions and audiences reaching similar numbers, e-sports is exploding around the world. Not so much in Luxembourg.
Luxembourg’s first electronic or e-sports contest, held at the Schongfabrik in Tétange in December 2017, was a small and surreal affair, recalls organiser Raphael Kauffmann.
“We shared the hall with a local farmers and breeders association. It meant that on the first floor we had bunnies, ducks and geese, and on the other, an e-sports competition.”
He laughs about the contrast now and accepts that it is par for the course for any emerging sports to start small. But, he and other members of E-Sports Luxembourg hope that will change in future, starting with the recognition of e-sports as a sport in itself.
In September the association launched a public petition calling for the sports ministry to recognise and promote e-Sports, as defined as high level competitive multi-player video game contests, often with cash prizes played in front of a live audience.
“E-sports might be less physically active, but it still has this competitive nature of sports,” Kauffmann explains. “A lot of people go to watch football because they’re passionate about it or about a specific team or player. The same is true for e-sports in Luxembourg.”
Creating an e-sports federation could also help encourage budding young players to go on to represent Luxembourg on an international scale. According to Kauffmann, there are a small number of Luxembourg players who have made names for themselves in international contests in a variety of games and genres. Among them is Francisco Muñoz, a triple Luxembourg champion who, in 2017, was sponsored by FC Differdange 03 in an e-sports “Fifa” contest.
E-sports may still be small in Luxembourg but worldwide it is thriving, with many countries having teams playing in global leagues. According to Newzoo’s 2018 Global Esports Market Report, esports revenues will reach $906m in 2018, rising to $1.4billion by 2021. The lion's share of the market is in the US and China but Europe and the rest of the world are slowly catching up. And there is clearly thought to be an audience for certain high profile e-sports tournaments in Luxembourg--Kinepolis cinemas will screen the “League of Legends” world finals on 3 November.
E-Sports Luxembourg weren’t the only ones to start small. The longest running global pro gaming tour in the world, the Intel Extreme Masters, originally began with an attendance 500 people in 2006. In 2017, they counted an impressive 173,000 people. Sponsorship has played an important role in e-sports’ growth globally, mainly in the prize money which attracts the best players and therefore bigger audiences, and that is where Kauffmann and co run aground.
“The highest prize pool I’ve seen in Luxembourg was an e-sports competition Fifa 19, played in a hall at Saturn Belval,” Kauffmann said, adding that the winning pool was €3,000.
The association has reached out to sponsors to support their second national event, the Luxmasters 2018, a “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” contest, the eight best teams at which will play in the offline finals at Schongfabrik on 1 December. He says the problem is few companies understand or see the point in it.
“There’s no brand recognition with us or in e-sports in Luxembourg at all. They don’t know how big the market is. They won’t risk it, I guess,” Kauffmann said.
The nearest major tournaments to Luxembourg tend to be in Brussels or Germany and Kauffmann hopes that the organisers of such tournaments will branch out into the grand duchy.
“Luxembourg has the potential because of its location. If we had a tournament that attracts people from all around, it might rapidly grow into a major European event,” he suggested.
Another challenge he sees is uniting the disparate groups in Luxembourg to create a single e-sports federation. While Kauffmann doesn’t expect the petition to achieve the 4,500 signatures required for parliament to debate e-sports, since the last elections, he has a renewed hope. The Pirate Partei, which won two seats in parliament on 14 October 2018, had the recognition of e-sports on its election agenda. “We’re holding an interview with them some time in November. That might be very interesting,” Kauffmann said.