Mike Stubbs . People . Monday 9th January 2017 . 10:00
As we get into 2017 Gfinity looks like one of the hottest properties in eSports. Its stock is on the rise after financial experts predicted big things, partnerships with Microsoft mean that both Halo and Gears of War will take up a lot of the company’s time and the announcement of the Elite Series is just weeks away. Everything looks great for the next few weeks.
But further into 2017 the path for Gfinity is a little unclear. Will the Elite Series dominate the year, or has it already been over hyped? Will more partners ask them to do events or will that side of the business fade away? Will we ever see G4?
“The topic of G4 always comes up,” says Martin Wyatt, Head of Partner Relationships at Gfinity. “I’d love to. I think we will, purely because G3 was so successful for us. We had a shit load of fun doing it, it was just an awesome experience, if the community want it then we will. The CoD community in particular have been very vocal about it. I can be a bit of a nightmare because every time I’m in Stratford I take a picture of the Copper Box and tweet it, which makes people excited or annoyed. So yeah I’d love to do another one, if the community want it, if the appetite is there, then it makes sense and we will definitely consider doing it.”
While a return to the Copper Box is something that a lot of people want, looking at Gfinity’s recent events it seems unlikely. Outside of EGX it is rare that they host an event away from their Arena, and while this is slowly changing with events in Mexico and Paris coming up, events in stadiums still seem a way off. However Martin made it clear that a massive event certainly isn’t out of the question.
“I think that as more and more eSports events attract bigger audiences there is an appetite for big events,” says Wyatt. “Obviously it depends on the game and it has to make sense, but if the appetite is there and two, three, four, five or ten thousand people want to watch a tournament then absolutely we have to take it to a bigger venue. As great as it is here [at the arena] there is obviously limitations with the capacity, which is fine we know that and we are happy with that, but absolutely there are plans to take more Gfinity productions and tournaments to external venues of some note.”
Perhaps the most likely event to take to a big stadium is the upcoming Gfinity Elite Series. We literally know nothing about the series other than it exists and that anyone can play in it, but an announcement is expected very soon. However Martin assured us that this is something we should be paying attention to, as is one of the biggest things Gfinity has ever done.
“We haven’t just announced something for the sake of announcing something,” jokes Wyatt. “One of the big passion points for us as a business has always been around establishing a robust infrastructure for eSports in the UK. We spoke before and I said the UK eSports scene is a sleeping giant and it is, but the Elite Series is designed to wake it up and bring it to the forefront. It’s about everybody, it’s about eSports. It’s not about owning anything or exclusivity, it’s actually about saying ‘right how do we do this properly? How do we make it cool and fun and inclusive and rewarding and you know long term?’ So this isn’t just a thing for the first three months of the year. This is a legacy plan.”
“It is something totally new, totally fresh. We have taken a lot of feedback from people and included that into how it has been put together, we have spent a lot of time working with other companies inside and outside the industry to understand how things might work structurally, format wise. It’s a work in progress that has taken about a year and a bit planning wise. So it is a proper project. We are so excited about it, we genuinely believe it is gonna be a game changer.”
Of course the Elite Series is going to build on everything that Gfinity has done so far, but there is also a chance that they could throw in a surprise or two, maybe by basing the Elite Series around a game or two that we haven’t seen them be involved with before. After all Gfinity has always been open to working with new and exciting eSports. So we asked Martin what areas he would like to explore.
“I think the area of mobile continues to be interesting to us. You know the fighting games community is one that personally I am personally very interested in, so we are continuing to explore options. There is probably about ten or twelve titles that we’d like to try something with, some will surprise people, but based on some of the feedback and some of the conversations we are having there is an appetite. So we shall see. There are no official plans, but we will do doing some different things. Just like last year there will some different games being used here.”
Gfinity has in the past ran major tournaments for most of the major eSports, but the one that they have always stayed well away from is Dota 2, which comes as somewhat of a surprise considering the game’s popularity. However it doesn’t look like they will be entering the Dota scene any time soon.
“One of the things we have seen this year, in particular with games like CS:GO, obviously it is an amazing game, it’s incredibly high profile, its a tier one eSport, but operating events can be expensive and the return you get is okay.” says Wyatt. “It’s good, but they are expensive and what we don’t want to be doing is getting involved with a pissing contest between companies that want to put in £750,000, a million or two. That’s not for us. We don’t see the value in that.”
“Dota is an interesting one for us in that we still have conversations about it, but again it’s about doing it the right way, because we can’t throw 20 million dollars into the prize pool. Well we could try, but I think we would struggle to get that one signed off on. We’d love to do a big Dota tournament, and I think the UK would enjoy it very much but it’s about doing it the right way.”
Regardless of if Gfinity finally decide to embrace Dota or not they have positioned themselves to have a very strong 2017. The Elite Series sounds like it could be what they have needed for the last couple of years and the partnerships they established in 2016 should continue to bear fruit this year. Martin realises this as well, and thinks that 2017 is Gfinity’s year.
“We want to be in a position this time next year, looking back on a successful year where the Elite Series has been well established and where it has expanded internationally, which is part of the plan. So yeah we are very confident. We have a lot of work to do, it will be a lot of hard work but we don’t mind rolling our sleeves up and getting some hard graft done.”