It's GAME ON for Esports in Northern Ireland

The Esports industry in Northern Ireland is experiencing rapid growth. And it’s showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Let’s take a wee walk back in time to 2020, shall we?  
Picture the scene. The first lockdown has been announced and people are working from home, baking banana bread, running 5Ks, re-decorating their house, and working their way through the entire Netflix back catalogue. 
And it may or may not surprise you, that people are also getting into gaming. In a pretty big way. 

Both adults and young people across the country are picking up their controllers to escape the boredom and isolation of lockdown, and gaming is becoming the go-to form of entertainment for thousands of households.  
So much so, that sales of gaming chairs are going through the roof!  

Game On!
Game On!

One, two, skip a few, and gaming, and Esports in particular have exploded in popularity across Northern Ireland. (If you’re not familiar with the term, Esports stands for ‘Electronic Sports,’ and basically refers to any competitive video games).  

And tell you what, we’re not half bad at it. In fact, we’re pretty damn good!  
The Northern Ireland Esports Team was founded in 2021, and since then, they have competed at a number of prestigious tournaments across the globe, including the Global Esports Games, the European Games Esports Championships, the Commonwealth Esports Championships, and the eFIBA Open. 

Left to right: NI team manager Michael Smyth, eFootball women’s player Emma Rose & eFootball Open player Nick Hatton.
Left to right: NI team manager Michael Smyth, eFootball women’s player Emma Rose & eFootball Open player Nick Hatton.

Coleraine-born gaming sensation Emma ‘Emzii’ Rose made a name for herself at the 2022 Commonwealth Esports Championships, by winning the women’s eFootball competition. This was Northern Ireland’s first gold medal in Esports history! If ever there was a defining moment for Esports Northern Ireland, this was it.

However, Emma suggests that it’s only just the beginning for Esports here, referring to the industry as a “sleeping giant” and noting “there’s lots of amazing work being done to build more representation and access to Esports in Northern Ireland.”

The team have hopes that by the 2026 Commonwealth Games, Esports will be a full, permanent event. And the word on the street is that the door is open for Esports to become an Olympic sport in 2028.


What a time to be alive, eh?

That being said, there’s an enduring stereotype in popular culture that gamers are anti-social, energy-drinking, basement-dwellers. But Emma and the gang are flipping the script on this stereotype, and showing the world that Esports are in fact incredibly social.

Just like traditional sports such as football, cricket or rugby, Esports require teamwork and communication, and can help to promote inclusion and build communities. Also, there aren’t many other sports that can so easily encourage friendships with people living on the other side of the planet.

And that’s just the players. We haven’t even got started on the millions of fans who avidly watch professional gaming tournaments and leagues. Check out our brand new purpose-built Esports arena!

Esports Arena!
Esports Arena!

Ok fine, we admit it. Northern Ireland mightn’t have its own purpose-built Esports arena yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Mark my words.

The UK Esports industry is expected to reach a value of £187 billion by 2025, and it’s exciting to watch the community in Northern Ireland rapidly expanding, with new players, teams and tournaments emerging across various titles and genres.

One of the key factors in this growth has been collegiate engagement. While it’s hardly surprising that the bulk of the action takes place virtually, in-person collegiate-level competitions have also exploded in popularity in Northern Ireland, with Queen’s and Ulster University now having their own teams.

Gaming industry on the rise!
Gaming industry on the rise!

And just wait ‘til you hear this.

Belfast Met recently secured funding to open
Northern Ireland’s first ever Esports Degree, which has a specific focus on broadcast production and the business world surrounding Esports. How cool is that?

When it comes to Esports in Northern Ireland. It’s all happening.

Our lightning-fast broadband certainly helps too. Over 80% of the country can now connect to ultrafast Full Fibre broadband, and our average broadband download speeds have increased by 40% to 115 Mbit/s (which is up from 82 Mbit/s in 2021).

It’s a very good time to be gamer. But if you’re not, that’s okay too. Because we’re beginning to see that Esports in Northern Ireland have the potential to generate significant economic opportunities, including job creation and tourism. And if it keeps up the pace it’s growing at, we imagine investments from sponsors, advertisers, educational institutions, and businesses won’t be too far away either.

And that can only be a good thing for our wee country. Game on!

If you’re a Northern Irish gamer living abroad, we’d love to hear about your experience. How have Esports helped you connect with friends from home?


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