Article

Serious Play: Malta’s Bid to Become an Esports Hotspot

Competitive gaming is a billion-euro industry, and Malta seeks to become the field’s next epicentre.

 

Malta proves to be very successful in finding industries where it can compete globally in the digital age. The island nation has built a well-deserved reputation for being Europe’s iGaming capital over the years, and it is fast becoming a hotbed for activity in the blockchain industry.

Now it seems that the progressive field of competition-based video gaming may be the newest member of Malta’s expanding creative industries. The sector has been growing immensely worldwide —a Forbes report estimates that esports revenues could be worth as much as $1.65 billion by 2021. So it comes as no surprise that the Maltese Government is looking to attract esports-related events and developers to Malta with a belief that the industry has the power to become a new frontier of the island’s economy.

 

Government Commitment 

“Malta, with its current gaming ecosystem and ‘Home of Gaming Excellence’ credentials will provide the ideal landscape for esports athletes, businesses and tournaments to thrive,” said Silvio Schembri, Junior Minister for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation. 

The Government has already allocated €1.3 million to develop a national esports strategy — and according to Schembri, this is just a ‘preliminary’ fund. However, this is not the first step made by Malta promoting esports, but rather the culmination of a series of smaller steps. While the strategy is already in the making, a new entity called TechMT has been created that will market Malta as a key hub in the world’s digital economy.

 

Esports Events

Esports activity in the country has been on the rise as well. The GamingMalta Foundation hosts the annual Malta eSports Summit, a conference with an impressive line-up of esports specialists, from international experts to global tournament organisers. Most recently, the GO Malta Esports Festival has showed that Malta is able to deliver amazing gaming experience and cater to the needs of gaming fans. In November 2018, more than 350 gamers from 10 countries were competing for €25,000 in cash prizes. More than 1,000 fans watched professionals play games on big screens, while live streaming grabbed the attention of over 1.5 million viewers. The festival is endorsed by local and international sponsors, including GO, the GamingMalta Foundation and the Malta Tourism Authority, which shows a willingness to embrace one of the most surprising 21st century entertainment trends. 

The GO Malta Esports Festival 2018

 

Attracting Developers 

Malta is inviting not just competitive games, but also videogame designers to join its other growing tech and entertainment industries. Companies operating out of Malta can benefit from a sound technical infrastructure for digital media production. Home to some 280 iGaming companies, the island has acquired a wealth of knowledge and experience in areas such as digital content production, software development, game publishing and film production.

 

Ivan Filetti, Head of Operations and Business Development, GamingMalta Foundation at Malta eSports Summit 2018

 

Knock-on Effect 

Malta is also betting big on esports tourism, attracting both gamers and spectators to events happening on the island. Esports tourism could be a prime market for Malta, and the island is pitching itself as an attractive place for smaller-size and regional competitions. While Malta boasts venues that can be adapted to host esports events, their small size might limit Malta’s ability to attract large-scale events. Esports-specific arenas, equipped with multiple big screens and excellent sound systems, are currently being built in esports hubs around the world, and the island will need to look into further developing its event infrastructure if it wants to attract international tournaments. 

It would be unrealistic to expect Malta to emerge as the next esports superpower on par with South Korea or the US, but the Maltese Government is nothing if not ambitious and is determined to drive the sector forward. At the same time, the world's fastest-growing sport is keen to discover new avenues, sometimes in the most unlikely places. So it seems that Malta’s plans to take advantage of the competitive gaming phenomenon couldn't have come at a better time. 

 

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