The UK is underweight when it comes to investment in eSports. While many countries in Europe give grants to new eSports teams, and have dedicated training centres, investment in the UK scene is relatively lacking.
That’s gradually changing, though, through increased visibility of eSports on mainstream platforms like BBC Three and lobbying efforts from groups such as the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE). But there’s still a way to go before the UK is on par with other countries.
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Almost uniquely the UK eSports scene developed top-down; that is, without a grassroots movement. While endeavours like the National University Esports League (NUEL) and Gfinity’s Challenger Series are setting out to change that, there’s still a disconnect between pro teams and the up-and-comers needed to grow the UK scene.
That makes it all the more impressive that so many of UK eSports teams perform to such high standards on the international circuits. From world-renowned teams like Fnatic and Team Dignitas to the more recent entrants into tournaments like the Gfinity Elite Series, there are plenty of UK teams to celebrate. Here are a selection, in alphabetical order:
UK eSports teams
Team Endpoint is a relatively new addition to UK eSports teams, so its rapid ascent to the echelons of the Gfinity Elite Series is all the more notable.
Fielding teams across Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), Rocket League and Street Fighter V, Endpoint is currently the highest-ranked British CS:GO team, despite only being founded in May 2016.
Its founder Adam ‘Adz’ Jessop attributes some of that success to his history in eSports as part of Team Infused, some to the flexibility to work on Endpoint afforded by his coding business, but mainly to the players he recruits. He believes the team’s purchase of a house for its Rocket League players is a model that will be iterated upon again in the future:
“I knew that if we got a team together and we got them in a gaming house, and it was about finding the right people that would be happy to live together, happy to commit to it, but also felt comfortable around each other,” Jessop told Alphr.
“So far, their results have been steadily improving, their communication’s been getting better and better, and whereas in the first two weeks people were concerned about us, we’re now getting a lot of plaudits for the way that they’re playing.”
Fnatic, founded in 2004, is one of the best-known international eSports brands. Fielding teams across eight titles including bleeding cool mobile eSports title Vainglory, Fnatic is the de facto London-based eSports team (despite what Blizzard might think…).
Fnatic might be best known for the CS:GO prowess, with seemingly effortless plays propelling them to, among many other accolades, their 11th consecutive Legend spot at the PGL Major.
Due to their forward-thinking approach to the games they play, it’s a fair bet you’ll the team’s orange-and-black colours being sported by a lot of fans worldwide.
Prophecy is one of the most recognisable UK eSports teams, having recently roared back to form after a brief hiatus, with players representing the brand across the three titles in the Gfinity Elite series.
It notably has a Rocket League team comprised of players who have dominated across the game’s own championships since the first season, with Léo Michel in particular looking to make the game his own over the course of the Elite Series.
MnM, founded by brothers Kalvin and Daniel Chung, is in the relatively unique position of having being set up with the purpose of giving other players opportunities that the brothers never quite had.
Daniel told Alphr: “We wanted to be big eSports stars, but as you can imagine with a traditional Chinese family, they put education first. We said, we can’t play ourselves; we don’t have the time, so why don’t we set up a platform whereby we can give others the opportunity to reach the eSports level that we wanted to reach, and we’d sort of get satisfied by seeing everyone else reach their high-profile status in the scene.”
That desire has been vindicated, as ex-MnM players have gone on to success both with MnM and other teams. It currently fields teams in Hearthstone, League of Legends, CS:GO, Overwatch and TrackMania.
Despite the team’s successes to date, Daniel believes further success can be had if the UK eSports scene grows to reach parity with other countries:
“If you compare this to European countries – in Sweden, a lot of eSports clubs get given a grant from the government to help start up. In terms of government support, we’re lagging behind, and how the government understands eSports is behind. The BBC has only just caught up, from spinning eSports to a negative viewpoint to a positive viewpoint.”
Team Dignitas has perhaps the most venerable history of UK eSports teams featured on this list, and has easily had the most international commercial success, with grassroots competitive gaming built into its DNA. Formed from a merger of two Battlefield 1942 teams back in 2003, the team has gone on to international success.
Its raft of sponsors include brands that are firmly in the mainstream, such as Alienware, Buffalo Wild Wings and Mountain Dew. Some of its commercial success in that respect might be chalked up to its recent acquisition by pro basketball teams the Philadelphia 76ers back in September of next year – but it was the team’s success across games including League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm and CS:GO that ensured they were in a position to make that happen.
There are other UK-based eSports teams worthy of recognition, some of whom can be seen in action in the ongoing Gfinity Elite Series. One thing is for certain – the UK eSports scene is only set to grow, and the success of its teams will be the catalyst for that expansion.
This article originally appeared on our sister site Alphr.